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Letter to Parishioners

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 55)

The Communion of the Holy Spirit
     I believe in the Holy Spirit. With this confession, 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 of three “persons” or identities.
     The Nicene Creed makes sure that the Holy Spirit we believe in is not simply some divine influence 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 human creatures.
     We know something about this kind of giving; or, at least, we know a distant likeness to it. You know about “giving yourself” to some cause or person. When you give yourself to someone, it does not mean you cease being yourself. Maybe, in fact, by giving yourself you become more and more yourself. But it means that the other person now has your love, your loyalty, your presence when needed. Again, this is only a distant likeness. Our self-giving is severely limited by our nature and by our sins. But God’s self-giving is limited by nothing except his own will to share the Divine Life with us.
     To whom does God give himself? The first answer is one of the mysterious surprises of the Christian 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 without reservation; and this mutual self-giving is the Holy Spirit.
     Of course, we would not dare speak of God like this, we would know nothing of this mystery, except for Jesus. When the eternal Word of God “became flesh and dwelt among us” as Jesus the Jew (John 1:1-3), this eternal secret of God’s self-giving gets acted out and disclosed in human history. The gospel story is first of all a story of the self-giving love between Jesus and the one he 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 the gift.
     The Son’s loyalty to the Father is not broken even by being given up to a tortuous death. The Father’s loyalty to the Son is stronger than the grave. This mutual Spirit of self-giving is God’s saving power on earth—which is 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 poured out as a personal force in human history (the Church), “adopting” (Romans 8:15) you and me and all the baptized into that mutual Divine Love. I believe that the Father’s love for Jesus now includes me, because Jesus gives me a share in his own relation to the Father. I believe that this Spirit will shape my life more and more in the image of the Son of God (through prayer, repentance, the forgiveness of sins, and communion with others). I believe that by the gift of the Holy Spirit, we will dwell within the mutual Love of the Father and the Son, now and forever.

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