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Marulić’s Discourse about the Holy Spirit in the Context of Late Medieval Pneumatology

Split Literary Circle - Marulianum, centre for Studies on Marko Marulić and his Humanist Circle
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  • Law
  • Religious Science


During the whole of the Middle Ages the work and experience of the Spirit did not play a great role either in mysticism or in systematic theology. No separate theological treatise, De Spiritu Sancto, was made, rather certain pneumatological topics were dealt within various contexts. Outside speculative theology, which on the whole translated the tradition, certain pneumatological accents can be found in a setting that was critically disposed towards the official Church and in some reformers of Church reality (the case of Joachim da Fiore, 1135-1202). But it should be said that the medieval period was a period rich in spiritual movements and fruits in the Christian West as well. It is in this period that the best prayers and hymns to the Holy Spirit were written (Veni Creator Spiritus). Medieval spiritual and theological thinking is characterised by the idea of the two laws (duae leges): apart from the public law of the ecclesiastical canons, there was also the personal law inscribed by the gift of the Holy Spirit into the heart. The personal law was above the public. This law was the Divine Spirit itself, and anyone who was led by the Holy Spirit was guided by the divine law. In this period an interest in charisma was awakened, not in the Pauline sense, in the sense of serving one’s neighbour, i.e., for the purpose of building up the community. Charisma was understood as spiritual endowment for a better achievement of spirituality, or for the salvation of the soul. These gifts are the flower of theological virtues. The gift of prophecy attracted particular attention, that is, the gift of preaching (the examples of SS. Boniface, Bruno, Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, Joan of Arc). There was a certain autonomy of prophetic inspiration that kept to the principle that by mortification and penitence a man could obtain the power of prophecy (per virtutem mortificationis pervenitur ad licentiam praedicationis). According to Patristic and medieval tradition the gift of prophecy was founded on a profound immersion in the Word (lectio divina), into the Scriptures and in the mystical immersion in the doctrine of salvation, theology. Marulić was in harmony with the theological and spiritual movements of his time. He does not dedicate a whole treatise to the Holy Spirit, but speaks of the Spirit in the context of other topics, particularly ecclesiological. Through the authority of the Scriptures he proves the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and along the lines of Franciscan theology he understands the Spirit as the mutual love of the Father and the Son. He lays particular stress on gifts of the Spirit such as enlightenment and charity according to which, along with other gifts, the Spirit in the Church continues Christ’s mission of salvation. It would seem that Marulić – a layman, had a great experience of the Spirit and spiritual reality for, like other great figures of the Spirit of his time, he felt moved by life and the written word to work on the spiritual renovation of the city in which he lived. And he too pervirtutem mortificationis came to licentiam praedicationis.

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