I never write about the men in my life. But last week, I started teaching a systematic theology course. And as I was reading and preparing for the discussion on pneumatology –the doctrine about the person and work of the Spirit–, I realized the impact abuelo had in my discipleship.
When I was fourteen years old, mi abuelo Miguel Ángel Nieves Castro was fighting cancer. He had been battling it for a while and his other health conditions made it all more complicated. In the midst of such a challenging time, abuelo and I developed what I call liturgias de lo cotidiano, everyday liturgies in which we encounter God, and most importantly, God encounters us. Each morning before school, I would go into his bedroom and sit on the brown dining room chair abuela Crucita had put beside the bed. “Abuelo, llegué. Bendición,” I would say while reclining to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Santita,” he responded, blessing me and calling me holy. Abuelo Miguel would then ask me to read Scripture to him. Psalms 3 through 5 were on heavy rotation. We prayed together and then we would sing un corito. Of all the coritos we sang together, there is one that stuck with me, “Somos Uno en Cristo.”
//Somos uno en Cristo, somos uno.
Somos uno, uno solo//
Un solo Dios, un solo Señor,
Una sola fe, un solo amor,
Un solo bautismo, un solo Espíritu,
Y este es el Consolador.
“We are one in Christ, we are one. We are one, only one. One God, one Lord, one faith, one love, one baptism, one Spirit, the Comforter.” There was something compelling about these lyrics. However, at the time, I couldn’t articulate what it was and didn’t understand all it packed in terms of biblical teaching. In it, we hear the words of Ephesians 4:4-6, a list of the fundamentals of our Christian faith, which in the text are preceded by a command in verse 1, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The corito captures these fundamentals –the unity and oneness of the church, its hope and calling under one Lord, and the sharing of one faith and baptism in the name of the one triune God. We also hear an echo of Jesus’s words in John 14:16, in which he promises the disciples another παράκλητος.
Sixteen years later, I can articulate why this corito left such a strong impression. I was raised in a small Pentecostal church in a barrio in the northeast of Puerto Rico. There, the presence of the Spirit was evident and the gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and danzar were emphasized and valued. Nevertheless, as it happens in many churches, there was an anemic understanding of God the Spirit. This resulted in a de facto depersonalization of the Spirit that led many believers to think about the third Person of the Trinity in terms of “it” –a force, a fire, or a breath but not a Person, and definitely not God in the same way the Father and the Son are God. The corito abuelo Miguel taught me stood in stark contrast to this and invited me to meet the Spirit in Trinitarian and deeply personal and relational terms as the Comforter, and in the context of the fundamentals of our Christian faith.
Abuelo died on November 18, 2006 at the age of 76 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But in many ways, his faith lives on in my faith, particularly in this season of life.
This is a love letter to abuelo and all who, maybe unknowingly, leave us with a faith that is more alive, even decades after they have passed.
Until the resurrection.
One thought on “Passing Down the Faith un Corito at a Time: How Abuelo Grounded My Pneumatology”
I read with pleasure your “love letter to abuelo”, since we also had an abuela and a mom that believed in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They were Protestant Episcopalians (not like the current Episcopal Church, so liberal that it changed the Word of God) and believe the Bible was indeed the Word of God. We believe that our God is amazing and provided for us a Saviour in His Son, Jesus. Also, a Counselor, His Holy Spirit, to guide us. Yet, in our current society that is not respected and sadly is despised. I like the corito because it also shows the tenets of our Christian faith.