“We believe in the Holy Spirit . . .” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

We now come to the closing sections of the Creed expressing our faith in how God has revealed himself, his very nature and purposes, through his Holy Spirit; and continues to work through him. Next we look at the nature of the Church itself; and finally the fulfilment of all in the life of heaven.

In several earlier articles we saw how the Holy Spirit led and guided the Apostles and first Christians of the New Testament Church, making clear the full implications of Christ’s life and teaching. When explaining the origin of the Nicene Creed I wrote “The Bishops in Council believed that the Holy Spirit would guide them, just as Jesus had promised, to lead his Church, and so us also, to a better understanding of saving truth in Christ (John 16:13). They followed the pattern of those first Apostles who had wrestled with major issues concerning the very existence, meaning and purpose of Christianity (Acts 15:28). They believed God would speak through them and confirm their conclusions”.

Writing about Jesus’ Ascension to heaven I wrote “The day had now come for Jesus to say good bye to his loyal friends firmly promising his continued presence in a new and different dimension. They would have the very presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit, a charisma and dynamism that would continue century after century until the end of time…”. Hence our strong belief is that the Holy Spirit gives and confirms to believers, a new baptismal life in Christ, one which he also makes truly real, by the very presence of Jesus as we receive the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. That he still guides his Church into the fullness of truth in Christ, empowering us for Christian living and witness with the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit. He is, I believe, the inspiration and source of all that is genuinely good, beautiful and true, in all peoples of all faiths. The Creedal statement “the Lord the giver of life” sums all this up. (John 14:25-26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

The Holy Spirit has of course been at work from the very beginning of Creation, and through all the Old Testament centuries, steadily patiently preparing the way for Christ’s Incarnation in God’s chosen appropriate time. (Genesis 1:1-2; etc.)  It meant unfolding to several prophets, priests  and kings (and many others), a growing understanding of the very nature and being and loving purposes of the One Eternal God. “Who has spoken through the prophets” is how the Creed sums up this first phase of the work of Revelation; a glorious Creative-Redemptive task of divine Love, fully and finally completed in Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-2; Romans 15:4).

And each one of us, in the personal journey of faith and common life together in Christ, must never forget that the Holy Spirit’s life-giving guidance and empowering is forever ongoing and unfailing. That in the confusions and divisions of today’s world and church he does not leave us; and that a greater fullness of truth, unity, harmony, love and peace, is close at hand.

Our daily prayer to Him should be to keep us faithful to the task, truly grateful for our dear Saviour’s sake. Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God! In all his good creative work and gifts the Holy Spirit never ceases to bring comfort and consolation, forgiveness and healing, enlightenment and renewal, warmth and light and fire of love. He is the One who in all situations and needs ‘stands by us’, the Paraclete, a Greek word for this. It’s a name for the Holy Spirit used by the Church over many centuries.

The Creed also stresses the Unity of the Father with Jesus the Son, and with the Holy Spirit. The word “Trinity” is not used. That name is not found in the New Testament. In all of its books however, its truth in essence is clearly evident. It was not until the 3rd or 4th Centuries that the One Supreme God, who is also three distinct Persons, is actually called The Holy and Undivided Trinity. The Creed affirms that we worship and give glory to the One and Only God who has actually made himself known to us at our human level, as the Father our Creator, the Son our Redeemer, and the Spirit who brings divine life and holiness to us. In using these expressions the first Christians were employing ordinary language and everyday human concepts (for they had no other) to convey the mystery of eternal truths, gleaned by real living experience, and understood within the mind and the heart by faith.

Worship and prayer is always of course to the Father, through Our Lord Jesus Christ his Son, and in the very life of the Holy Spirit. This is its liturgical or theological order. But it doesn’t matter whether we actually pray to God the Father direct, to Jesus direct, or to the Spirit direct, for they are always together and always One. It’s largely a matter of upbringing, local church custom or personal choice. And I want to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is not an ‘It’ but a He’, or a ‘She’ if you prefer. The Holy Spirit is personal and real just as the Father and Jesus are personal and real to us. All that we have come to learn about the sheer mind-blowing mystery and wonder, greatness and majesty of the Eternal God does not make our personal communion with him any less real or important. The essential nature and power of God is Divine Eternal Love. It means breathtaking living relationship, warm, personal and wonderful, with and within the very life of the Trinity, and with each one of us. (1 John 4:16).

In his earthly ministry Jesus patiently explained to the disciples that he would pray to the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16 & 26). He kept that promise fully. And the Creed affirms it by the statement “who proceeds from the Father and the Son”.  The words “and the Son” did not occur in the original Nicene Creed. They were added many years later by the Western Latin part of the Church. The Eastern Greek part of the Church continued to follow the original wording, as do the Orthodox Churches to this day. This line of the Creed asserts how the Persons of the Trinity always work together in love, unity and harmony. It also means that the prayer and promise of Jesus is fulfilled now and everyday and forever, in the ongoing saving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Praise be to God.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Melt us, mould us, fill us, use us.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. Amen. (D. Iverson)

George Abell