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11/1/2012 9:00:00 AM
YEAR OF FAITH
Explaining the creed, part IV: 'I believe in the Holy Spirit...'
The Nicene Creed
'...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....'
This is the fourth installment in a five-part series on the creed to mark the Church's Year of Faith. Read the last one at http://www.evangelist.org/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=36&ArticleID=23711.

BY REV. ANTHONY BARRATT


We continue our reflections on the creed by looking at what we say about the Holy Spirit. We know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, manifest at Pentecost, and that the Spirit is given in baptism or confirmation.

However, many of us might wonder: Who or what is the Holy Spirit and what does the Holy Spirit do?

We are in good company. When our ancient Christian forbearers wrote the creed, the original version just stated, "I believe in the Holy Spirit," and left it at that!

It was quickly realized that this was not enough. In fact, there were some who did not believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. They saw the Spirit just as some sort of mysterious divine force or power.

So, our creed does two things: It states who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit does for us.

The creed begins by using two titles: "the Lord" and the "giver of life." The title "Lord" is taken from the Scriptures and is usually reserved to speak only of God. The Holy Spirit is also the "giver of life," something we read again and again in the Bible.

During creation, the Spirit moved over the waters and breathed life into Adam and Eve. In the book of the prophet Jeremiah, the life-giving Spirit is promised; in Ezekiel's vision, dry bones are given life by the Spirit.

At the Annunciation, Mary is overshadowed by the Spirit, and it is the Spirit who raises Jesus from the dead and who descends upon the dejected and frightened Apostles to give them new life and new spirit. As Pentecost Sunday reminds us, the same Spirit brings us light, refreshment, courage, strength and inspiration.

We then leave our biblical images and employ a theological shorthand (as we did with "consubstantial" last week). We say: "The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son." This is a controversial statement, especially for Eastern Orthodox Christians, but we will have to put that issue aside for now.

What does this phrase mean? Like the "only begotten" Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds or comes from God before all ages; but we also acknowledge that the Spirit comes to us from the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. We can remember His promise to the disciples to send the Spirit: Read John 14:16-17,26 and 16:13, and Acts 16:13.

Next, we state that "with the Father and the Son [He] is adored and glorified." Only God can be adored and glorified by us (as in our prayer, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit"). We are saying that the Holy Spirit is indeed truly God because of the adoration and glory we give.

Interestingly, long before the creed was written, it was the honor and worship given to the Holy Spirit in the liturgy that convinced many that the Holy Spirit is indeed divine and truly God.

Finally, we say something about what the Holy Spirit does: "who has spoken through the prophets." The Spirit speaks through the many prophets, both old and new, whom God sends. The Spirit literally "inspires" or gives inspiration and helps God's prophets to listen to God's voice and to speak for God.

It is also a reminder that there are prophets today as well as the classical prophets in the Old Testament - people like Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata or Archbishop Oscar Romero. Perhaps you know of someone in your own parish or community who truly inspires and who is very much a prophet of God.

Finally, the creed reminds all of us of our call through baptism and confirmation to be prophets of God, too.

As we profess our belief in the Holy Spirit, let us ask the Spirit to inspire us and to breathe life into us - the very life of God. As we continue our Amazing God initiative in our Diocese and as we continue the "Year of Faith" for the whole Church, we ask the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.

Like the Apostles at Pentecost, may we, too, boldly profess our faith - both by our words and by our actions.

(Father Barratt is pastor of Annunciation parish in Ilion and Our Lady Queen of Apostles in Frankfort. He holds a doctorate in theology and was a professor at St. John's Seminary in England before coming to the U.S. in 2004.)

Related Stories:
• Explaining the creed, part V: the Church, baptism, life, death and resurrection
• Explaining the creed, part III: 'I believe in Jesus Christ...'
• Explaining the creed, part II: God the Father





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