Seriously, who the heck is the Holy Spirit? Most people have an idea about God the Father and God the Son, but not much of one when it comes to their more elusive partner in crime, the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit.
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI even said, “The Holy Spirit has been in some ways the neglected person of the Blessed Trinity.” Think about it: When was the last time you thought of the Holy Spirit as something other than just a flaming dove who happens to show up from time- to- time in the Bible? If this is true for you, you should definitely keep reading to find out all the incredible things you’ve been missing out on!
First things first, as with the Trinity, know that no one can ever fully comprehend the Holy Spirit. Like many things in the Catholic faith, it has an element of mystery to it. I don’t mean the type of mystery where you shrug your shoulders and say, “Hmm, I don’t know.” I mean the type that is definitely understandable, but because of the infinite nature of God, we can’t understand all of it.
After all, if it was possible to fit the entirety of God (or even just one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity) into our little brains, our God wouldn’t be very impressive, would He? This is kind of like being blinded by light. You can know there is a sun, but if there is too much sunlight all at once, you’ll find yourself unable to see much at all. Knowing that we can’t ever fully take it all in should never stop us from trying to see what we can though. God has made our limited minds capable of understanding pieces of His infinite complexity for a reason, and trying our best to discover why can only make us more amazed and in love with Him.
Like Steps in a Dance
The Holy Spirit is love, to put things very simply. I know this answer is cliché and isn’t what you were hoping for, so don’t fret — there’s more. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person of the Holy Trinity, who exists as the communication and personification of the mutual, flowing, and never-ending relationship of love and unity between God the Father and God the Son. This is what the Nicene Creed (the one we say at Mass every Sunday) means when it says the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This is super cool, but also tempting to think the Holy Spirit is just love between the Father and Son. Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit is a distinct member of the Holy Trinity who has existed for all of eternity and plays a big role in the creation of the universe (Genesis 1:2) and bringing about our salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:18).
Many great theologians and saints throughout history, like St. Maximus the Confessor, have realized how difficult it can be to understanding all of this and managed to come up with an easier way to think of things. They compared the bond between the members of the Holy Trinity to a never ending dance where the Father and Son are the dancers and the Holy Spirit is the structure of the dance they are following. In other words, the Holy Trinity would easily win Dancing with the Stars. After all, the Trinity has the whole perfection thing going on and has had all of eternity to practice.
The coolest part about all of this is that the Holy Spirit constantly invites us and encourages us to take part in this dance. Think about Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17. The clouds in the sky open up, the Holy Spirit rockets down to descend upon Jesus, and a voice booms, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” When we are baptized, the heavens may not open up and God may not announce our identity, but the Holy Spirit does descend upon us and make a home inside our souls, and is well pleased with us. Think about how incredible of a gift this is: The creator of the entire universe and everything in it has made a home inside of you. He has made a gift of Himself. Jesus promised us no less in John 14:20. And if the Holy Spirit is inside of us, and if the Holy Spirit is part of the flowing relationship of the Trinity, we suddenly find ourselves swept up in the greatest dance of all time! This love, if we are willing to accept it, slowly changes and transforms our mind and soul to be more aware and accepting of the incredible love of God. As Pope Benedict XVI once advised, “Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: he is the artisan of God’s works. Let his gifts shape you!”
Teacher of the Soul and Protector of Truth
Have you ever had a teacher who made a huge difference in your life? The way they taught things just made sense, they were creative in ways you never thought possible, and the advice they gave you, even outside of school work, turned out to be the best adviceevery time. And, maybe, you still find yourself wanting to ask that teacher for help even when you aren’t in their class anymore. In John 14:26, Jesus tells us that this is exactly what the Holy Spirit is like. He expands our soul and our mind to be open to God’s graces and guides us in our lives as Christians.
And as a teacher, the Holy Spirit would never lead anyone away from the truth. In fact, take a moment to read Acts 2. The Holy Spirit descended upon the first bishops of the Catholic Church (Jesus’ apostles) at Pentecost and, ever since, has guided and protected the members and leaders of the Church from straying too far from the teachings of Jesus Christ. It also served as an inspiration to spread this truth to as many people as possible. This guidance and inspiration has remained with the Church ever since by being passed on from bishop to bishop through the Holy Spirit. With all of this in mind, I challenge your to search for the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life. Take advantage of the fact that the Holy Spirit has made a home in your soul and ask Him for guidance in your prayers and day-to-day decisions. If the Holy Spirit has managed to keep a Church full of sinners alive and well for thousands of years, He can definitely work wonders for you.