As we continue our walk through Lent, our task is to keep our focus on the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ, namely, his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We are called to direct everything else we do to this singular, earth-shattering mystery. As we try to understand this mystery, we are guided by the Holy Spirit and given the help of grace.

In the Paschal Mystery, Jesus Christ reconciled humanity to the Father. In this saving action, he opened up the life of grace to us.

Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It saves us from sin, regenerates us, and makes us one of his children. Grace is the very life of God abiding within us. It is the source and nourishment of our supernatural life. It is the power of God within us that moves us to seek holiness by doing good and avoiding evil.

In the life of the Church, the reality of grace is understood within an intricate theological network of terms and explanations. Ascetical theology rightly divides grace into different types, so that we can understand what God is specifically doing within us and how we are called to respond to him. Rather than cause confusion, the theological explanation of grace is designed to give us both clarity and precision in thought and action.

What, then, is the theological explanation of grace? Where does it begin?

The teaching on grace begins with the Holy Spirit, since as Saint Paul teaches us: “no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.” It is the Holy Spirit— the Third Person of the Holy Trinity and the Love between the Father and the Son—who shows us the face of the Father and who fulfills the saving work of our Redeemer.

The Holy Spirit takes the merits of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery and applies them to our hearts and to the entire body and work of the Church throughout time. He is the one who dwells within us. He is the source of all grace. The supernatural life cannot be understood or lived without his presence and help.

The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the “inner man,” justification entails the sanctification of the person’s whole being.

Admittedly, many people today might echo the early Christians of Ephesus, who said, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

This is true in part because the Holy Spirit does not speak of himself, as the Lord Jesus taught us: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” The lack of knowledge of the Holy Spirit is also true, however, because of a widespread neglect of our supernatural lives and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in popular preaching and teaching today.

It is the Holy Spirit who moves in the heart of every man and woman, summoning them to fellowship with the one, true God. He calls us all to divine sonship. In his sanctifying work, the Holy Spirit moves where his divine action is needed. There is no controlling or calculating his activity among us.

The Lord Jesus references this movement of the Holy Spirit when he told us: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As the children of God, therefore, we can have confidence that the Holy Spirit will always be present when he’s sought after, and that grace will be dispensed to us whenever its needed.

As the Lord Jesus taught us: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

As we journey through Lent and work to keep our attention, and our penitential practices, focused on the Paschal Mystery, we should also try to better understand the Holy Spirit and the workings of grace in our lives.

Portions of today’s column came from my new book, Glory Unto Glory: A Primer on Ascetical Theology. Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby