The Nicene Creed, Part 7
I believe in 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, who has spoken through the prophets.
Many Christians lack a clear concept of or a sense of a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. In traditional art, the Father and the Son are most often portrayed in human form. The Holy Spirit, however, is portrayed either by inanimate objects, like fire or wind, or as a dove. Moreover, it is often easier for Christians to describe the role of the Father or the Son than it is to speak of the role of the Holy Spirit. The concise description of the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed gives us some very helpful concepts to focus our contemplation on the Holy Spirit.
The faith of the Catholic Church proclaims that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. One traditional way to think of this is to see the Holy Spirit as the bond of utter self-giving love between the Father and the Son, a love that not only eternally flows between the Persons of the Trinity but that flows outward to all of creation. This gives us an important clue of how to discover the presence of the Holy Spirit.
An example from our human experience will help us. We strive to show other people our love for them in what we give them. We can give something in the spirit of authentic love, something given for the true good of the other. If we receive a gift given in this spirit, what we remember most is not the gift itself but the love that came with it. Conversely, if someone claims to offer us a “gift” but does so in a spirit of manipulation and not authentic love, what we remember about the “gift” is not so much the thing itself but the pain we experienced from the manipulation. Just so, if we ponder the gifts that the Lord gives us, and ponder the all-surpassing love that the Lord offers to us by means of these gifts (in other words, the gift of the Lord’s own self), we will encounter the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Our faith tells us that the Holy Spirit is the giver of life. This is true in a physical sense. The Spirit breathed upon the primeval creation, and an explosion of living things came into being, an explosion that continues now. This is true in a spiritual sense. Through the overshadowing presence of the Spirit, Mary conceived Jesus in her womb. Through the Holy Spirit, the victory won by Jesus through His Cross and Resurrection is given to us. The Holy Spirit is invoked in the celebration of every sacrament, not only confirmation, for it is through the Spirit that the Lord gives graces to all. Through the Spirit, the Church is built up with all the gifts it needs to become more fully the body of Christ in the world.
Our faith tells us that the Holy Spirit has spoken through the prophets. It is through the Spirit that the Lord teaches, encourages, consoles and challenges us. Thus, the Spirit speaks not only through those we call prophets in the Old Testament. The Spirit speaks through the Scriptures, through the doctrines of the Church, through the shepherds of the Church, and in other ways. At times, the Spirit may summon an individual person or group to remind the Church of a truth or gift that the Church is in danger of forgetting. The same Spirit speaks in the hearts of each person who believes. The Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray as we ought.
One thing that is implicit in all that the Creed proclaims about the Holy Spirit is how contemplating the Spirit reveals to us the amazing humility of God. Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit will not speak on His own but will only pass on what Jesus has said and done. Jesus often said that He did nothing on His own but only what He sees the Father doing. Jesus comes to do the Father’s will. Since Jesus reveals the Father to us, He shows us that the Father, too, is of this same self-giving nature. In this constant flow of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is no rivalry or jealousy or possessiveness. It’s all gift. It’s all shared. Anyone who is open to the Spirit will show the same self-giving love and the same humility.
May the Holy Spirit form and guide our hearts so that we may all more perfectly resemble the Lord and thus give a better witness of His love to all, especially to God’s little ones.
By: Fr. Mark Nolette, a priest of the Diocese of Portland..