Image source – Pixabay
At some point in time, we all have heard someone saying “I am with you in spirit”. We ourselves must have used this phrase many times. But what does this phrase mean? What is the origin of this phrase?
Origin of the Phrase”I am with you in Spirit.”
The phrase “I am with you in spirit” has its origins in Letters of Paul to the Corinthians, also known as Epistles of St.Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. These epistles were sent by St.Paul to the Christian community he had established at Corinth, Greece.
In 1 Corinthian. 5:3-4 `my spirit is present’. The ESV study bible interprets it as a hard term. In all likelihood, it signifies the corrective ability of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew the presence of this power in his own ministry. This power would also be exhibited in their meeting, due to the Corinthian church’s link with Paul.
This phrase also finds mention in Colossians which is a letter written by St.Paul to the Christians of Colossae and included as a book in the New Testament. There is a dispute regarding the writer of Colossian. Some people think he is the great St.Paul. Others believe he may be a follower of St.Paul. But whoever he is, it is evident that he is unable to be physically present with his followers. In Colossian 2.5 there is a verse”Absent in Body, Present in Spirit”. This New International Version of the Bible defines the term in the following words. For even if I am missing from you in physical form. I am at hand with you in spirit and joyous to see how disciplined you are and how rigid your faith in Christ is.
There are various translations of this term “I am with you in Spirit”. All the translations speak of physical absence and spiritual presence.
Jesus talks of the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor. It is believed that this spirit flows from Jesus own presence. This spirit is a continuation of that presence. We believe in the Spirit to take us forward and be our counselor in our journey towards God. We want the Spirit to continue the guidance given by Jesus. Christians believe that we do not have the answer to life’s problems mentioned on gospel’s page. We need continuous guidance from the Holy Spirit to move ahead in life.
It is believed that those who follow Christ’s commandments will receive the Holy Spirit. Bible has plenty of mentions of the Holy Spirit in various context. The spiritual existence of god in our lives cannot be separated from the physical god in our material lives. The Church and the Christian Faithful pray to the Spirit in guiding them to implement the Christ’s teachings.
Modern use of the Term.
In modern life, the term “I am with you in spirit” has been used as a substitute to mean a heartfelt inability to be present for a particular event. There are times when we want to be present for a loved one’s competition or any special occasion. But circumstances prevent us from being present at the venue on the desired date. In those circumstances, we use this term “I am with you in spirit”.
When someone says that “I am with you in spirit’ he means that he won’t be physically present for the occasion. But he will be thinking about the concerned occasion on the given date and time. It is also a polite way of refusing to be physically present at an event. This term also conveys the persons intent to spend his time and mental energy to think about the event. It sort of signifies a person’s mental presence during an occasion.
There can be many intentions behind this phrase. If a loved one is off for a competition, then we mean that we will pray for them.
Physical Restrictions and the Spirit.
There may be times in our life when we are unable to be physically present with our loved ones during the important events of their life. We may be indisposed or some other commitment may keep us away from our loved ones. But we do keep our loved ones in our thoughts. To that extent, we are together in Spirit. Even though we may not be able to meet them, we will wish our loved ones on their anniversaries and birthdays. That is also an example of being together in spirit.
Man is a social animal. We are not meant to be alone. But circumstances can distance us from our loved ones. On such occasions, our spiritual presence is seen as a substitute for our physical presence. We bless them silently during the important events in their life. In this context, the term “I am with you in spirit” acquires greater significance than ever before. It is believed that a single spirit connects all of us together.
A spiritual presence is seen as imaginary but powerful. The spiritual experiences transcend the material world but it is still connected to the real world.
Some people believe that the writer of Colossians must have been someone sitting in jail. Sitting in isolation he identifies with the fear and separation experienced by those who are away from their loved ones. The writer of Colossians reminds himself and his readers that there are forces greater than fear and separation at work. The greatest of these forces is the Spirit of God. When he writes “I am with You in Spirit” he wants to convey that God’s Holy Spirit has connected him with the members of the community.
It is believed that since we are joined by Gods Spirit, we cannot be separated in the true sense. The very thought of being joined by Spirit is a comforting one for both parties. The term exudes warmth and comfort for both the speaker and the listener. “I am with you in spirit” is a term which will keep us connected mentally with our loved ones during events when we are unable to be physically present with them.