Posted On February 8, 2023

From Light into Life

What does photosynthesis have to do with the Holy Spirit?

Throwback to 7th grade science: what is photosynthesis exactly?

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy. The result of the process is the release of oxygen into the atmosphere. Photosynthesis is thus responsible for producing most of the oxygen necessary for life on Earth.

Good refresher, but what does this have to do with a spiritual meditation?

Light is a symbol for God. “God is light” declares St. John in his first letter (1 Jn 1:5).  Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Every Sunday in the Nicene Creed we recite “Light from light, true God from true God”. The Scripture and the Tradition of the Church uses light as an analogy for God. An analogy connects two different realities that share some similarities. God is much more than light, but the use of the image can reveal some aspects of the spiritual life.

We may use photosynthesis as an analogy for the work of the Holy Spirit. Like a plant receives light from the sun and photosynthesis converts the light into oxygen for biological life, thus, we receive divine light from the sacraments and prayer and the Holy Spirit transforms it into energy for the spiritual life. The Holy Spirit facilitates the conditions for the spiritual life in the person who is exposed to the Light. Furthermore, spiritual oxygen is produced and released into the atmosphere to support the life of those around the person inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

As the Holy Spirit is the bond of union between the Father and the Son, so he unites each believer to God and enables unity among Christians. Again, our analogy of photosynthesis can be helpful: the term comes from the Greek root word phos, meaning “light”, and synthesis, “putting together”. Truly the Holy Spirit is the means for our communion with God and with one another.

At the very beginning of creation, “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen 1:3-4). Light was God’s first creation because it is the necessary condition for biological life. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can distinguish light from darkness, know what comes from God and what leads us away from God, and thus maintains our spiritual life. We look to the Holy Spirit for illumination. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can discern, or see clearly, in order to choose the good.

There are four steps to ordinary discernment:

  1. Invoke the Holy Spirit
  2. Become aware
  3. Understand
  4. Take action

STEP 1. You may ask for the Holy Spirit in your own words or use a prayer from the tradition of the Church.  The following is the first invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Sequence prayed at the Mass for Pentecost:

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine.

STEP 2. Take a moment to become aware of what you are experiencing interiorly.

  • What am I feeling? Try to name your emotions (not thoughts, feelings).

STEP 3. Take time to understand what you are experiencing and talk with God about it.

  • Why am I feeling this?
  • What might you be trying to tell me, God?
  • Where are you, God, in what I am living?
  • How are you loving me in this situation?

STEP 4. Once you have greater clarity, you can make your decision and act on it.

  • In what way can I better correspond to your love, God?
  • How can I love the people you have put near me even more?

Discernment is an important way of maintaining our spiritual life. The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and hearts to recognize the presence of God and respond to His love. Communion with God, made possible by the Holy Spirit, is the secret of life.

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Ps 36:10)

Concrete Resolution:

Apply the four-step method of discernment to a situation that you are currently living.

This month’s meditation is by Sr. Janel Olberding, AVI.


Blog photo by Couleur via

Diagram of photosynthesis from

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