The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 23)
Who Is The Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.
I believe in the Holy Spirit. With this profession, the Trinitarian “shape” of our faith is complete. Each of the three parts of the creed confesses faith in God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit—the One God who is a fellowship, a communion of three “persons” or identities.
The Lord, the giver of Life . . . Who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified. The Creed makes sure that the Holy Spirit we believe in is not simply some divine force or emanation from God but is truly God. In that creed, the Holy Spirit is clearly identified as the Lord, the giver of Life. When God gives the Holy Spirit, God gives God. The Holy Spirit is the name of God when God is given as a gift to indwell the souls of human creatures.
By analogy, we know something about this kind of giving. Or, at least, we know a very distant likeness to it. You know about “giving yourself” to some cause or person. When you give yourself to another, it does not mean you cease being yourself. In fact, by giving yourself you become more and more yourself. But it means that the other person now possesses your love, your loyalty, your presence when needed. Again, it is a distant likeness; there is much un-likeness within the likeness. Our human self-giving is severely limited by our nature and by our sins. But God’s Self-giving is limited by nothing except his infinite Love.
To whom does God give himself? The first answer is one of the strange surprises of our faith, and it may at first sound like nonsense. God gives himself to God! That is, the Father gives himself to the Son and the Son returns this self-giving wholly; and this mutual self-giving is the Holy Spirit.
Of course, we could not speak of God like this, we would know nothing of this mystery, except for Jesus. When the Word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-3), this eternal secret of God’s self-giving gets acted out and disclosed in a human history. The gospel story is first of all a story of the self-giving love between Jesus and the one Jesus called Father—who is the one who calls Jesus “my Son, my Beloved” (Mark 1:11). The Father gives himself—his loyalty, approval and “backing” — to Jesus. And Jesus returns this gift to the Father without holding anything back. The Son’s loyalty to the Father is not broken even by a tortuous death; the Father’s loyalty to the Son is stronger than the grave. This mutual self-giving that makes them “one,” this mutual Spirit between them, is God’s saving power at work on earth, named by the gospel “the Holy Spirit.”
I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe that the power of love and favor between Jesus and his Father has been revealed and poured out in human history, “adopting” you and me (Romans 8:15) into that shared love. I believe that the Father now loves me with the same Love that he has for his only begotten Son. Because the Son gives me a share in his own perfect love of the Father. I believe that this Spirit will shape my life more and more in the image of the Sonship of Jesus. I believe that this Holy Spirit will hold us all secure, in the communion of the Father with the Son now and forever—by “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14).
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