Who is this guy? Other than God? I mean, we acknowledge him as one of the three persons of the Trinity, which would seem to make him overwhelmingly important, and beyond that we seem to say next to nothing about him. It’s spooky.
I think this has to be because he is by his very nature the most mysterious member of the team.
He was present at the creation. Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” As Jesus, the Logos, is the embodiment of the Law, the Holy Spirit has spoken through the Prophets; he is the spirit of prophecy. If we see the Father as the Creator, and Jesus as the Logos, the structure of creation, then the Holy Spirit is the Pneuma, the vital spark, the principle of movement and change.
All three seem logically necessary to creation. If one thinks only of the Father or Creator, then one faces a logical impossibility. If God created the universe, then he changed. Before he created the universe, he was not a creator. After he created the universe, he was a creator. If God can change, then surely he is not eternal. Nor can he, apparently, be perfect—before he created, was he not necessarily incomplete? After he created, was he not, necessarily, lesser, as he was no longer all?
To solve this paradox, it seems necessary to posit two “persons” of God, one eternal and the other changeable. If the former “eternally begets” the latter, i.e., is always in the act of creating him, then the former remains eternal. But the latter can then possess the capacity to change and become lesser. Creation is then mediated through him.
But then there is necessarily a third thing that is also eternal, and coexistent with the Father and the Son, is there not? There is the begetting, the act. This, by its nature, “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” From their very being, it must be.
So it seems logically necessary to posit the Holy Spirit, were he not given to us by the scriptures. There, as noted, he is first seen moving eternally over the waters: the spirit of change. Much later, he appears as a flame above the heads of the apostles at Pentecost; flame too speaks of change. It is the paradigm of transformation.
He is also present, of course, each time we make the sign of the cross; and this seems suggestive. On the word “father,” we point to our forehead—the Father corresponds in us to our intelligence or mind. “Son,” we touch our chest at about the midpoint—he is the incarnation, corresponding to our physical being. And for “Holy Spirit,” we point to either shoulder in turn: he is the active principle, the principle of doing; our temporal being. As the spirit of time or change, he is also naturally the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of the future. As the future is to us mysterious, so is he.
In terms of our lives as Christians, the role of the Holy Spirit is both mysterious and crucial. He is the being that actually transforms us. He brings the charismata, as in “charisma.” These are very cool. They are what the charismatic movement has been on about.