A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Holy Spirit

by Fr Merv Duffy SM

Lord, Holy Spirit,
You blow like the wind in a t
housand paddocks,
Inside and outside the fences,
You blow where you wish to blow.

That is the first stanza of James K Baxter’s Song to the Holy Spirit which came to my mind when Fr Kevin Head
asked for a guest editorial “on the topic of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is too big and too powerful to be fenced in by any boundaries, let alone the limits of a Messenger editorial. Baxter likens the Spirit to the weather front that sweeps across high country farms, not just in this paddock or that, but blowing across a thousand paddocks. He has the poet’s gift of expressing the inexpressible, communicating the awesomeness of the Godhead. Yet at the same time he calls the Spirit “Lord” and “You” making it clear that he is addressing a person, not merely a force of nature. 

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and the hardest to pin down and to visualise. When the Council of Nicea composed the creed to counter the heresy of Arius, they were focused on God the Son and after their lengthy treatment of him they finished the creed with “And in the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

It was the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 AD which added the lines 

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

There the Spirit is called “Lord” and “giver of life”, his mysterious origin from God the Father is affirmed and his equal glory with the other two persons of the Trinity is stated. It is not obvious, but the next sentence is also about the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who makes the Church holy and unites it. It is the Spirit at work in Baptism and all the other sacraments. It is the Spirit who will give life when the dead are raised.

Like Baxter’s wind in the thousand paddocks, the Spirit is seen in its effects. As we celebrate Pentecost, may the Spirit move in our Church and in our lives. 

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