Article 61 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Father John G. Hillier
In the 1970s I volunteered at my home parish to meet and greet visitors, prepare the church for special Masses and the parish hall for special events. On one occasion I stood in the atrium between the church and parish center to greet members of a new group called the “Charismatic Renewal” that was gathering to use our facility. Knowing little about the group I was very much caught off guard when a middle-aged woman approached me and asked, “have you received the Holy Spirit?” I responded in a matter of fact way, “yes, I received the Holy Spirit when I received the sacrament of Confirmation.” Her response: “No, no, I am referring to the Holy Spirit who comes to our Charismatic prayer meetings.”
The truth is that the Holy Spirit we worship, “Lord and Giver of life,” (as we profess in the Creed) is the one and only Holy Spirit present always and everywhere whether we worship Him in our private prayers, at holy Mass or at a Charismatic prayer meeting. Saint Paul explains: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The Catechism affirms: “to be in touch with Christ (the Word of God), we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit (the Breath of God) … By virtue of our Baptism, … the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son” (ccc 683).
A few paragraphs later we are told: “The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation” (ccc 686). Later, we learn that “the place where we [truly] know the Holy Spirit” to be is in “the Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles” (ccc 688). We affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit where the Church is present as follows:
- in the Scriptures inspired (by the Holy Spirit);
- in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;
- in the Church’s Magisterium, which [the Holy Spirit] assists;
- in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us into communion with Christ;
- in prayer, wherein [the Holy Spirit] intercedes for us;
- in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;
- in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;
- in the witness of saints through whom [the Holy Spirit] manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation.
Writing on Trinitarian theology, 4th-century theologian and Archbishop of Constantinople Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as Gregory the Theologian), highlighted the Holy Spirit as “the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed.” The Catechism quotes Saint Gregory as follows:
The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of himself. It was not prudent, when the divinity of the Father had not yet been confessed, to proclaim the Son openly and, when the divinity of the Son was not yet admitted, to add the Holy Spirit as an extra burden, to speak somewhat daringly. … By advancing and progressing “from glory to glory,” the light of the Trinity will shine in ever more brilliant rays (ccc 684).
Paragraph 685 of the Catechism states: “To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity,” consubstantial with the Father and the Son: “with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified” (Nicene Creed).
To be clear, however, it is important to affirm that “in adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons” in the Holy Trinity (ccc 689). When the Father sends his Word [Jesus Christ], he always sends his Breath [the Holy Spirit]. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him (ccc 689).
When we consider the Person of the Holy Spirit in the 1970′s, this present year of 2017, in the 4th century or at any time, it is always the same Spirit, “the Lord and Giver of Life” who moves always in the direction of life because, as we will later discuss in a future article, “power over life pertains to the Spirit” (ccc 703).
The Holy Spirit gives us natural life at the moment of conception (thus making us citizens of the world), breathes new, supernatural life into our souls when we are born-again in baptism and lifts us up again in the resurrection from the dead. It will be the same Holy Spirit who will, on the last day, breath new life into our bodies so we can take our place as citizens of heaven, when Christ comes again to “transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).