I believe in the Holy Spirit                 (E.J.Tyler)

1. We ought be very aware of the Holy Spirit    

When I was a youth we did not hear much about the Holy Spirit. Nor was there very much emphasis on the third divine Person even during my years in the seminary studying for the priesthood. I remember our very good Scripture teacher in the seminary more or less acknowledging and even excusing this by saying that the Holy Spirit in the redemptive plan of God was the hidden divine Person. That is to say, his nature and mission is to be hidden. But the effect of his saying this was to give the impression that there was not a lot wrong with simply forgetting the Holy Spirit. But consider what our Lord said on one occasion, that any injury done to the Son of Man could be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. Just what our Lord means by this needs to be determined, but the point here to observe is the love and veneration with which our Lord referred to the Holy Spirit. So we must be very aware of, and love and venerate, the Holy Spirit. After all, he is God.

2.  The person of the Holy Spirit   

The Holy Spirit is just as much a Person as is the Father and the Son. Not only that, he is just as much God as is the Father and the Son. He is one of the three Divine Persons, and is the same God as is the Father and the Son. He is therefore to be adored and glorified just as much as each of they. Our Lord said that the Father is greater than he - he did not mean that he himself  was any less God than the Father, but that inasmuch as the Father is his own eternal and fatherly origin, he honours the Father as “greater”. The Son is the exemplar of what it means to observe the fourth commandment. From all eternity he depends on the Father for his generation as a person, while the person of the Father comes forth from no one. Yet they are entirely the same in being, and hence, in his being, the Father is not greater than the Son, because in his being he is the same as the Son. Now, the person of the Holy Spirit comes forth from not just the Father nor just the Son, but from both. He is the love and the life of the Father and the Son. He is the life of God who is love and this interpersonal love is the third divine person. He is like the sigh of love between the Father and the Son, the One who locks them in mutual love, and is so almighty and so infinite that he is a divine Person. It is he who is the gift of God the Father and the Son to the whole Church and to each of us who are members of the Church by baptism. This gift is a share in the life of God, and this makes us adopted sons of God. Let us plant it firmly in our minds that the Holy Spirit is not just some force or mighty impulse. He is a person, a divine person. His face is hidden though the effects of his action can be clearly discerned, but he is a person just as much as the Son and the Father are persons. He can be addressed, he loves tenderly, and St Paul warns us not to make the Holy Spirit sad by our sins. He is one who enables us to get things done.

3. The activity of the Holy Spirit   

Let us then consider the Holy Spirit. If we take it for granted that all our life we ought be contemplating the Son of God made man, and if we understand well that we come to know and love the Father in knowing and loving the Son, ought we not also be striving to know and love the Holy Spirit, who is the third divine person? He is not just an impersonal divine force, or the energy with which God gets things done. He is a real Person, with his own divine self which is not the self of the Father nor the self of the Son, even though his divine being is the same as that of the Father and the Son. He is to be prayed to and relied upon for his grace and help, for he is our Sanctifier. That is to say that while the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son because he is the very same being as they, he is utterly distinct from each of them. He is his own Person, though his person proceeds from the Father and the Son. We see in Scripture that the Father sent both the Son and the Holy Spirit for the redemption and sanctification of the world, but they had different missions. The Holy Spirit did not become man, nor did he die on the cross, nor did he rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. This is what the Son did. The Son of God made man could be seen and felt and touched as he is himself. He did not come among us in the form or likeness of a man, no, he was a real man. When someone touched that man they were touching a real man who was truly God, God made man. They were touching God in his human nature. But the Holy Spirit never took on himself a created nature so as to be the one divine person having two distinct natures. Nor did the Father. The Father made himself known at times through, for instance, a voice. A voice was heard at the Baptism of Jesus and at his transfiguration. It was a sound the Father used to reveal his presence and mind, but of course in himself he does not speak vocally as we do. His nature and manner of acting is divine, as is that of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made his presence known at times by adopting certain appearances, certain signs and symbols which he used to manifest his presence. He descended on our Lord at his baptism appearing in the form of a dove. Our Lord referred to himself as casting out demons by “the finger of God” - that expression is perhaps an allusion to the Holy Spirit. Some great theologians have said that at the Transfiguration the luminous cloud from which the Father spoke was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost he showed his coming and his presence by the tongues of fire that appeared on the heads of those present in the upper room. The Holy Spirit, in other words, remains invisible in himself because his nature is divine, but we can know him through his actions and through certain appearances. Christ our Lord used various names to denote him in the Scriptures. The third divine Person is said to be the “Holy Spirit”, the “Paraclete (Consoler or Advocate), and the “Spirit of Truth.” He is the “Spirit of Christ”, the “Spirit of the Lord”, the “Spirit of God”, the Spirit of Glory and he is called the “Promise”. In the Gospel of John our Lord invites all who are thirsty to come to him and those who believe to drink from him, for “from his breast shall flow fountains of living water.” St John explains that “he was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive.” (John 7:39). So the Spirit is a “fountain of living water.” Such an expression is a metaphor for the divine.

4. The Holy Spirit in the Scriptures 

  St Jerome wrote that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. We could say the same thing of the Holy Spirit, that ignorance of the Scriptures will involve ignorance of the Holy Spirit. One of the very significant developments in the life of the Church during the last forty years has been the far greater use made of the Scriptures in the spiritual life of the faithful. This may account for the greater awareness of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. There has also been a more explicit recourse to the Holy Spirit in certain spiritual movements in the Church, and a greater readiness to identify experiences of his presence and action. We are much more aware of the importance of the Holy Spirit than we were at least in my years prior to ordination. The Holy Spirit is repeatedly spoken of in the Scriptures. He spoke through the prophets whom he inspired. The Old Testament often refers to the Spirit of God coming on this or that prophet, and the words of the prophets are recorded in the Scriptures. Our Lord often referred, even after his resurrection, to the prophecies of the Old Testament about him. Those prophecies were the work of the Holy Spirit who brought them to fulfilment in Christ and whose mystery he reveals in the New Testament, written by authors he also inspired. He filled Mary with grace and by his power she conceived and gave birth to the Son of God made man. Elizabeth her kinswoman was moved by the Holy Spirit when Mary greeted her. It was under his inspiration that John the Baptist, the last prophet of the Old Testament, proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. He led our Lord out into the wilderness to combat Satan there after his baptism by John in the Jordan. We are told in the Letter to the Hebrews that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ offered himself up as a sacrifice on the Cross for all mankind. Our Lord’s sacrifice was an unimaginably crushing task because he was carrying the sins of the whole world and expiating for them all. That he did this with such infinite fruitfulness is also due to the power of the Holy Spirit who was sustaining him in his sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit Christ rose from the dead on the third day. By the same power he made Mary the mother and model of the Church. Fifty days after the Resurrection the Holy Spirit was poured out on the infant Church by the Father and the Son at Pentecost, and as a result of his coming the Church was born. The Church was born and was immediately apostolic, leading Peter and the Apostles to bear witness to Jesus and to do so with abundant fruit. As a result of Peter’s first sermon following that coming of the Spirit as wind and tongues of fire, three thousand entered the Church as believers. Peter was given the gift of being understood by people of numerous different languages. Since then the Holy Spirit animates and sanctifies the Church, restoring to the baptized their likeness to God that was lost through sin, and sending them out to bear witness to the truth of Christ. He comes to us through the Sacraments enabling us to pray in Christ and to live in him.

5. The Holy Spirit in the Church  

  The Holy Spirit is the Sancifier and the Evangelizer of the world, and he fulfills this mission in and through the Church whom he sanctifies and evangelizes. Our Lord told his disciples that no one comes to the Father except through him, and inasmuch as the Church is Christ’s body and he is her head, all who are saved are saved through the Church, albeit in hidden and mysterious ways. Now all this is effected by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as God the Son became man through the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Christ was led by the Holy Spirit in his public ministry, and just as he offered himself up as a victim on our behalf by the power of the Holy Spirit, so too the Church which is Christ’s body was born and grew by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directed the Church (as we see in the Acts of the Apostles) in her work of evangelization and growth. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit directed Philip to evangelize and instruct the Ethiopian in his reading of the prophets. Then the Spirit led him away to other fields. St Paul and his party were often explicitly directed to go here and not to go there, without any special explanation. It is very clear in reading the Acts of the Apostles that the infant Church had a profound experience of the Holy Spirit as a very active divine person who was bearing witness to the truth of Jesus and helping the Church to bear this same witness. Our Lord clearly told his disciples that when they were brought before kings and governors on account of him, they were not to worry what to say because the Spirit of the Father would teach them what to say. He would be their new advocate and counselor and guide, reminding them of what he had told them and leading them to the full truth.

6.   Devotion to the Holy Spirit 

 Thus while  Christ is the Head of the Church, the Holy Spirit is the Church’s Soul, and he dwells within the Church as in his Temple. We ought then become very devoted to the Holy Spirit. He is our heavenly and divine Friend par excellence, the One who will help us to get to know and love and serve Jesus. In fact, we ought develop a personal relationship with each of the three divine persons. Each of the divine persons could be described as a relation who is a person. The distinguishing feature of the Father as a person is that he is Father of the Son. The distinguishing feature of the Son is that he is the Son of the Father. What differentiates the Holy Spirit as a person is that he is the Spirit of love between the Father and the Son. But the being of each is the same one being of God. So each is in an utter relationship with the other. We ought try to be like God in that we ought live in relationship with each divine person. Early in his famous Spiritual Exercises St Ignatius Loyola asks us to contemplate the Holy Trinity viewing the entire human race and how so many souls are lost in hell. He often asks us to pray to each of the three divine persons. That is to say, it is an important element of Christian spirituality to develop a personal relationship with each of the divine persons, including the third person, the Holy Spirit. It would be a good thing to have favourite prayers to the Holy Spirit, and build up a habit of speaking to him and coming to love him. We ought ask him to enlighten us, to teach us, to inflame our hearts with generosity and with the desire to put on the mind of Christ, which is so profoundly different from the mind of the world. As St Paul tells us in one of his Letters, let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. If we cooperate with him, it will be done.   

(Comp. ch. 3, CCC 683-747)