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Why is the Holy Spirit called the Advocate?

Did you know…

. . .that the name 'Advocate,' which Jesus uses to refer to the Holy Spirit in this week's gospel, is actually derived from a legal term in ancient Greek? In the original text of John's gospel, the koine Greek word translated here as 'Advocate' is the word παράκλητος (paracletos), which is sometimes transliterated as the word 'Paraclete.' This was a term in the 1st century for an attorney, one who would argue your case for you, or come to your aid in times of trouble and help make decisions. This is because 'paraclete' is actually a compound word, made up of the preposition 'παρά' or 'beside' and "καλέω" or "to call." It is one that you "call beside" or maybe that "calls from beside you." It ends up being a rather flexible term in the New Testament, as this same term is translated in different contexts as 'comfort' (e.g. blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted), 'implore,' 'beseech,' 'beg,' 'call upon,' and even "pray."

As Jesus says in this week's gospel, the Holy Spirit, or Advocate, will teach the disciples and help them remember what he has taught them. This Holy Spirit has a lot of jobs. It facilitates teaching, remembering, consoling, counseling, calling out, praying, imploring, beseeching, exhorting, and calling. It is the resource that the disciples can call upon when they need to remember why they are doing what they are doing, when they don't know what to do next, and when they feel like they aren't doing anything right. It is at the same time the one who empowers them to see with clarity what is happening in their communities, to call their communities back to equity and justice, to exhort individuals and institutions to change their ways, to call out those creating injustice and inequity in the world. Like a wise legal advocate, the Holy Spirit knows all the rules and all the angles, sees all the possibilities and all they ways forward, and helps to reveal the truth of what is going on in any given moment.

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