Holy Spirit, Shepherd?
  • While researching song options for this weekend, I came across a song with the following lyrics:

    You’re the light, You’re my path
    You’re the shepherd of my soul
    All I am, all I have
    Holy Spirit, lead me on

    Is this appropriate language to describe the Holy Spirit? My sense is that this language is usually used to refer to Jesus.


  • Contemporary Worship,

    The problem I would have with this text, to paraphrase Cardinal Ratzinger, is that its banal language merely tells God something He already knows. To accomplish what I think this text intends, I would use St. John Henry Newman's Lead Kindly light.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 325
    its banal language merely tells God something He already knows.

    Apart from the question of the banality of the language, do we ever tell God something he doesn't?

    Presumably the Father is familiar with the work of Christ, knows he is the Lamb of God, knows that his death destroys death, etc., but still in the Easter preface we tell him, Ipse enim verus est Agnus qui abstulit peccata mundi. Qui mortem nostram moriendo destruxit, et vitam resurgendo reparavit.

    Basically, prayer is a weird activity.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,717
    something He already knows.

    This used to bother me about handing assignments to my schoolteachers.
  • Deacon Fritz,

    Since I'm sure you know this already, I'm putting this down for the benefit of those who don't.

    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis
    Lamb of God is an address
    who takest away the sins of the word is the reason for the request that follows
    have mercy on us is the request. In none of this are we telling God something He already knows, but affirming our belief in the goodness of God, publicly proclaim it. Public affirmation of the truth is only a bad thing when a priest comes on the intercom and says, "Ok., folks, here are the highlights of today's confessions"....

    In the Easter text you cite, it's also not telling God something he already knows:
    "for this is the true Lamb who carries away the sins of the world; who, in dying destroyed our death, and in rising [from the dead] restored [our] life"...... It's expressing publicly the reason for some part of what follows, and why we've gathered at all.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,100
    Anyway, to get back to CW's original point: he's right: this song's language takes concepts which our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ applied to himself: "light", "way", and "shepherd", and ascribes them all to the Holy Spirit.

    I wouldn't say that it's false, wrong, incorrect, or bad to use these terms that way -- I'll be surprised if we can't find some example in the Church's heritage of liturgy and prayer that calls the Holy Spirit a "light", at least -- but we should acknowledge that this song is somewhat inconsistent with the patterns we find in the Holy Gospels. Perhaps the song was written hastily.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • I think light would be an appropriate way to address the Holy Spirit. To build on what Chonak said, Veni Sancte Spiritus makes multiple references to light and the Holy Spirit.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 325
    Sorry to continue the diversion, but...
    In the Easter text you cite, it's also not telling God something he already knows

    I'm pretty sure it is. But leaving that example aside, what about what comes immediately before? Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, te quidem Domine omni tempore, sed in hoc potissimum die gloriosis praedicare, cum Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus. Note that it doesn't say simply "we praise you...because," but makes a factual statement, "it is right to praise you...because," even though God surely already knows the fact that it is right and just to give God thanks, and that this is above all the case on the day of Christ resurrection.

    Likewise, Revelation 15:3 tells God "Mighty and just are your works" even though God already knows this. And the Psalmist tells God "You are my God. My happiness lies in you alone" (Psalm 16) and "You have prepared a banquet before me" (Psalm 23) and "My soul is yearning for you, my God" (Psalm 42) and "You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves" (Psalm 65) and "You stretched out the heavens like a tent" (Psalm 104), all things God presumably knows.

    My point is simply that it is one of the hallmarks of biblical prayer and the liturgical tradition to tell God stuff he already knows. Part of our inheritance from the ancient Israelites is the practice of reciting to God all of the things he has done for us and is for us, even though he already knows all this.

    As to the song in question, I don't see how "You're the light" is significantly different from "It is you who light my lamp" (Psalm 18) or "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119). Whatever explanation we might give for how the psalmist is not really telling God something he already knows (though I'm pretty convinced that we're never alleviating God's ignorance) would seem to apply to this song as well.
  • Deacon Fritz,

    Could you and I continue this conversation off-thread?
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 325

    Feel free to DM me. No need to inflict this rabbit hole on this perfectly innocent thread.
  • oldhymnsoldhymns
    Posts: 216
    There is a hymn in the Westminster Hymnal, Holy Spirit, Lord of Light, a translation of Veni Sancte Spiritus by Rev. Edward Caswall, that may be more appropriate to use.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen