Hitherto we have expounded, as far as the nature of the subject seemed to require, what pertains to the First and Second Per sons of the Holy Trinity. It now remains to explain what the Creed contains with regard to the Third Person, the Holy Ghost.
On this subject the pastor should omit nothing that study and industry can effect; for on this Article, no less than on those that preceded, ignorance or error would be unpardonable in a Christian. Hence, the Apostle did not permit some among the Ephesians to remain in ignorance with regard to the Person of the Holy Ghost. Having asked if they had received the Holy Ghost, and having received for answer that they did not so much as know that there was a Holy, Ghost, he at once demanded: In whom, therefore, were you baptised? to signify that a distinct knowledge of this Article is most necessary to the faithful.
From such knowledge they derive special fruit. For, considering attentively that whatever they have, they possess through the bounty and beneficence of the Holy Spirit, they begin to think more modestly and humbly of themselves, and to place all their hopes in the protection of God, which for a Christian is the first step towards consummate wisdom and supreme happiness.
The exposition of this Article, therefore, should begin with the force and meaning here attached to the words Holy Ghost. This appellation is equally true when applied to the Father and the Son, since both are spirit, both holy, and we confess that God is a Spirit; this name may also be applied to Angels, and the souls of the just. Care must be taken, therefore, that the faithful be not led into error by the ambiguity of the words.
The pastor, then, should teach that by the words Holy Ghost in this Article is understood the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, a sense in which they are used, sometimes in the Old, and frequently in the New Testament. Thus David prays: Take not thy Holy Spirit from me; and in the Book of Wisdom we read: Who shall know thy thoughts, except thou give wisdom, and send thy Holy Spirit from above? And in another place it is said: He created her in the Holy Ghost.' We are also commanded, in the New Testament to be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. We read that the most holy Virgin conceived of the Holy Ghost; and we are sent by St. John to Christ, who baptizeth us in the Holy Ghost.' There are many other passages in which the words Holy Ghost occur.
No one should be surprised that a proper name is not given to the Third, as to the First and Second Persons. The Second Person is designated by a proper name, and called Son, because, as has been explained in the preceding Articles, His eternal birth from the Father is properly called generation. As, therefore, that birth is expressed by the word generation, so the Person, emanating from that generation, is properly called Son, and the Person, from whom he emanates, Father.
But as the production of the Third Person has no proper name, but is called spiration and procession, the Person produced is, consequently, designated by no proper name. His emanation has no proper name simply because we are obliged to borrow from created objects the names given to God and know no other created means of communicating nature and essence than that of generation. Hence we cannot discover a proper name to express the manner in which God communicates Himself entire, by the force of His love. Wherefore we call the Third Person Holy Ghost, a name, however, peculiarly appropriate to Him who infuses into us spiritual life, and without whose holy inspiration we can do nothing meritorious of eternal life.
The people, when once acquainted with the meaning of His name, should first of all be taught that the Holy Ghost is equally God with the Father and the Son, equally omnipotent and eternal, infinitely perfect, the supreme good, infinitely wise, and of the same nature as the Father and the Son.
All this is obviously enough implied by the force of the word in, when we say: I believe in the Holy Ghost; for this preposition is prefixed to each Person of the Trinity in order to express the exact nature of our faith.
The Divinity of the Holy Ghost is also clearly established by many passages of Scripture. When, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter says, Ananias, Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? he immediately adds: Thou hast not lied to men, but to God, calling Him God to whom he had just before given the name Holy Ghost.
The Apostle, also, writing to the Corinthians, interprets what he says of God as said of the Holy Ghost. There are, he says, diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all; but, he continues, all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.
In the Acts of the Apostles also what the Prophets attribute to God alone, St. Paul ascribes to the Holy. Ghost. Thus Isaias had said: I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? . . . And he said: Go, and thou shalt say to this people: Blind the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears. Having cited these words, the Apostle adds: Well did the Holy Ghost speak to our fathers, by Isaias the prophet.
Again, the Sacred Scriptures join the Person of the Holy Ghost to those of the Father and the Son, as, for example, when Baptism is commanded to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. There is thus no room left us of doubting the truth of this mystery. For if the Father is God, and the Son God, we must admit that the Holy Ghost, who is united with Them in the same degree of honour, is also God.
Besides, baptism administered in the name of any creature can be of no effect. Were you baptised in the name of Paul? says the Apostle, to show that such baptism could have availed nothing to salvation. Since, therefore, we are baptised in the name of the Holy Ghost, we must acknowledge the Holy Ghost to be God.
This same order of the Three Persons, which proves the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, is also found in the Epistle of St. John: There are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one; and also in that noble eulogy of the Holy Trinity, with which the Divine Praises and the Psalms are concluded: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
Finally, what most strongly confirms this truth is the fact that Holy Scripture assigns to the Holy Ghost whatever attributes we believe proper to God. Wherefore to Him is ascribed the honour of temples, as when the Apostle says: Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost? Scripture also attributes to Him the power to sanctify, to vivify, to search the depths of God, to speak by the Prophets, and to be present in all places, all of which can be attributed to God alone.
The pastor should also accurately explain to the faithful that the Holy Ghost is not only God, but that we must also confess that He is the Third Person of the Divine Nature, distinct from the Father and the Son, and produced by Their will.
To say nothing of other testimonies of Scripture, the form of Baptism, taught by our Redeemer,' shows most clearly that the Holy Ghost is the Third Person, selfexistent in the Divine Nature and distinct from the other Persons. It is a doctrine taught also by the Apostle when he says: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity of God, and the communication of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
This same truth is still more explicitly declared in these words added to this Article of the Creed by the Fathers of the First Council of Constantinople to refute the impious folly of Macedonius: And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, and the Son; who together with the Father and the Son, is adored and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
By confessing the Holy Ghost to be Lord they declare how far He excels the Angels, who are the noblest spirits created by God; for they are all, says the Apostle, ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.
They also designate the Holy Ghost the giver of life because the soul lives more by its union with God than the body is nourished and sustained by its union with the soul. Since then, the Sacred Scriptures ascribe to the Holy Ghost this union of the soul with God, it is clear that He is most rightly called the giver of life.
With regard to the words immediately succeeding: who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, the faithful are to be taught that the Holy Ghost proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son, as from one principle. This truth is proposed for our belief by the Creed of the Church, from which no Christian may depart, and is confirmed by the authority of the Sacred Scriptures and of Councils.
Christ the Lord, speaking of the Holy Ghost, says: He shall glorify me, because he shall receive of mine. We also find that the Holy Ghost is sometimes called in Scripture the Spirit of Christ, sometimes, the Spirit of the Father; that He is one time said to be sent by the Father, another time, by the Son, -- all of which clearly signifies that He proceeds alike from the Father and the Son. He, says St. Paul, who has not the Spirit of Christ belongs not to him. In his Epistle to the Galatians he also calls the Holy Ghost the Spirit of Christ: God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, He is called the Spirit of the Father: It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.
Our Lord said, at His Last Supper: When the Paraclete cometh whom I will send you, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. On another occasion, that the Holy Ghost will be sent by the Father, He declares in these words: whom the Father will send in my name. Understanding these words to denote the procession of the Holy Ghost, we come to the inevitable conclusion that He proceeds from both Father and Son.
The above are the truths that should be taught with regard to the Person of the Holy Ghost.
It is also the duty of the pastor to teach that there are certain admirable effects, certain excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are said to originate and emanate from Him, as from a perennial fountain of goodness. Although the intrinsic works of the most Holy Trinity are common to the Three Persons, yet many of them are attributed specially to the Holy Ghost, to signify that they arise from the boundless charity of God towards us. For as the Holy Ghost proceeds from the divine will, inflamed, as it were, with love, we can perceive that these effects which are referred particularly to the Holy Ghost, are the result of God's supreme love for us.
Hence it is that the Holy Ghost is called a gift; for by the word gift we understand that which is kindly and gratuitously bestowed, without expectation of any return. Whatever gifts and graces, therefore, have been conferred on us by God -- and what have we, says the Apostle, that we have not received from God? -- we should piously and gratefully acknowledge as bestowed by the grace and gift of the Holy Ghost.
These gifts of the Holy Ghost are numerous. Not to mention the creation of the world, the propagation and government of all created beings, discussed in the first Article, we have just shown that the giving of life is particularly attributed to the Holy Ghost, and this is further confirmed by the testimony of Ezechiel: I will give you spirit and you shall live.
The Prophet (Isaias), however, enumerates the chief effects which are most properly ascribed to the Holy Ghost: The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord. These effects are called the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and sometimes they are even called the Holy Ghost. Wisely, therefore, does St. Augustine admonish us, whenever we meet the word Holy Ghost in Scripture, to distinguish whether it means the Third Person of the Trinity or His gifts and operations.' The two are as far apart as the Creator is from the creature.
The diligence of the pastor in expounding these truths should be the greater, since it is from these gifts of the Holy Ghost that we derive rules of Christian life and are enabled to know if the Holy Ghost dwells within us.
But the grace of justification, which signs us with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,' transcends all His other most ample gifts. It unites us to God in the closest bonds of love, lights up within us the sacred flame of piety, forms us to newness of life, renders us partakers of the divine nature, and enables us to be called and really to be the sons of God.Back