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The Holy Spirit in the Creed

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 31 October 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified; he has spoken through the prophets." With these words the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed defines the belief of the Church concerning the Holy Spirit, who is acknowledged as true God, with the Father and the Son, in the trinitarian unity of the Godhead. This is an article of faith, formulated by the First Council of Constantinople (381), perhaps on the basis of a previous text, as a completion of the Nicene Creed (325) (cf. DS 150).

This faith of the Church is continually repeated in the liturgy, which is in its way not only a profession but also a witness of faith. This occurs, for example, in the trinitarian doxology, which as a rule concludes liturgical prayers: "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit." Thus it is in the intercessory prayers addressed to the Father: "through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you (the Father) in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever."

The hymn "Glory to God in the highest" also possesses a trinitarian structure. It lets us celebrate the glory of God and of the Son, together with the Holy Spirit: "You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father."

2. This faith of the Church has its origin and basis in divine revelation. God definitively revealed himself as Father in Jesus Christ, the consubstantial Son, who by the working of the Holy Spirit became man and was born of the Virgin Mary. Through the Son the Holy Spirit was revealed. The one God revealed himself as the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The last word of the Son who was sent into the world from the Father was the admonition given to the apostles to "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). We have seen in preceding catecheses examples of revelation concerning the Holy Spirit and the Trinity in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

3. We have also seen that Jesus Christ revealed the Holy Spirit while he carried out his messianic mission. He declared that he was working "with the power of the Holy Spirit" (for example, in expelling demons: cf. Mt 12:28). But one might say that revelation is concentrated and condensed in the close of his mission with the announcement of his return to the Father. After Jesus' departure, the Holy Spirit will be "a new Advocate." It will be he, "the Spirit of truth," who will guide the apostles and the Church throughout history: "I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him" (Jn 14:16-17). He who will come from the Father in Christ's name, "will teach you everything and remind you of all that I taught you" (Jn 14:26). And again: "When he comes, he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation" (Jn 16:8). This is the promise. This, one can say, is the testament which along with the ones regarding love and the Eucharist, Jesus left to his own during the Last Supper.

4. After the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, Pentecost was the fulfillment of his announcement to his apostles and the beginning of his activity among the generations of coming centuries, for the Holy Spirit was to remain with the Church "forever" (Jn 14:16). We have spoken amply about this in preceding catecheses.

That foundational story about the origins of the Church which the Book of Acts records tells us that the apostles were "filled with the Holy Spirit" and "announced God's words with boldness" (Acts 2:4; 4:31). It tells us also that from the times of the apostles "the world" resisted the activity not only of the apostles, but of the invisible worker who was acting through them, as is seen in their accusation of their persecutors: "You always oppose the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51). That would also happen in subsequent historical eras. That resistance can reach the point of a special sin, called "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit." Jesus himself adds that this is a sin that will not be forgiven (cf. Mt 12:31; Lk 12:10).

As Jesus predicted and promised, the Holy Spirit has been the giver of all divine gifts in the Church from the beginning and continues to be so in the Church through all ages (Dator munerum, as we call him in the Pentecost Sequence). He is the guide both of those gifts destined directly for personal sanctification as well as those granted to some for the good of others (as is the case with certain charisms). "But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes" (1 Cor 12:11). Even the "hierarchical gifts," as we can call them along with the Second Vatican Council (LG 4), which are indispensable for the guidance of the Church, come from him (cf. Acts 20:28).

5. On the basis of the revelation made by Jesus and passed on by the apostles, the creed professes faith in the Holy Spirit, of whom it says that he is "Lord," as the Word who took on human flesh is Lord: "You alone are the Lord...with the Holy Spirit." It adds too that the Holy Spirit gives life. Only God can give life to human beings. The Holy Spirit is God. And, as God, the Spirit is the author of human life. He is author of the new and eternal life brought by Jesus, but also of life in all its forms: human life and the life of all things (Creator Spiritus).

This truth of faith was formulated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. It is understood and accepted as revealed by God through Jesus Christ and as belonging to the "deposit of revelation" passed on by the apostles to the first communities, from which it was handed down through the constant teaching of the Church Fathers. Historically one can say that the article was added to the Nicene Creed by the First Council of Constantinople. It had to face certain people who denied the Holy Spirit's divinity, just as other people, especially the Arians, opposed the divinity of the Son-Word Christ. In both cases they almost lost their minds in their pretentious rationalism before the mystery of the Trinity! The opponents of the Holy Spirit's divinity were called "pneumatomachians" (that means, opponents of the Spirit), or "Macedonians" (from the name of their leader, Macedonius). The great Fathers opposed these erroneous opinions with their authority; among them was Athanasius (†373), who especially in his Letter to Serapion (1, 28-30) affirmed the equality of the Holy Spirit with the other two divine persons in the unity of the Trinity. He did so on the basis of "ancient tradition, the doctrine and faith of the Catholic Church, which we understand as having been given us by the Lord and which the apostles preached and the Fathers safeguarded..." (cf. PG 26, 594-595).

These Fathers who valued the revelation contained in Sacred Scripture in its fullness and with its complete meaning not only defended the true and complete concept of the Trinity. They also noted that by denying the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the raising up of humanity to share in God's life—that is, man's "divinization" by means of grace—would also be annulled. According to the Gospel, that too is the work of the Holy Spirit. Only he who is God can bring about a share in divine life. And it is precisely the Holy Spirit who "gives life," according to Jesus' very own words (cf. Jn 6:63).

6. We must add that faith in the Holy Spirit as a divine Person, as professed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, has been confirmed many times by the solemn magisterium of the Church. The canons of the Roman Synod of 382, for example, are a proof of this. They were published by Pope Damasus I, and in them we read that the Holy Spirit "is of divine substance and is truly God," and that, "as the Son and the Father, so also the Holy Spirit can do all and knows all and is omnipresent" (DS 168-169).

The concise formula of the Creed of 381, which says about the divinity of the Holy Spirit that "he is Lord" as the Father and the Son are Lord, logically adds that "with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified." The Holy Spirit is the one who "gives life." That is, with the Father and the Son he possesses creative power, and especially sanctifying and life-giving power in the supernatural order of grace. This power is attributed to his Person. It is right that he be adored and glorified as the first two Persons of the Trinity, from whom he proceeds as the endpoint of their eternal love, in perfect equality and unity of substance.

7. Still the creed attributes to this third Person of the Trinity, in an altogether particular way, the role of being the divine author of prophecy. He is the one who "has spoken through the prophets." Thus the source of the Old Testament inspiration of the prophets is recognized, beginning with Moses (cf. Dt 34:10) and extending through to Malachi. They left us God's instructions in written form. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit. David, who was also a "prophet" (Acts 2:30), said that about himself (2 Sam 22:2); Ezekiel also said it (Ez 11:5). In his first speech, Peter expressed the same faith, affirming that the "Holy Spirit had spoken through the mouth of David" (Acts 1:16). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews expresses himself similarly (Heb 3:7; 10:15). With deep gratitude, the Church receives the prophetic Scriptures as a precious gift from the Holy Spirit, who has shown himself to be so near and active from the beginning of the history of salvation.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Grugilt den verschiedenen katholischen Militärgemeinden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Der Dienst in der Bundeswehr bringt eine große Verantwortung gegenüber der Gemeinschaft mit sich.

Euch ist der Gebrauch von Defensivwaffen und Material von großer Bedeutung für Euer Land anvertraut. Es ist eine entscheidende Erfahrung für Euer Leben, die Ihr in dieser Zeit macht. Eure Persönlichkeit wird bereichert werden durch Grundsätze, die sich an der Wahrheit über den Menschen, über seine Bestimmung und seine Sendung orientieren.

Euch allen, den deutschsprachigen Pilgern sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience, en particulier les membres de la chorale de la paroisse de St-Paul à Westmalle à qui j’offre mes meilleurs vœux à l’occasion du vingt-cinquième anniversaire de leur fondation.

Egalement, je salue avec joie les jeunes venus de France à l’occasion de leurs vacances scolaires de la Toussaint: les enfants de la commune de la Queue-en-Brie et les membres de l’Aumônerie catholique de Luxeuil-les-Bains. Chers jeunes, je souhaite que votre séjour dans la Ville Eternelle vous renouvelle dans votre intention de suivre le Christ, “le Chemin, la Vérité et la Vie”,  pour connaítre le bonheur des Saints, que nous allons fêter demain.

A tous, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present here. In particular I greet the group of sailors of the United States Navy who have wished to make this audience a part of their visit to Rome. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Ai numerosi fedeli venuti dal Giappone

Deo gratias!

Carissimi componenti dei gruppi di “Ignazio di Loyola” e della Parrocchia di Kobe.

Vi ringrazio della vostra visita e vi auguro che il vostro pellegrinaggio a Roma fortifichi la vostra fede.

Vi benedico insieme alla vostra Nazione e alla vostra Chiesa Giapponese.

Deo gratias!

Ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora saludar muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, a las Religiosas Siervas de María Ministras de los Enfermos, que han concluido en Roma su Capítulo General. Os aliento a continuar en vuestro abnegado servicio a los que sufren, dando así testimonio de amor a Dios y a su Iglesia.

Igualmente saludo a la peregrinación de Panamá, y a todas las familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

Con afecto imparto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Caros irmãos e irmãs,

Aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, como penhor de abundantes dons divinos, concedo de bom grado a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Matko Jasnogórska, zapraszamy Cię w tych pierwszych dniach listopada na wszystkie polskie cmentarze. Wszędzie tam, gdzie sami podążamy, aby stanąć nad mogiłą naszych bliskich. Wszędzie tam, bądź z nami. Bądź z nami, Matko Chrystusa ukrzyżowanego i zmartwychwstałego, “pierwszego z umarłych”.

Bądź z nami na miejscach, gdzie grobowce znaczą epoki dziejów, gdzie zmarłych otacza się pamięcią pełną czci i wdzięczności.

Bądź z nami także na tylu innych miejscach, gdzie dzieje Ojczyzny pisali nieznani żołnierze i nieznani bohaterowie, nieznani męczennicy i świadkowie prawdy. Bądź z nami na wszystkich cmentarzach polskiej ziemi. I bądź także wszędzie, gdzie obca ziemia pochłonęła naszych rodaków, naszych bliskich, bez należnej zmarłemu mogiły.

Wielu tych miejsc jeszcze nie znamy, ale Ty znasz. I zna Twój Syn, Dobry Pasterz, który każdego pragnie odnaleźć i doprowadzić, każdego ogarnąć swą krzyżową ofiarą w Eucharystii. On, Syn Boży, który swoją śmiercią zadał śmierć ludzkiej śmierci.

Bądź z nami, Matko Chrystusa, przy mogiłach naszych rodziców, braci i sióstr, wychowawców i dobroczyńców. Bądź z nami przy mogile księdza Jerzego Popiełuszki, który stał się jakby zwornikiem tych wszystkich, co swe życie oddali za prawdę, za wolność, za sprawiedliwość.

Przypominamy dzisiaj przed Tobą, Matko z Jasnej Góry, słowa tego kapłana:

“Aby pozostać człowiekiem wolnym duchowo, trzeba żyć w prawdzie. Życie w prawdzie, to dawanie świadectwa na zewnątrz, to przyznanie się do niej i upominanie się o nią w każdej sytuacji. Prawda jest niezmienna. Prawdy nie da się zniszczyć taką czy inną decyzją, taką czy inną ustawą” (31-X-1982). “Postawmy życie w Prawdzie na pierwszym miejscu, jeżeli nie chcemy, by nasze sumienie porosło pleśnią” (27-II-1983).

Niech w dniach pamięci o naszych zmarłych przemawiają do nas świadectwa wszystkich, którzy dokonali życia, wszystkich, którzy oddali swe życie . . . Niech przemawia do nas świadectwo tego kapłana, które się nie przedawnia, które jest ważne nie tylko wczoraj, ale także dzisiaj. Może dzisiaj bardziej jeszcze.

Niech przemawia do nas jego wiara: “Dzięki śmierci i zmartwychwstaniu Chrystusa, symbol hańby i poniżenia stał się symbolem odwagi, męstwa, pomocy i braterstwa. W znaku krzyża ujmujemy dziś to, co najbardziej piękne i wartościowe w człowieku. Przez krzyż idzie się do zmartwychwstania. Innej drogi nie ma”.

Pani Jasnogórska! Bądź z nami przez te listopadowe dni . . . Ucz nas, że Dzień Zaduszny zespala się z uroczystością Wszystkich Świętych. Odejście przez śmierć wprowadza w tajemnicę życia. Jest to życie w Bogu i świętych obcowanie.

Przypominaj nam o świętości życia. Każdego ludzkiego życia. “Błogosławieni, którzy w Panu umierają”.  “Nadzieja ich pełna jest nieśmiertelności”.

Witam pielgrzymów z Polski: z parafii św. Wawrzyńca w Wojniczu; z parafii Matki Boskiej Szkaplerznej w Korzennej w diecezji tarnowskiej; pielgrzymkę z parafii bł. Urszuli Ledóchowskiej w Gdańsku; z parafii Bożego Ciała w Tucholi w diecezji chełmińskiej; współpracowników misyjnych sióstr pallotynek z całej Polski; grupę esperantystów z Warszawy; budowlanych z Sopotu; kolejarzy z Krakowa; grupę “Polontur” z Olsztyna i innych pielgrzymów z kraju czy emigracji nie objętych tymi grupami. Jest również obecny wikariusz generalny diecezji pińskiej, ks. prał. Kazimierz Świątek.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora un affettuoso saluto ai vari gruppi di pellegrini italiani; saluto, in particolare, gli ammalati, i giovani e gli sposi novelli. La solennità di Tutti i Santi e la commemorazione di tutti i Fedeli Defunti, che celebreremo nei prossimi giorni, ci offrono l’opportunità di riflettere, ancora una volta, sull’autentico valore dell’esistenza terrena. La nostra vita è un breve pellegrinaggio verso la patria definitiva, il Cielo, dove ci attendono, nella gloria di Dio, i Santi, nostri fratelli nella fede, che hanno perseverato, qui in terra, nell’amore e nella speranza. Queste ricorrenze, tanto sentite dalla pietà popolare, ci invitano, innanzitutto, ad invocare i Santi perché ci incoraggino a seguire generosamente il Vangelo e ci sostengano nella lotta contro il male. Ci suggeriscono, inoltre, di ricordare i nostri defunti e di pregare per loro, alimentando, allo stesso tempo, in noi la speranza di incontrarli nuovamente nel Signore.

Questi giorni di riflessione e di preghiera siano di grande conforto specialmente per voi, cari ammalati, associati, in maniera profonda, mistero della passione di Cristo. Per voi, cari giovani, costituiscano un invito ad imitare l’eroismo dei Santi, rimasti fedeli alla chiamata divina sino alla morte. Auguro a voi, cari sposi novelli, che possiate trarre da queste celebrazioni un’occasione propizia per comprendere sempre meglio che siete chiamati a testimoniare con la vostra reciproca fedeltà l’amore infinito con cui Iddio circonda ogni uomo. A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

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