In our reflections on the Apostles' Creed, we now pass from the
articles which concern Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man for our
salvation, to the article in which we profess our faith in the Holy
Spirit. The Christological cycle is followed by that which is called
pneumatological. The Apostles' Creed expresses this concisely in the
words: "I believe in the Holy Spirit."
The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed develops this at greater length:
"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and 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."
The creed, a profession of faith formulated by the Church, refers us
back to the biblical sources where the truth about the Holy Spirit
is presented in the context of the revelation of the Triune God. The
Church's pneumatology is based on Sacred Scripture, especially on
the New Testament, although to a certain extent the Old Testament
The first source to which we can turn is a text from John's Gospel
in Christ's farewell discourse to his disciples on the day before
his passion and death on the cross. Jesus speaks of the coming of
the Holy Spirit in connection with his own "departure," by
announcing the coming (or descent) of the Spirit upon the apostles.
"I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for
if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I
go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7).
The content of this text may appear paradoxical. Jesus, who makes a
point of emphasizing "I tell you the truth," presents his own
"departure" (and therefore his passion and death on the cross) as an
advantage: "It is to your advantage...." However, he explains
immediately what the value of his death consists in. Since it is a
redemptive death, it is the condition for the fulfillment of God's
salvific plan which will be crowned by the coming of the Holy
Spirit. It is therefore the condition of all that this coming will
bring about for the apostles and for the future Church, as people
will receive new life through the reception of the Spirit. The
coming of the Spirit and all that will result therefrom in the world
will be the fruit of Christ's redemption.
If Jesus' departure takes place through his death on the cross, one
can understand how the evangelist John can already see in this death
the power and glory of the crucified. However, Jesus' words also
imply the ascension to the Father as the definitive departure (cf.
Jn 16:10), according to what we read in the Acts of the Apostles:
"Being exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from
the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:33).
The descent of the Holy Spirit occurred after the ascension into
heaven. It is then that Christ's passion and redemptive death
produce their full fruit. Jesus Christ, Son of Man, at the climax of
his messianic mission, received the Holy Spirit from the Father, in
the fullness in which this Spirit is to be given to the apostles and
to the Church throughout all ages. Jesus foretold: "I, when I am
lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12:32).
This clearly indicates the universality of redemption both in the
extensive sense of salvation for all humanity, and in the intensive
sense of the totality of graces offered to the redeemed. This
universal redemption, however, must be accomplished by means of the
The Holy Spirit is he who comes as a result and by virtue of
Christ's departure. The words of John 16:7 express a causal
relationship. The Spirit is sent by virtue of the redemption
effected by Christ: "If I go, I will send him to you" (cf. DV 8).
Indeed, "according to the divine plan, Christ's 'departure' is an
indispensable condition for the 'sending' and the coming of the Holy
Spirit, but these words also say that what begins now is the new
salvific self-giving of God, in the Holy Spirit" (DV 11).
Through his being "lifted up" on the cross, Jesus Christ will "draw
all people to himself" (cf. Jn 12:32). In the light of the words
spoken at the Last Supper we understand that that "drawing" is
effected by the glorified Christ through the sending of the Holy
Spirit. It is for this reason that Christ must go away. The
Incarnation achieves its redemptive efficacy through the Holy
Spirit. By departing from this world, Christ not only leaves his
salvific message, but gives the Holy Spirit, and to that is linked
the efficacy of the message and of redemption itself in all its
1.A distinct Person
The Holy Spirit, as presented by Jesus especially in his farewell
discourse in the upper room, is evidently a Person distinct from
himself: "I will pray the Father, and he will give you another
Counselor" (Jn 14:6). "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the
Father will send in my name will teach you all things, and bring to
your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). In
speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus frequently uses the personal
pronoun "he." "He will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26). "He will
convince the world of sin" (Jn 16:8). "When the Spirit of truth
comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:13). "He will
glorify me" (Jn 16:14). From these texts it is evident that the Holy
Spirit is a Person, and not merely an impersonal power issuing from
Christ (cf. e.g., Lk 6:19: "Power came forth from him..."). As a
Person, he has his own proper activity of a personal character. When
speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said to the apostles: "You know
him, for he dwells in you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:7). "He will
teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have
said to you" (Jn 14:26). "He will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26).
"He will guide you into all the truth." "Whatever he hears he will
speak" (Jn 16:13). He "will glorify" Christ (cf. Jn 16:14), and "he
will convince the world of sin" (Jn 16:8). The Apostle Paul, on his
part, states that the Spirit "cries in our hearts" (Gal 4:6); "he
apportions" his gifts "to each one individually as he wills" (1 Cor
12:11); "he intercedes for the saints" (Rom 8:27).
The Holy Spirit revealed by Jesus is therefore a personal being (the
third Person of the Trinity) with his own personal activity.
However, in the same farewell discourse, Jesus showed the bonds that
unite the person of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son. He
announced the descent of the Holy Spirit, and at the same time the
definitive revelation of God as a Trinity of Persons.
Jesus told the apostles: "I will pray the Father, and he will give
you another Counselor" (Jn 14:16), "the Spirit of truth who proceeds
from the Father" (Jn 15:26), "whom the Father will send in my name"
(Jn 14:26). The Holy Spirit is therefore a Person distinct from the
Father and from the Son and, at the same time, intimately united
with them. "He proceeds" from the Father, the Father "sends" him in
the name of the Son and this is in consideration of the redemption
effected by the Son through his self-offering on the cross.
Therefore, Jesus Christ said: "If I go, I will send him to you" (Jn
16:7). "The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father" is
announced by Christ as the Counselor, whom "I shall send to you from
the Father" (Jn 15:26).
John's text which narrates Jesus' discourse in the upper room
contains the revelation of the salvific action of God as Trinity. I
wrote in the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem: "The Holy Spirit,
being consubstantial with the Father and the Son in divinity, is
love and uncreated gift from which derives as from its source (fons
vivus) all giving of gifts vis-Ã -vis creatures (created gifts): the
gift of existence to all things, through creation; the gift of grace
to human beings through the whole economy of salvation" (n. 10).
The Holy Spirit reveals the depths of the divinity: the mystery of
the Trinity in which the divine Persons subsist, but open to human
beings to grant them life and salvation. St. Paul refers to that
when he writes in the First Letter to the Corinthians that "the
Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10).
"The Spirit of Truth"
H. H. John
May 17, 1989
Several times we have quoted Jesus' words in his farewell discourse
to the apostles in the upper room when he promised the coming of the
Holy Spirit as a new and definitive defender and counselor: "I will
pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with
you forever...the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him" (Jn 14:16-17). That
farewell discourse, situated in the solemn account of the Last
Supper (cf. Jn 13:2), is a source of primary importance for
pneumatology, the theological discipline concerning the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke of him as the Paraclete who "proceeds" from the Father,
and whom the Father "will send" to the apostles and to the Church
"in the name of the Son" when the Son himself "will go away," a
departure which will be effected by the sacrifice of the cross.
We must consider the
fact that Jesus called the Paraclete the "Spirit of truth." He also
called him this at other times (cf. Jn 15:26; 16:13).
We recall that Jesus in
that same farewell discourse, in reply to a question from the
apostle Thomas about his identity, said of himself: "I am the way,
and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). From this twofold reference
to the truth made by Jesus to define both himself and the Holy
Spirit, one deduces that if he calls the Paraclete the "Spirit of
truth," this means that the Holy Spirit is he who, after Christ's
departure, will preserve among the disciples the truth which he had
announced and revealed and, indeed, which he himself is. The
Paraclete is the truth, as Christ is the truth. John said so in his
First Letter: "The Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the
truth" (1 Jn 5:7). In that same letter John also writes: "We are of
God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does
not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit
of error" (1 Jn 4:6). The Son's mission and that of the Holy Spirit
meet, are connected and are mutually completed in the affirmation of
the truth and in victory over error. Their fields of action are the
human spirit and the history of the world. The distinction between
truth and error is the initial stage of that work.
To remain in the truth
and to act in the truth is the essential task of Christ's apostles
and disciples, both in the early times and in all succeeding
generations of the Church down the centuries. From this point of
view the announcement of the Spirit of truth has a key importance.
Jesus said in the upper room: "I have yet many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now" (Jn 16:12). Jesus' messianic mission
lasted a short time, too short to disclose to the disciples all the
contents of revelation. And not only was the available time short,
but the preparation and intelligence of the hearers were limited. On
several occasions it is stated that the apostles themselves "were
utterly astounded" (cf. Mk 6:52), and "did not understand" (cf.
e.g., Mk 8:21), or even misunderstood Christ's words and deeds (cf.
e.g., Mt 16:6-11).
This explains the full
significance of the Master's words: "When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:13).
The first confirmation
of this promise of Jesus will be had on the day of Pentecost and the
subsequent days, as the Acts of the Apostles attests. The promise is
not limited to the apostles and their immediate companions in
evangelization. It extends to the future generations of disciples
and confessors of Christ. The Gospel is destined for all nations and
for all the successive generations which will arise in the context
of diverse cultures and of the manifold progress of human
civilization. Viewing the whole range of history Jesus said: "The
Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father will bear witness to
me" (Jn 15:26). "He will bear witness," that is to say, he will show
the true meaning of the Gospel within the Church, so that she may
proclaim it authentically to the whole world. Always and everywhere,
even in the ceaselessly changing events of the life of humanity, the
"Spirit of truth" will guide the Church "into all the truth" (Jn
The relationship between
the revelation communicated by the Holy Spirit and that of Jesus is
very close. It is not a question of a different disparate
revelation. This can be deduced from the actual words of Christ's
promise: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send
in my name will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance
all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). The "bringing to
remembrance" is the function of memory. By recalling, one returns to
what has been, to what has been said and done, thus renewing the
awareness of things past, and as it were, making them live again. In
regard to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of a truth endowed with divine
power, his mission is not limited to recalling the past as such. "By
recalling" the words, deeds and the entire salvific mystery of
Christ, the Spirit of truth makes him continually present in the
Church. The Spirit ensures that he takes on an ever new "reality" in
the community of salvation. Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit,
the Church not only recalls the truth, but remains and lives in the
truth received from her Lord. The words of Christ are fulfilled also
in this way: "He (the Holy Spirit) will bear witness to me" (Jn
15:26). This witness of the Spirit of truth is thus identified with
the presence of the ever living Christ, with the active power of the
Gospel, with the redemption increasingly put into effect and with a
continual exposition of truth and virtue. In this way the Holy
Spirit "guides" the Church "into all the truth." The Church goes out
to meet the glorious Christ.
This truth is present in
the Gospel, at least implicitly. What the Holy Spirit will reveal
has already been said by Christ. He himself revealed it when,
speaking of the Holy Spirit, he emphasized that the Spirit "will not
speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak....
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to
you" (Jn 16:13-14). The Christ, glorified by the Spirit of truth, is
first of all the same Christ who was crucified, stripped of
everything and as it were "emptied" in his humanity for the
redemption of the world. Precisely by the work of the Holy Spirit
the "word of the cross" was to be accepted by the disciples, to whom
the Master himself had said: "...but you cannot bear them now" (Jn
16:12). The shadow of the cross was looming up before those poor
men. A profound intervention was needed to make their minds and
hearts capable of discerning "the glory of the redemption," which
was accomplished precisely in the cross. A divine intervention was
required to convince and transform interiorly each one of them, in
preparation especially for the day of Pentecost, and then for the
apostolic mission in the world. Jesus informed them that the Holy
Spirit "will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare
it to you." According to St. Paul only the Spirit, who "searches the
depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10), knows the mystery of the Son-Word in
his filial relationship with the Father and in his redemptive
relationship with the people of every age. He alone, the Spirit of
truth, can open human minds and hearts and make them capable of
accepting the inscrutable mystery of God and of his incarnate Son,
crucified and risen, Jesus Christ the Lord.
Again Jesus said: "The
Spirit of truth...will declare to you the things that are to come"
(Jn 16:13). What is the meaning of this prophetic and eschatological
projection? In it, Jesus placed under the ray of the Holy Spirit the
entire future of the Church, the entire historical journey it is
called upon to carry out down the centuries. It means going to meet
the glorious Christ, toward whom it reaches out as expressed in the
invocation inspired by the Spirit: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:17,
20). The Holy Spirit leads the Church toward a constant progress in
understanding of revealed truth. He watches over the teaching of
that truth, over its preservation and over its application to
changing historical situations. He stirs up and guides the
development of all that serves the knowledge and spread of that
truth, particularly in scriptural exegesis and theological research.
These can never be separated from the guidance of the Spirit of
truth nor from the Magisterium of the Church, in which the Spirit is
always at work.
Everything happens in
faith and through faith under the action of the Holy Spirit, as was
stated in the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem: "For the mystery
of Christ taken as a whole demands faith, since it is faith that
adequately introduces man into the reality of the revealed mystery.
The 'guiding into all the truth' is therefore achieved in faith and
through faith: and this is the work of the Spirit of truth and the
result of his action in man. Here the Holy Spirit is to be man's
supreme guide and the light of the human spirit. This holds true for
the apostles, the eyewitnesses, who must now bring to all people the
proclamation of what Christ did and taught, and especially the
proclamation of his cross and resurrection. Taking a longer view,
this also holds true for all the generations of disciples and
confessors of the Master, since they will have to accept with faith
and confess with candor the mystery of God at work in human history,
the revealed mystery which explains the definitive meaning of that
history" (n. 6).
In this way the Spirit
of truth continually announces the things that are to come. He
continually shows to humanity this divine future, which is above and
beyond every temporal future, and thus fills with eternal value the
future of the world. Thus the Spirit convinces man, making him
understand that with all that he is and has and does, he is called
by God in Christ to salvation.
Thus the Paraclete, the
Spirit of truth, is man's true Counselor. Thus he is the true
defender and advocate. He is the guarantor of the Gospel in history.
Under his influence the good news is always the same and always
near, and in an ever new way he illumines man's path in the
perspective of heaven with "words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).
Holy Spirit as Advocate
H. H. John Paul II
May 24, 1989
In the previous reflection on the Holy Spirit we began with John's
text of Jesus' farewell discourse. In a certain way this is the
principal gospel source of pneumatology. Jesus announced the coming
of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who "proceeds from the
Father" (Jn 15:26). He will be sent by the Father to the apostles
and the Church in Christ's name, by virtue of the redemption
effected in the sacrifice of the cross, according to the eternal
plan of salvation. In the power of this sacrifice the Son also
"sends" the Spirit, for he announced that the spirit will come as a
consequence, and at the price of his own departure (cf. Jn 16:7).
There is a connection stated by Jesus himself between his
death-resurrection-ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
between the Pasch and Pentecost. Indeed, according to the fourth
Gospel, the giving of the Holy Spirit took place on the very evening
of Easter Sunday (cf. Jn 20:22-25). It may be said that the wound in
Christ's side on the cross opened the way for the outpouring of the
Spirit, which will be a sign and a fruit of the glory obtained
though the passion and death.
We learn from Jesus' discourse in the upper room that he called the
Holy Spirit the "Paraclete": "I will pray the Father, and he will
send you another Paraclete, to be with you forever" (Jn 14:16).
Similarly we read in other texts: "the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit"
(cf. Jn 14:16; 15:26; 16:7). Instead of "Paraclete" many
translations use the word "Counselor." That term is acceptable,
though it is necessary to have recourse to the original Greek word
Parakletos to grasp the full meaning of what Jesus says about the
Parakletos means literally, "one who is called or appealed to" (from
para-kalein, "to call to one's assistance"). He is therefore the
defender," "the advocate," as well as the "mediator" who fulfills
the function of intercessor. It is this meaning of
"advocate-defender" that now interests us, while not forgetting that
some Fathers of the Church use Parakletos in the sense of
"Counselor" particularly in reference to the Holy Spirit's action in
regard to the Church. For the present we shall speak of the Holy
Spirit as the Paraclete-Advocate-Defender. This term enables us to
grasp the close relationship between Christ's action and that of the
Holy Spirit, as can be seen from a further analysis of John's text.
1.Christ himself is the first Paraclete
When Jesus in the upper room, on the eve of his passion, announced
the coming of the Holy Spirit, he did so in the following terms:
"The Father will give you another Paraclete." These words indicate
that Christ himself is the first Paraclete, and that the Holy
Spirit's action will be like that of Christ and in a sense prolong
Jesus Christ, indeed, was the "defender" and remains such. John
himself will say so in his First Letter: "If anyone does sin, we
have an advocate (parakletos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the
righteous" (1 Jn 2:1).
The advocate (defender) is he who, taking the part of those who are
guilty because of sin committed, defends them from the penalty due
to their sins, and saves them from the danger of losing eternal life
and salvation. This is precisely what Jesus Christ did. The Holy
Spirit is called the Paraclete because he continues Christ's
redemptive work which freed us from sin and eternal death.
The Paraclete will be "another advocate-defender" also for a second
reason. Remaining with Christ's disciples, he will watch over them
with his omnipotent power. "I will pray the Father," Jesus said,
"and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever" (Jn
14:16). "He dwells in you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:16). This
promise must be taken together with the others made by Jesus when
going to the Father: "I am with you always, to the close of the age"
(Mt 28:20). We know that Christ is the Word who "became flesh and
dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). When going to the Father he said: "I am
with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). It follows
that the apostles and the Church must continually find, by means of
the Holy Spirit, that presence of the Word-Son which, during his
earthly mission, was physical and visible in his incarnate humanity,
but which, after his ascension to the Father, is completely immersed
in mystery. The Holy Spirit's presence which, as Jesus said, is
interior to souls and to the Church ("He dwells with you, and will
be in you": Jn 14:17), will make the invisible Christ present in a
lasting manner "until the end of the world." The transcendent unity
of the Son and the Holy Spirit will ensure that Christ's humanity,
assumed by the Word, will be present at work wherever the
trinitarian plan of salvation is being put into effect through the
power of the Father.
The Holy Spirit-Paraclete will be the advocate-defender of the
apostles, and of all those down through the centuries in the Church
who will be the heirs of their witness and apostolate. This is
especially so in difficult moments when they are tested to the point
of heroism. This was Jesus' prophecy and promise: "They will deliver
you up to councils...you will be dragged before governors and
kings.... When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to
speak or what you are to say...for it is not you who speak, but the
Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Mt 10:17-20; likewise
Mk 13:11; Lk 12:12 says: "for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that
hour what you ought to say").
Even in this very practical sense the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete-Advocate.
He is close and even present to the apostles when they must profess
the truth, justify it and defend it. He himself then inspires them.
He himself speaks through their words, and together with them and
through them he bears witness to Christ and his Gospel. Before their
accusers he becomes the invisible advocate of the accused, by the
fact that he acts as their counselor, defender and supporter.
Especially during persecutions in all ages, those words of Jesus in
the upper room are verified: "When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall
send to you from the Father...he will bear witness to me; and you
also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the
beginning" (Jn 15:26-27).
The action of the Holy Spirit is that of "bearing witness." It is an
interior, "immanent" action in the hearts of the disciples, who then
bear witness to Christ externally. Through that immanent presence
and action, the transcendent power of the truth of Christ who is the
Word-Truth and Wisdom, is manifested and advances in the world. From
him, through the Spirit, the apostles obtained the power to bear
witness according to his promise: "I will give you a mouth of
wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or
contradict" (Lk 21:15). This happened already in the case of the
first martyr Stephen, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles
that he was "full of the Holy Spirit" (6:5). His adversaries "could
not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke" (Acts
6:10). Also in the following centuries the opponents of the
Christians continued to rage against the heralds of the Gospel. At
times they stifled the Christians' voice in their blood, but without
succeeding in suffocating the truth of which they were the
messengers. That truth continued to flourish in the world through
the power of the Spirit.
The Holy Spiritâ€”the Spirit of truth, the Paracleteâ€”is he who
according to the words of Christ, "will convince the world of sin
and of righteousness and of judgment" (Jn 16:8). Jesus' own
explanation of these terms is significant: "Sin" signifies the lack
of faith that Jesus met with among "his own," those of his own
people who arrived at the point of condemning him to death on a
cross. In speaking of "righteousness," Jesus seems to have in mind
that definitive righteousness which the Father will confer upon him
("...because I go to the Father") in the resurrection and ascension
into heaven. In this context "judgment" means that the Spirit of
truth will demonstrate the guilt of the world in rejecting Christ,
or more generally, in turning its back upon God. Because Christ did
not come into the world to judge and condemn it but to save it, then
in actual fact that "convincing the world of sin" on the part of the
Spirit of truth must be understood as an intervention directed to
the salvation of the world, to the ultimate good of humanity.
"Judgment" refers particularly to the "prince of this world,"
namely, Satan. From the very beginning he tried to turn the work of
creation against the covenant and union of man with God: knowingly
he opposes salvation. Therefore, he "is already judged" from the
beginning, as I explained in the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem
If the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is to convince the world
precisely of this "judgment," undoubtedly he does so to continue
Christ's work aimed at universal salvation.
We can therefore conclude that in bearing witness to Christ, the
Paraclete is an assiduous (though invisible) advocate and defender
of the work of salvation, and of all those engaged in this work. He
is also the guarantor of the definitive triumph over sin and over
the world subjected to sin, in order to free it from sin and
introduce it into the way of salvation.
Return to General Audiences on
the Holy Spirit...