Having looked with some depth at the saving works of Jesus Christ – including the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost – we now look more directly at the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
As the Father and the Son, so too the Holy Spirit is God – fully divine from all eternity. Within the three distinct persons of the unity of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit (or sometimes referred to in our language as the “Holy Ghost”) is expressed as the “bond of love” between the Father and the Son, who “proceeds” from the Father and the Son – that is, which is sent forth, revealing the Truth – including the very truth that is God Himself as a Trinity of persons.
As we already considered in the earlier installment regarding Pentecost, the sending forth of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son on this occasion marked the birth of the Church. Having been referred to by Jesus as either the “Paraclete,” or the “Advocate,” the Holy Spirit enters into the apostles, gifting them to go forth to proclaim the Gospel and to lead all nations to Christ through baptism. In addition, the Holy Spirit comes forth in this moment as God’s presence to remain with all who receive Him, drawing all into more perfect unity with God.
The Holy Spirit is symbolized in multiple ways – each of which are found in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, God commonly manifested His Spirit as the wind – as though it were His breath (we see this too in Jesus’ act of breathing on the apostles after He was raised from the dead, saying to them to “Receive the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is first manifested at Jesus’ baptism, descending upon Him as a dove. Later, Jesus uses the image of “living water” when speaking to the woman of Samaria in John 4. Finally, and perhaps most notably the Holy Spirit is manifested on Pentecost as what appeared as “tongues of fire,” which descended upon the apostles (Acts 2:3). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 694-701 go into these and other symbols of Holy Spirit, mindful that each of these symbols convey something of the attributes and nature of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity.
In our lives, we receive the Holy Spirit most notably through the seven sacraments – that God Himself may dwell more perfectly within us through what we receive. In addition, in following Jesus’ own words regarding the Holy Spirit, wherever there is truth and love, so to is the Holy Spirit present, who is love and guides us toward the truth. Finally (and this will be explained more fully in the next installment) the Holy Spirit is “grace,” or God’s gift of His own divine life that He desires to place within us and to have dwell in us.
Accordingly, the Holy Spirit is God Himself, who remains present to us and at work in the Church, guiding us onto eternal salvation. Throughout the remainder of the series, we will frequently see how it is the Holy Spirit that is at work in the life of the Church and in our own individual lives that is drawing us toward that perfect union and communion with God, which is our eternal vocation.
or further reading: In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 683-747 address the Holy Spirit from the point of view of His external manifestation and attributes. The Holy Spirit within the interior life of the Trinity, which we already covered, is found earlier in paragraphs 232-248.