From: Come, Creator Spirit
God is revealed to us in two ways: by means of things and by means of words, in creation and in the Bible. Saint Augustine says that these are like two books:
Let your book be the divine page to which you ought to listen; let your book be the universe that you ought to observe. Only those who know how to read and write can read the pages of scripture, while everyone, including the unlettered, can read out of the book of the universe.
There is no question of there being two “books,” separate and distinct and without connection, because the Bible itself very often listens to and reflects the voice of things, interpreting it and using it as a vehicle for its own more explicit revelations.
In the voice of creation, we have a kind of primordial and universal sacrament. “Join the word to the element and you have a sacrament,” says Saint Augustine. For instance, join the formula of baptism to the pouring of water and you have the sacrament of baptism, or join the words of consecration to the bread and the wine and you have the sacrament of the Eucharist. In a wider sense the same applies to all the elements of creation. In this way, the entire universe is “sacrament.” What makes the seven sacraments different is that they are channels of the grace of God, while created things are a means by which we come to knowledge of God. Contemplating the works of creation, we are able to come only to an intellectual appreciation of the invisible perfections of God, (see Romans 1:20).
“Signs are those things that, besides the impression they make on the sense, evoke in the mind a notion of something other than themselves.” The efficacy of a sign in conveying knowledge is based upon the psychology of knowledge itself. In the passage from the symbol to the signified reality, the soul is lit up and inflamed, like a torch in motion. As long as we remain fixed on things and material signs, nothing happens, no light illumines the soul. It is the same when the intellect lingers on invisible and abstract things. But in the passing from one to the other, in the movement and the thrust, the soul is set aflame and hidden meanings are disclosed to the mind.
I started out with these observations, because the Bible uses material things to speak of spiritual realities, and applies this principle above all in opening up to us that greatest of all “spiritual” realities which is the Holy Spirit. It has, so to say, enlisted the service of the simplest and most common of things to speak to us of the Spirit of God: wind, water, light, fire, oil, new wine. Three of these classical symbols of the Holy Spirit are listed in the verse of the Veni Creator that we are looking at now. The verse calls on the Holy Spirit first as living water (fons vivus), next as fire (ignis), and then finally as ointment (spiritalis unctio). We have already studied the course on the Pneuma in the school of “Brother Wind” when we were speaking of the name of the Spirit. We are now invited to do the same in the schools of “Sister Water,” “Brother Fire,” and “Precious Ointment.” In this, as on every other point, we will see that our hymn is a most faithful mirror of the Biblical revelation on the Holy Spirit.