Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Catechism's View of the Holy Spirit's Role in Catholicism

The previous post, on February 4, 2014, frequently mentions the role of the Holy Spirit in various forms of mysticism, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What is the Holy Spirit? What actions does it take? What is the significance of the Holy Spirit in Catholicism's mystical worldview?

The Catechism devotes Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three to the Holy Spirit. The title is "I believe in the Holy Spirit." The Catechism also includes many other references to the Holy Spirit, as shown in the Index.

WHAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT? The Holy Spirit is a "person," one of the three "persons" in the mysterious Holy Trinity of God (the Father), Jesus (the Son of God), and the Holy Spirit (which emanates from God). (Catechism, pars. 236 and 684) 

We can know of the Holy Spirit through his effects. (par. 688) In historical order, the Old Testament Bible initially revealed God the Father, the first person of the Trinity. Next, the New Testament Bible revealed Jesus the Son, the second person. The New Testament also revealed the existence of the Holy Spirit by identifying some of its actions and attributes, though in less detail than the Father and the Son. (par. 686)

SYNONYMS AND SYMBOLS. The Holy Spirit appears more frequently in the New Testament than a casual reader might realize at first. In the New Testament and in Catholic literature generally, synonyms for "Holy Spirit" are "Paraclete" (Consoler), "Spirit of Truth," and "Spirit" with various attributes such as "Spirit of promise." (par. 692) 

In the Bible, symbols for the Holy Spirit are: the "Finger of God" (700), fire ( 696), the "Hand of God" (699), the dove (701), the seal (698), water (694), and cloud and light (697).

WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO? In historical times, the Holy Spirit was the "principal author" of Holy Scripture (304). It illustrates his repeated role in bringing knowledge to men.

In our time, the Holy Spirit acts in various ways among individual men on earth. The Holy Spirit can: awaken faith (684) enable men to communicate with Christ (683), help men grow in spiritual freedom (1742), teach praying (741, 2652), reveal God (687), reveal the Trinity (244, 684), be a source of holiness (749), and give "gifts" (charisma, in Greek), that is, special abilities such as "speaking in tongues" (768, 798-801, 1830)

The Holy Spirit also has particular roles to take within the Church (the community of believers, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit [pars 797-798]). The Holy Spirit has the special tasks of unifying the Church (813), directing the Church (768), supporting the Church (747), participating in the liturgy (1091-1109), providing the living memory of the Church (1099), and taking responsibility for the Church's mission (852).

Perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit "kindles faith in us," specifically faith in Jesus Christ. (par. 683) Beyond that, the Holy Spirit conveys information from the Father and the Son (the other two "persons" of the mysterious Holy Trinity). (par. 684) While the Holy Spirit enables us to know some things about the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit reveals nothing about himself. (par. 687) 

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT? Of the three persons of the mysterious Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the least known but perhaps (Catholics say) most present among Catholics. The Holy Spirit is, one can infer, primarily a conveyer, an enabler of God communicating with and thereby guiding man. In effect, the Holy Spirit is the form in which God is present on earth, in particular aiding the Church in its mission of saving souls. Thus, the Holy Spirit is the bridge between the supernatural world and the natural world. The Holy Spirit provides a structure of integration in the Catholic worldview—making Catholicism a more formidable opponent of reason.

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, described at

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