Holy Spirit as Living Water – Cyril of Jerusalem

This wonderful meditation on the Holy Spirit as living water, so called by Jesus in his conversation with the Samaritan woman, is taken from a catechetical instruction by St. Cyril of Jerusalem who was bishop of Jerusalem around the year 360 AD.

The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous. The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

cyril of jerusalem - Holy Spirit as Living water

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, thing hitherto undreamed of.

This meditation on the Holy Spirit as living water from the Catechetical Oration of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. 16 De Spiritu Sancto 1, 11-12, 16: PG 33, 931-935, 939-942)  is used in the Roman Liturgy’s office of Readings for Monday of the 7th week of Easter, as a reflection to prepare us for the great Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 

Cyril of Jerusalem, St.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem was born just about the time the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire (313 AD) and became bishop of the Holy City of David about 349AD. St. Cyril was banished from his Jerusalem see a total of three times for his bold proclamation of faith in Christ’s full divinity during a time when many bishops and emperors favored various forms of the Arian heresy.

 Saint Cyril of Jerusalem is one of the most important sources we have for how the church celebrated the liturgy and sacraments during the first few decades after the legalization of Christianity. In his famous 24 lectures commonly known as the Jerusalem Catecheses, Saint Cyril instructs new Christians in the days immediately before and after their initiation into the life of the Church at the Easter Vigil. In these catechetical instructions, which are the only documents that survive by St. Cyril, we find very strong insistence on the value and efficacy of the sacrament of baptism as well as heavy emphasis on the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist. St. Cyril of Jerusalem is considered to be one of the Early Church Fathers and is also reckoned among the number of the Doctors of the Catholic Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem died about 386 AD, shortly after the First Council of Constantinople which completed the Creed often known as the Nicene Creed.  (bio by Dr. Italy)