THE HOLY SPIRIT

   God is a trinity. That is, God is three divine persons, in one divine being. The three persons are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We profess in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Church uses the word spirate to describe this phenomenon of God the Holy Spirit proceeding from God the Father, and God the Son. "He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and in one spiration." 1 In other words the Holy Spirit proceeds, or spirates, from one beginning, not from two, even though He proceeds from God the Father and God the Son.

   The Church also uses the word consubstantial to describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit, indeed all the members of the Trinity, with one another. "Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them2". The word "consubtantial" comes from the Latin consubstantialem, of one essence or substance. This is a translation of the Greek homoousion, from homos, same, and ousia, essence.3 The Latin word for consubstantial is also used in the Nicene Creed we say at Mass to describe the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, and is currently translated as "one in being".

   The Holy Spirit and the other divine persons of the Holy Trinity "do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire".4 The Council of Lyons II in 1274 declared that: "We believe that each individual Person in the Trinity is one true God, complete and perfect."

   St. Augustine of Hippo tells us that the Holy Spirit is the love between God the Father and God the Son. St. Augustine insists that the Holy Spirit is love itself. He reasons: "...if there be among the gifts of God none greater than love, and there is no greater gift of God than the Holy Spirit, what follows more naturally than that He is Himself love, who is called both God and of God?" 5 St. Augustine goes so far as to say that we can use "Love" as a proper name for the Holy Spirit. "... the Spirit also is given Love as a proper name, even though the Father and the Son are Love as well in a general sense".6

   Since the Holy Spirit is the Love between God the Father and God the Son, it becomes clear why the Holy Spirit is the inspiration for a myriad of prayers and meditations concerning the other persons in the Trinity. It also becomes clear why there are so few memorable prayers to the Holy Spirit Himself. Most prayers at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours are to God the Father or God the Son, and end with "in the unity of the Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit is not usually the direct, obvious, object of the prayer. This doesn't seem to bother the Holy Spirit one bit. True love is not selfish, but only interested in the glorification of the beloved. The Holy Spirit, Who inspired the scriptures,7 seems mainly concerned with inspiring mankind to praise the God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit being humble, "does not speak of Himself." but rather exercises "properly divine self-effacement".8

   In 1897 Pope Leo XIII promulgated the encyclical Divinum Illud Munus (On the Holy Spirit) in which he called The Blessed Virgin Mary the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that so many have been inspired to record prayers, litanies, and songs to the Blessed Mother? Many men have been known to rhapsodize about their wives, but what guy in love ever wrote a poem about himself? In the same way the Holy Spirit has been the inspiration for more verse about His mystical spouse Mary, a created person, than Himself, a divine person.

   The Holy Spirit, being perfect, self-giving, Love itself, can best be described by quoting what the apostle Paul had to say about love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8,13: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

   The apostle was, of course, inspired to write this by the Holy Spirit. These words also perfectly describe the Holy Spirit. It was certainly done merely to set the record straight to mankind since we need it spelled out.

   The Holy Spirit, as the third complete and perfect Person of that Holy Trinity serves as the ultimate example and inspiration for spouses and others who seek to love perfectly.

1 CCC 246
2 CCC 689
3 Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07449a.htm
4 CCC 253
5 On the Trinity XV.18.32, 19.37
6 Ibid., XV, 17, 31; CC 50, 505.
7 CCC 688
8 CCC 687

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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, April 2004.