The Divine Holy Spirit – The Love of the Father and the Son

Soul and heart of the Church, the Lord and giver of life, Sweet Guest of the soul from Baptism onwards, the Divine Paraclete continually guides us on our journey through this vale of tears.

How can we approach the infinite? How can we deal with a subject that not even the highest intelligences are capable of examining without the help of faith? In fact, the human mind and language are insufficient to explain and understand the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, let us dare to focus our attention more specifically on the One who dwells within us from the moment of our Baptism, is constantly guiding us with His divine motions and has captivated so many theologians throughout the history of the Church: the Divine Holy Spirit.

In the words of Benedict XVI,1 it is thanks to Him that the faithful can, in some way, come to know the intimacy of God himself, discovering that the Blessed Trinity is not infinite solitude, but a communion of light and love – life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son, in the Holy Spirit who is at once Lover, Loved and Love.

A cycle of inexhaustible love

It would not be profitable to delve into the subject without first considering some theological presuppositions that can aid us in grasping such a lofty topic. Of course, explanations of the Trinitarian mystery are almost always based on analogies, since, as we have already noted, the human vocabulary lacks sufficient terms to explain the Most High. As St. Augustine2 rightly put it, if we were able to understand Him perfectly, He would not be God.

“God is love”, and for this reason He is not just one Person, but three. In fact, someone who were to love only himself could not possess true charity

In order to explain the relationship between the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, theology began to use the Greek term perichoresis, which literally means circlular movement, and is translated into Latin as circuminsessio.

Why was this term adopted by theologians? According to the words of St. John the Evangelist, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). And for this reason He is not just one Person, but three. In fact, someone who loves only himself cannot possess true charity. Since God’s love is infinite and supreme, no creature could ever be the recipient of such goodness. Furthermore, it was necessary for God to love someone of equal dignity and supremacy, who could only be a Divine Person.3 It follows that between the Divine Being and His Trinity of Persons there is a true perichoresis, in the original sense of the term: a cycle of inexhaustible love.4

Eternal and sacred coexistence

We have taken from one of the works by Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, EP, a beautiful and accessible explanation of this relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

“The Incarnation of the Word revealed to men a mystery reserved for the fullness of time: the existence of Three Persons in the divine unity. […] Such a sublime reality transcends human criteria, and is illuminated by faith alone: the sole essence of God is the Father who eternally begets the Son in the perfect and full knowledge of Himself, causing the Holy Spirit to proceed from the love between Them. […]

“The title of Father befits the First Person alone, for begetting; for being begotten, only the Second Person merits the name Son or Word; and for proceeding from both, the Third Person is called Holy Spirit, thus closing this mysterious circuit, resplendent with light and glory, which is the Trinity. No other difference distinguishes the Three who are One! […]

“The Father is the beginning of the whole deity, according to the expression of St. Augustine. Fully able to know Himself, He would be ‘unhappy,’ so to speak, if He did not make Himself entirely explicit, for there is no perfect happiness when nature does not realize what is proper to it.

“Knowing Himself, the Father expresses Himself completely in His eternal Word, which is so perfect an Image of the Father (cf. Heb 1:3) that it would be an error to affirm that They constitute two incommensurable, two uncreated and two almighty beings. On the contrary, the Two are just one incommensurable, one uncreated and one almighty being, as the ancient and poetic profession of faith attributed to St. Athanasius teaches us. […]

“As concerns the Son, St. Thomas defines Him as the ‘intellectual emanation’ of the Father. Since, in God, being and understanding are identical to the divine essence, the Second Person is generated from the Father’s act of intelligence, and the titles of Son and Word are proper to Him. For this reason, in the first public manifestation of the Trinity to men during the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, as well as on the height of the Transfiguration mount, the Father desired to manifest Himself vocally, indicating that right there, before the very eyes of all present, was His Word, with whom He was well pleased.

Representation of the Holy Spirit – Church of Our Lady of Glory of Outeiro, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

“The Holy Spirit, in turn, proceeds from the loving exchange that is immediately established between the Father and the Son. Since the Father fully knows the Son and the Son fully knows the Father, and both are the substantial Good, the Two love each other, and from this pure, sublime and affectionate relationship proceeds the Holy Spirit, who is Personal Love.”5

Unity in the Trinity

To summarize, in the Trinity there is only one divine nature, which constitutes the unity of God. Nevertheless, each of the Persons is distinguished from the others according to the mysterious operations that take place in the intimate life of God and the contrasting relationships derived from these operations: the Father begets the Son, the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both. This doctrine was solemnly proclaimed at the Council of Florence, in the famous aphorism “omniaque sunt unum, ubi non obviat relationis oppositio.”6

From the sublime relationship of full knowledge and of love between the Father and the Son proceeds the Holy Spirit, Love in Person

Thus, although it is possible to distinguish between the Divine Persons, Church Magisterium teaches that when the Trinity works externally – which theology calls ad extra operations, such as the creation of the world and the Incarnation of the Word – the Three Persons act together, since the source of all these works is the divine nature itself, which is indivisible.7

However, God wants us to glorify not only His unity, but also His trinity. For this reason, the Holy Church attributes to each of the Persons works which, although they are common to all three, have a special connection or intimate affinity with the place that each occupies in the Trinity, that is, with the properties that are specific and exclusive to that Person. Hence, for example, since the Father is unbegotten, beginning without beginning, we attribute the creation of the world to Him.

Having made these considerations on Trinitarian life, we can turn to the main theme of our article, the Paraclete.

Holy Spirit, Gift and Love

According to the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas,8 the names proper to the Third Person of the Trinity, derived from His operations in the intimate life of God, are: Holy Spirit, Gift and Love. Let us analyse each one of them, based on the comments of Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, OP.9

Considering the words Holy Spirit separately, they are applicable to the Three Persons, since all three are holy and spirit. However, taken together, they form the name that applies only to the Third Person, who proceeds from the other two by a common and infinitely holy spiration of love. For this very reason, the Paraclete is also our sanctifier.

The term Gift, in its essential sense, designates everything that is freely given by God to rational creatures, whether of the natural or supernatural order. As a proper name, it is applied to the Third Person, who, by virtue of His origin, is fittingly the proximate reason for every divine gift and who is himself freely given to rational creatures.

Thus, Gift corresponds exclusively to the Holy Spirit, who proceeds by way of love, since love is the first gift we give to a person whenever we give them something.

Finally, the name Love. In its personal sense, it is properly used only for the Holy Spirit, because He is the passive term, in other words, the fruit of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

There are also many attributes derived from the names mentioned above, which have been expressed by Tradition, in Sacred Scripture or even in the Liturgy of the Holy Church. They are: Paraclete, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of the Most High, Principle of creation, Finger of God, Sweet Guest of the Soul, Seal, Union, Living Source, Fire, Charity, Blessed Light, Father of the poor, Giver of the seven gifts and Light of hearts.

Soul and heart of the Church

The Divine Paraclete is also the heart and soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Holy Church, which has Our Lord Jesus Christ as its Head (cf. Eph 1:22-33).

After the battles fought in defence of Jesus Christ’s divinity, the Church came up against those who denied that the Holy Spirit is God

In the human body, the head is vivified by the beating of the heart, an organ as hidden as it is indispensable. Something similar happens with the Church: Christ is her Head, since He is above every creature; however, the Holy Spirit, whose mission is the sanctification of men, invisibly enlivens and unites the Church, and for this reason is called her heart.10

Cardinal Charles Journet,11 a great expert of the Second Vatican Council, makes a beautiful analogy by affirming that, just as Christ is, in time, the repercussion of the eternal generation of the Word in the bosom of the Trinity, so the Church, by her co-redemptive mission, is the reflection in time of the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God!

The treasures of doctrine and elucidations on the Divine Holy Spirit are a gift from God to His Church given, however, amidst great struggles and difficulties. For “there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor 11:19).

“Most Holy Trinity”, by Andrés López – Andrés Blaisten collection, Mexico City

In the third century, after the doctrinal battles fought in defence of the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Holy Church came up against those who denied that of the Holy Spirit, claiming that He was not consubstantial with the Father and the Son.

Many saints took part in the struggle: St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Basil the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Hilary of Poitiers and St. Cyril of Jerusalem…

In the mid-fourth century, this error began to escalate through those whom St. Athanasius called the pneumatomachi, that is, opponents of the Spirit, whose main exponent was Macedonius, patriarch of Constantinople.12 He admitted the equality of substance between the Father and the Son, but postulated that the Holy Spirit, despite being a special and super-eminent dispenser of all graces, superior to the Angels, was a creature, subordinate to the Father.

In 362, the heresy was condemned for the first time by St. Athanasius at the Synod of Alexandria. Despite this, the Macedonians held a synod in which they officially professed their doctrine and pertinaciously continued to spread it. The news soon reached Rome. At a synod held in 380, Pope St. Damasus condemned it.

Even so, it was a year before the solemn and definitive anathema of the heresy was declared. In 381, St. Damasus and Emperor Theodosius, a friend of the Supreme Pontiff, decided to convene a council that would not only solve the problem, but also put other Church issues in order. Thus, the second ecumenical council in the history of the Church was convened, the first in Constantinople.13

It confirmed the Faith expressed in the Symbol of Nicaea and added to it the passage referring to the divinity of the Holy Spirit: “Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre procedit – And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”

Shortly afterwards, in order to ratify the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, which was the cause of controversy and discussion, each local Church added to the Creed, in the part where it is mentioned that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, the “filioque”, that is, “and the Son”. Finally, at the Second Council of Lyon on July 17, 1274, the term was officially added to the Creed.

Spouse of Mary Most Holy

In its fundamental symbol, the Church recognizes the Divine Holy Spirit as “Dominum et vivificantem”, the Lord and giver of life. As Fr. Royo Marín reminds us,14 the dependence of our supernatural life on the power that comes from the Paraclete is a fundamental principle of religion. And yet how many people, since they do not bother to properly adore and know the Third Person of the Trinity, place an insurmountable obstacle between Him and their souls! There is no one who wants to get in touch with us more than the Holy Spirit, our God, Lord and Sanctifier; let us not fall into the tragic error – unfortunately very common in our day – of considering Him as an inaccessible and incommunicative Being.

All the saints who have ever existed and will ever exist are the fruit of the heavenly espousal between Mary Most Holy and the Paraclete

And let us remember that Mary Most Holy is not only the Daughter of God the Father and Mother of God the Son, but also the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, in the words of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort,15 all the Saints who have existed and will exist until the end of the world are the fruit of this heavenly espousal. Let us not hesitate to turn to Our Lady to intercede for us with the Paraclete. By doing so, we can be sure that He will continually send us the rays of His light and His grace.

“The Annunciation”, by Bartolomeo Caporali – National Gallery of Umbria, Perugia (Italy)

The same Saint prophetically affirms in his Prayer for Missionaries: “The reign especially attributed to God the Father lasted until the Flood and ended in a deluge of water. The reign of Jesus Christ ended in a deluge of blood, but your reign, Spirit of the Father and the Son, is still unended and will come to a close with a deluge of fire, love and justice.”16 We must desire the urgent coming of this deluge of fire, love and justice, through which the face of the earth will be renewed. ◊



1 Cf. BENEDICT XVI. Angelus, 11/6/2006.

2 Cf. ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO. Sermo LII, n.16. In: Obras Completas. Madrid: BAC, 1983, v.X, p.62.

3 Cf. RICHARD OF ST. VICTOR. La Trinidad. Salamanca: Sígueme, 2015, p.123-125.

4 Cf. FERNÁNDEZ, Aurelio. Teología Dogmática. Madrid: BAC, 2009, p.295.

5 CLÁ DIAS, EP, João Scognamiglio. Mary Most Holy: The Paradise of God Revealed to Men. São Paulo: Heralds of the Gospel, 2022, v.II, p.29-31.

6 DH 1330. From the Latin: “[In the Trinity] everything is a unity, where no opposition of relationship interferes.”

7 Cf. DH 3814.

8 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiæ. I, q.36-38.

9 Cf. ROYO MARÍN, OP, Antonio. El gran desconocido. Madrid: BAC, 2004, p.27-32.

10 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., III, q.8, a.1, ad 3.

11 Cf. JOURNET, Charles. Teología de la Iglesia. 2.ed. Bilbao: Desclée de Brouwer, 1962, p.89.

12 Those who followed the heretic Macedonius were dubbed Macedonians.

13 Cf. LLORCA, Bernardino. Historia de la Iglesia Católica. Edad Antigua. 7.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1996, v.I, p.437.

14 Cf. ROYO MARÍN, op. cit., p.10-11.

15 Cf. ST. LOUIS-MARIE GRIGNION DE MONTFORT. Prayer for Missionaries. In: God Alone. Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, 1987, p.404.

16 Idem. p. 404-405.



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