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A Beacon Of Light… The Lord, The Giver Of Life

October 5, 2021 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. RICHARD BRETON

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + A few weeks ago, we began our current series dedicated to teaching the faith. To assist us in this responsibility, we have been journeying through the first section, or pillar, of the Catechism that deals with understanding the Creed. We gained a better understanding of the importance of believing in Someone, rather than in something. This opened our minds and hearts to a better appreciation of who God is in our lives, especially as Father and Son.
    The union that exists between the First and Second Persons of the Blessed Trinity, exists equally with the Holy Spirit. Consubstantial with each other, that is united of one substance, the persons of the Trinity work together in unison, vying against Satan, for our entrance into eternal life.
    This week we continue our breakdown of the Creed, arriving at the third section, devoted to the Holy Spirit. In this section of the Creed we pray the following: “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.”
    Having the ability to believe in the Holy Spirit implies a previous encounter with the Spirit. So when was this previous encounter? The first encounter with the Holy Spirit happens in the moments of creation. As God spoke, and creation happened, the Holy Spirit became the actuator of creation. We see this in the creation of man when Adam received the “breath of life.” In this instance, the breath of God is the Holy Spirit. Similarly, we also experience the “breath of God” at the moment of our conception.

New Life

There is another essential moment, however, where the Holy Spirit acts with the Father and the Son, in imparting the “breath of faith.” This happens at our Baptism! In Baptism, it is the Holy Spirit who awakens within us the capacity to know God. The Catechism reminds us of this in paragraph 684 where it says: “Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to ‘know the Father and the one whom He has sent, Jesus Christ’.”
How does this awakening happen? It happens the moment the soul receives the first gifts of Baptism. These gifts are the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The first virtue of faith opens our souls to the capacity of thriving to know who this God is. The second virtue of hope opens our souls to the longing of living one day forever in the presence of God. And finally, the third virtue of love, or charity, is the imparting of God’s Divine love into our hearts, mirroring for us the way we are to love God and our neighbor.
Throughout our lives the Holy Spirit is always working in cooperation with the Father and the Son. He is not fully revealed to us, however, until the completion of baptismal grace in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Confirmation is the moment we fully encounter the Holy Spirit and are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. This sacramental seal is indelible and can never be taken from us. Once received it is forever!
Now that the Holy Spirit has been fully revealed to us, what are we to call Him? The proper name of the Third Person of the Trinity is: Holy Spirit. In professing our belief in the Holy Spirit, we are rightly calling upon and adoring equally in majesty, the Father, and the Son.
Throughout the history of salvation, the Holy Spirit has also been revealed through a variety of other titles proper to understanding who He is. These are important to consider as we grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is revealed to the apostles after the Resurrection as the “Paraclete.” Jesus uses this word because its ancient meaning is “he who is called to one’s side” (CCC, n. 692).
This was revealed to the apostles, and the entire Church for that matter, after the Resurrection. This is most fitting considering the Holy Spirit has been with us since the moment we received the “breath of life” and the “breath of faith.” The example of the Holy Spirit as a guiding force in our lives is further confirmed by many of the Prophets of old.
For example, look at the call of Samuel. Samuel was young and heard the voice of the Lord speaking, but it took him three times before he recognized the Lord. It was the Holy Spirit who helped him recognize the Lord. It was the Holy Spirit who then guided Samuel in his prophetic mission.
Another title is used by St. Paul who uses the phrase “spirit of adoption.” This is most fitting considering it is through Baptism that we are adopted as sons and daughters of Christ, experiencing the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In addition to the many titles of the Holy Spirit, there are also many symbols proper to Him. So often symbols are present in the journey of faith as visible reminders of our relationship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit has several visible signs to remind us of this.

Symbols

The first symbol of the Holy Spirit is water. The Catechism reminds us of this: “The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit” (CCC, n. 694).
The second symbol of the Holy Spirit is anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit. This is most visibly seen in the sacraments where anointing takes place. This occurs first in Baptism where we experience two anointings. The first takes place prior to Baptism during the Rite of Exorcism. This exorcism includes anointing with the Oil of Catechumens. The purpose of this anointing is to dispel the power of Satan, preparing us in conquering the darkness of original sin. The second anointing takes place immediately following the moment the cleansing water is poured over our heads. This second anointing with Sacred Chrism symbolizes our connection to Christ, but more specifically, it unites us to the prophetic Person of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King.
It is the Holy Spirit, through these anointings, who begins to guide us in the faith.
The third symbol of the Holy Spirit is fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayers of the Prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from Heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. On Pentecost, the Spirit came in the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples, filling them with Himself. Spiritual tradition has maintained the teaching symbolizing fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions (CCC, n. 696).
The fourth symbol is revealed as cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, Peter, James, and John, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him!’”
Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of His Ascension and will reveal Him as Son of Man in glory on the day of His final coming (CCC, n. 697).
The hand is the fifth symbol of the Holy Spirit. By using His hands Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them. In His name the apostles will do the same. Even more pointedly, it is by the apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is made present. We see this during the epiclesis at Mass when the priest lays his hand over the bread and wine as the Holy Spirit transforms them into the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. We see this in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the priest raises his hand to impart absolution and in anointing of the sick as the priest places his hand on the head invoking the Holy Spirit (CCC, n. 699).

The Dove

The last, and most common symbol of the Holy Spirit, is the dove. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive-tree branch in its beak as a sign of the covenant. When Christ comes up from the water of His Baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon Him and remains with Him. The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized.
In certain churches, the Eucharist is reserved in a metal receptacle in the form of a dove (columbarium) suspended above the altar. This is most often seen in monasteries.
In closing this passage, that the Catechism very beautifully offers a final note regarding the Holy Spirit: “To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity” (CCC, n. 685).
This week’s column has dispelled any doubt who the Holy Spirit is and what we mean when professing our faith. More important, however, we can be assured that we are never alone because the Spirit is with us until the end of time!

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