The best way to understand what we mean by our profession of
faith in the Holy Spirit is to compare it with our faith in the Son of God. In
God there is intellect and will, corresponding to thinking and loving in human
beings. Scripture identifies the mind of God with the Word of God, as St. John
tells us: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God (John 1:1). So, just as the Word of God is the Son of God, so
the Love of God is the Holy Spirit (St. Thomas Aquinas. Exposition of the Apostles Creed,
That is why we can say that a person has the Holy Spirit
when he loves God. St. Paul tells us that, The charity of God is poured forth
in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Romans 5:5).
Over the centuries there were those who had the erroneous
idea that the Holy Spirit is a mere creature. They believed He is less than the
Father and the Son; in fact, that He is Gods servant and minister. That is why
from earliest times the Church added no less than five articles to the Creed
about the Holy Spirit.
Given the importance of this subject, it is worth comparing
the Holy Spirit with the different kinds of created spirits that we believe
exist in the world, and see how the Holy Spirit is unique as the Third Person
of the Holy Trinity.
There are first of all created spirits that are angels. They
are all ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:4). But the Holy Spirit is not the
created spirit of the angels: The Holy Spirit is Divine. John tells us God is
a Spirit (John 2:24), and St. Paul says that The Lord is a Spirit (II
Corinthians 3:17). That is why when the Holy Spirit is given to us, we are able
to love God so freely as to sacrifice voluntarily the selfish love of the
world: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Corinthians
3:17). Our faith in the Holy Spirit is our belief that God, who is Love, can
share with us something of His own divine love.
There are also the created spirits that are human souls. Our
souls give natural life to our bodies. They are immediately created by God out
of nothing at the moment of our conception, and infused into our bodies from
the first moment of our human existence in our mothers womb. But just as these
created spirits give natural life to our bodies, the Holy Spirit conferred at
baptism gives supernatural life to our souls. The Holy Spirit is the Uncreated
Grace whose indwelling in our souls gives us sanctifying grace, which the
Church allows us to call the soul of the soul. The Third Person who dwells in
our souls is the Lifegiver whom Christ said would abide in us, provided we
believed in the Saviors words (John 6:63).
If we ask, who exactly is the Holy Spirit? we must say He is
one in substance with the Father and the Son. No less than the Son is the
Wisdom or the word of God, so the Holy Spirit is the Love of the Father and the
Son. He therefore proceeds from both. Even as Gods Wisdom is of one substance
with the Father, so Gods Love is one in substance with the Father and the Son.
In the Nicene Creed we say, We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver
of life; He proceeds from the Father and the Son.
The closing phrase, and the Son in Latin reads Filioque,
and has made doctrinal history. It was inserted with papal approval to
counteract the heresy that claimed the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the
Father. Since the thirteenth century, the Filioque
has been one of the chief grounds of opposition by the Eastern Orthodox Church
to the Church of Rome.
Given the perfect equality of the Holy Spirit with the
Father and the Son, He is to be equally worshipped with the First and Second
Persons of the Trinity. That is why St. John declares that true adorers shall
adore the Father in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23). That is also why Christ
told His disciples to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The three
Persons of the Trinity have only one Divine Name, since they have only one
Divine nature. Finally, that is why the Nicene Creed adds the statement about
the Holy Spirit, who together with the Father and the Son is equally adored
Sacred Scriptures teach us that the Holy Spirit is equal to
God. We know that the ancient prophets
spoke on behalf of God. St Peter tells us that, The holy men of God spoke
inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21). That is why the Nicene Creed also
adds the sentence, He spoke through the prophets, referring to the Holy Spirit.
Again, in reprimanding Ananias for deceitfully withholding some of his property
from the Christian community, Peter asked him, How can Satan have so possessed
you that you should lie to the Holy Spirit?
It is not to men
than you have lied, but to God (Acts 5:3, 5).
Our Catholic religion is filled with professions of faith in
the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We speak of the gifts of the
Holy Spirit as the supernatural instincts or impulses that urge us to put the
virtues of faith, hope, and charity into practice. We have the fruits of the
Holy Spirit that give us a deep supernatural satisfaction in doing the will of
God. But more specifically, the Church identifies certain ways in which the
Holy Spirit enters our lives.
He cleanses our souls from sin. This follows logically from
the fact that the same One by whom our souls were created is the One by whom
they are to be repaired. Since it was through the love of God that human souls
were made, this same Love, who is the Holy Spirit, must restore souls to His
The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds. Whatever we know by
faith, we have received by the power of the Spirit. This is what Christ meant
when He promised the the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete [Advocate] whom the Father
will send in my name, will Himself teach you all things and will bring all
things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you (John 14:26). Christ
was the first Advocate who revealed the mysteries of God. The Holy Spirit is
the second Advocate who enables us to understand what Christ had revealed.
The Holy Spirit enables us by His grace to observe the
divine commandments. As God foretold in the Old Testament: I will put my
Spirit in the midst of you. I will cause you to walk in my commandments and to
keep my judgments and do them (Ezekiel 36:27). Except for the power of the
Holy Spirit, sent by Christ, we could not live up to the humanly impossible
demands of the Savior on His followers.
On Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles
in the form of fiery tongues. This was a visible sign of what they were
receiving interiorly, namely, light to accept the teaching of Jesus, and the
strength to witness to Him even at the price of their blood.
Copyright © 2002 Inter Mirifica
Pocket Catholic Catechism