21. IN ONLY ONE SPIRIT. God´s mystery

Created: Saturday, 31 August 2013 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014

21. IN ONLY ONE SPIRIT
God´s mystery


1. From the beginning, Christians felt the need of a formula expressing the essential and ensuring its unity in the faith confession: “Only one Lord, only one faith, only one baptism, only one God, the Father of all” (Eph 4, 5-6). The gospel’s summaries (Acts 2, 14-39; 1Co 15, 1-7) and the faith confessions accomplish that function. But, how do we express the essence of our faith? Which questions do we have about God's mystery? Really, “no one knows well the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt11, 27). It is a mystery revealed to the ordinary people (11, 25).
2. At the beginning, Christians considered Christ's confession the essence of their faith. Faith in God is assumed and common with the Jews. When we talk about announcing the focal point of Christian faith, faith in Christ in proclaimed. This central confession is expressed in concise formulas: “Jesus is the Lord” (1 Co 12, 3), “Jesus is the Christ” (1 Jn 2, 22), “Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 4, 15). Most faith confessions in the New Testament have only one article: “the confession of Jesus like Lord and Christ.
3. Together with the faith in Christ, God's confession in relationship with the Jewish faith is often announced: “Yahweh, our God, is Only one” (Dt 6, 4). This faith in God, fundamental for the Jews, is also fundamental for Jesus (Mt 22, 37) and for the newborn church, which confidently repeats Jesus' prayer: “Abba”, Father! (Rom 8, 15; Gal 4, 6). This is the reason for the frequent appearance in the New Testament of faith confessions with two principles. They are binary formulas that include both God and Jesus. For instance: “May God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace”. (Rom 1, 7).
4. In Saint Clements's first letter to the Corinthians (1st century) we find this initial greeting: “May the grace and the peace coming from omnipotent God by Jesus' mediation be multiplied among you”. And this final greeting: “Our Lord Jesus Christ grace be with you and with all those that everywhere are called by God, through his mediation” (LXV, 2). In the same manner, we find similar salutations en Saint Ignatius of Antioch's letters (about the year 107): To the Church of Magnesia “blessed by Jesus Christ, our Saviour, in the grace of God the Father” And also: “I send you my farewell with God's blessing, being you in possession of an inseparable spirit, who is Jesus Christ” (Magnesius XV)
5. In the light of these two-fold formulae, it can be explained that, about the middle of the 2nd century, the Jew Trifón accused the Christians of  believing in two gods (Saint Justin, Dialogue with Trifón, 11, 64 and following). Or that the pagan Celsus made a similar accusation to the Christian Origen (about years 185-254). Celsus says: “If they did not serve more than the One God, they would perhaps have a doctrine that we would find beyond reproach. However, they venerate beyond measure this one, who only recently appeared, and they, nevertheless, believe that no offence is committed against God even though his servant is also venerated.” (Origen, Against Celsus, VIII, 12). In Tertulian writings (about year 200) we find this double formula: “Let us take a look at what was learnt by this blessed Church (of Rome), what she has taught, what she has shared with the African Churches: she acknowledges only one God and Lord, creator of the universe, and Jesus Christ, Son of God, creator (born) of the Virgin Mary, as the flesh resurrection acknowledges” (De praescriptione haereticorum, 36).
6. In the New Testament, are few the formulae with three articles. The clearest one (although it appears later on) is that appearing at the end of  Saint Mathew's evangel, like a resurrected Lord command to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19). It is also usual to cite this: “The grace of Christ Jesus the Lord, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. (2 Co 13, 13; see 1 Cor 12, 4-6; Acts 19,1-7). Besides the passages in which Jesus announces the promise of the spirit are also cited: “When this helper comes, who I shall send you from the side of the father, the spirit of truth who proceeds from the father, he will testify about me”. (Jn 15, 26). “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth”. (14, 16-17; see Lk 24, 49).
7. German theologian M. Schmaus comments on the formula of Mt 28,19 in this manner: “Since at the beginning, according to what we can read in the Acts of the Apostles (2,38; 8,16; 10,48; 19,5), and in Paul (1Cor 1,13;6,11;Gal 3,27;Rom 6,3;Ef 4,5), baptism was administered in Jesus' name, thus the later origin of the formula contained in Mt 28,19 would be demonstrated”. So we can ascertain that this formula “was not configured by any particular evangelist but that it was part of the Church's tradition”. About the formula contained in 2 Co 13,13, the same author says: “In relation to the Spirit, the objective genitive is used, while the subjective genitive is used when talking about God and the Lord”. (M. Schmaus, El Credo de la Iglesia Católica –The Creed of the Catholic Church– Ed. Rialp, Madrid. 1970, 581 y 589).
8. In the Apostolic Tradition, a book written by Saint Hippolytus about 215, Roman liturgy from the end of the 2nd century and the beginning of the 3rd is probably recorded. There the third baptismal question appears, after the two initial ones (“Credis in Deum Patrem omnipotentem? Credis in Christum Iesum, Filium Dei” …?): “Credis in Spiritu Sancto, et sanctam Ecclesiam et carnis resurrectionem?” It says “in Spiritu Sancto” which recalls the formula: “No one can say: Jesus is the Lord! except in holy spirit” (1Co 12, 3). According to the Greek original of the New Testament, the word spirit appears always in lower case letters.
9. A speculation about the Trinity was formed from the threefold formulas of faith and from the texts in which Jesus promises the Spirit. The word triad appears for first time in Teofilus of Antioch (about 181); the triad is this: God, Word, Wisdom (Ad Autolycum 2, 15).  The word trinity appears by first time in Tertulian (about 217); the Spirit is “the third person” (Adversus Praxean, 12; De pudicitia, 21). “It is well known the Hellenistic formula that, after an extremely complex, speculative process, contradictory in part and, y any case, long and pitiful, received its classic profiles from the three Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory Nacianceno and Gregory of Nyssa) in the IV century: God is a triad in “persons” (hypostasis, subsistence, ancestry) and, nevertheless, one in “nature” (physis, ousia, essence, substance)” (H. Küng, Being Christian, Ed. Cristiandad, Madrid, 1977, 601). From Antioch's desert, Saint Geronimo (about 376) expresses his perplexity to Pope Damasus: “The Arian's branch named Campenses requires from me, a Roman citizen, that brand new name of the three hypostasis (persons). Tell me which apostles left us such things?” (Epistolary 15, 3). And also: “No tradition of secular letters understands anything else for hypostasis than substance (ousía)” (15, 4). At the end, leaving the Bible far behind and entering into philosophic speculations, they try (fearlessly) to explore the secrets of God that “no one but the spirit of God knows” (1Co 2, 11).
10. St Augustine is conscious of the impossibility of wishful thinking about the ineffable and to answer what things are those three: “The fact that there are three is ensured by the true faith when it says that the Father is not the Son, and that the Holy Spirit, God's Gift, is neither the Father nor the Son” (About the Trinity VII,4,7). And in another passage he adds: “The Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, coequal to the Father and the Son and belonging to the trinity unit” (I, 4, 7). Besides, “only the Father is father and he is not Father of two sons, but of only one Son” (VII, 4, 7). And finally, “We did not find either that the Scripture speaks about three persons”, but it does not deny it (VII, 4, 8). St. Augustine tried to frame the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in an anthropological form in analogy with man's faculties: memory, understanding and will (About the Trinity I, 3, 5-6). In the XIII century Saint Thomas of Aquinas insisted along this line (Theological Sum I, c, 27, a, 3).
11. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Following the apostolic tradition, in the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea, year 325, the Church confessed that the Son is ‘consubstantial' to the Father, that is, only one God with him. The second Ecumenical Council congregated in Constantinople in the year 381, maintained this expression in its formulation of the Nicea Creed and confessed ‘the Only Son of God, conceived by the Father before all the centuries, light of light, true God from true God, conceived not created, consubstantial with the Father” (n.242). The faith in the Spirit was formulated in Constantinople in this manner: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life, which proceeds from the Father (n.245).
12. M. Schmaus comments: “To manifest the faith, the Council uses as key concept that designated with the word homousios (consubstantial), taken from the Gnostics”, He also says: “the fight to impose the council doctrine filled the fourth and fifth centuries. At the beginning the matter was the relationship of the Son to the Father, without pondering the relationship of the Holy Spirit to these two. From about the year 360 the Holy Spirit was introduced in the discussion, ascribing also to Him the homousios, that is, the equality in the possession of the unique essence” (o. c., 600).
13. To complicate things more, politics get involved. The emperor Constantine, who intervened personally in the sessions, convoked the  Council of Nicea. The council was presided by the bishop Osio of Cordoba, who resides in the imperial court. Pope Sylvester sends two presbyters like delegates; about 300 bishops were present, one forth of the existing, most of them from the East. Many of them left discontent; in general they were against Arrio (+336), who denied Christ's divinity, but they did not like the expression “homousios”; they were afraid of an interpretation of it in the sabelian sense. According to Sabelio (3rd century), the same God appears successively in different modes. Besides, the origin of the Nicene- Constantinopolitan creed has not been totally cleared; we have neither the acts of Nicea nor  that of Constantinople; this council was called for by emperor Theodosius; no Pope's delegates attended; the council defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit, closing so definitely the Trinitarian question; the bishops disagreeing with the imperial theology were dismissed and exiled.
14. In the council of Caledonia (year 451) the Nicene Creed was read and approved by acclamation; the imperial delegates then ordered that “the faith of the one hundred and fifty Fathers” formulated in Constantinople be equally read. At the end, all the bishops signed the Constantinopolitan creed, in the presence of the emperor Marciano. This creed (that later on is found in Rome, in the eleventh century) develops the third article on the Holy Spirit more than the previous one. According to the original Greek version, Nicea´s council creed merely said: “And (we believe) in the holy spirit. The so called creed of the apostles, which comes from the old Roman creed, was imposed by Emperor Charlemagne in all his dominions (year 769) and becomes Rome's official creed in the twelfth century.
15. The liturgy of the Trinity is propagated in France from the eighth century in spite of strong Roman opposition. Pope John the XXII introduces it in Rome in the year 1334. Nevertheless, in ordinary predication, Trinitarian doctrine is usually silenced, although the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned. It is true that in popular Christian faith, perhaps as a consequence of the change in the meaning of the terms, the Trinity is often understood in a triadic sense (three persons, three gods), which is not what the Bible says. It does not match either the monarchism or modalism (one person with two or three successive ways of manifestation). Through speculation, they arrived to a sterile controversy between Latin and Greek churches. St Augustine had affirmed that the Spirit comes from the Father and from the Son (Filioque). This doctrine was introduced in the Constantinopolitan creed by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014. Nevertheless, the Orientals followed the doctrine that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. At the end, both interpretations are compatible.
16. The formula “glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit” appears in the anti-Aryan controversy in the 4th century. However, the oldest formula (which adapts to the classic roman way of praying) is this: “Glory to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit”. This is the perspective of the New Testament. The key problem is not the question of how three can be one, but how the relationship of Jesus with God in the light of the Spirit can be determined in accordance with the Scripture. Attempts of interpretation based on philosophical concepts (so outdated, so changeable, so controversial) cannot be imposed on believers as a binding expression of faith.
17. Leaving aside Jesus’ word, they began speculating. They forgot the warnings given by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem to his catechumens (4th century): “In regards to nature and hypostasis, don't get mixed up in it!. If the Scriptures had said something about this matter, we would speak about it. But not being in writing, we should not have such audacity” (Catechesis 16, 24) Jesus says that the Spirit “will not give his own message” (Jn 16, 13), “he will remind you all that I have told you” (14, 26; DV 10). Disregarding his word, nobody can claim the Spirit of Christ for himself.
18. During the Last Supper, Jesus says to his disciples that after his death they will not stay alone, without a defender. They will be defended in another way, in the Spirit, since Christ's resurrection is accomplished in the dynamics of the Spirit (2 Co 3, 17). “I will not leave you orphans: I am coming back to you…. On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you.” (Jn 14, 18- 20), And also: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make our home in him” (14,23; see 17,3; Mk12, 35-37; Lk11,2-4; Jn 8,17-18;10,30; 1Jn 2,1). And finally: “When you are arrested…… it is not you who will speak, but it will be the spirit of your Father in you” (Mt 10, 19-20; see Is50,9).
19. -         According to the experience of the first disciples, before Easter the Spirit is only in Jesus, but after Easter it is poured over the whole people (Acts 2,15; Jl 2,28-32). God and Christ Jesus give themselves in the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit is God's Spirit: it is God himself as far as strength and the power of grace the one who conquers the interior, the heart of the man … As God's Spirit, it is at the same time Christ Jesus' Spirit exalted to the right of God”. (H. Küng, 599). God´s finger is God´s spirit (Lk 11, 20; Mt 12,28), The good things that God gives is the holy spirit (Mt 7,11; Lk 11,13). Both formulas “spirit of God” and “spirit of Christ” mean the gift of the Spirit given to the believers (Rom 5, 1-5; 8,9-10;15,18-19;1 Co 3,16; 2,20). Christ is the Son of God and God is given to us by Him: “Through him we approach the Father in one spirit” (Eph 2, 18). St. Hilarious (about the year 356) says: “All of us are spiritual if the Spirit of Christ is inside us. But this is the spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. And if the spirit of Christ is inside us, inside us also is the spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead (Rom 8, 11)” (Adversus Aryans 8,21). The Holy Spirit is gift, present (2,1) a thing from the nature of the Father and of the Son, power operating in God and in Christ (8, 23.25.26.31.39).
20. -   The Spirit of God has become so identified with the glorified Lord, that He does not only give “holy spirit” (Jn 20,22), but through his resurrection becomes “spirit that gives life”. (1 Co 15, 45). Paul even says: “The Lord is the spirit” (2 Co 3, 17). Raised to God´s life, He exists in the way of being and acting of the spirit, that is: “of the Spirit as power by which the glorified Lord continues present in world's history, as an initiation of a new history and of a new world. From that, a decisive consequence is reached: the faith in the Spirit and the faith in the Church came so to coincide, since both were the same faith in the presence and in the action of God in the world, in the life and in men's history” (J. M. Castillo).
* Dialogue:
-  some questions about God´s mystery
-  it is a mystery revealed to the simple people: “If someone loves me, says Jesus, he will follow my word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him and we will make our home in him
-  it is necessary to revise own tradition in the light of Scriptures