In many ways, the Holy Spirit remains a bit of a mystery to humanity. The Catholic Church does not have much in the way of teachings regarding the Spirit. Ratzinger himself admits to this in The God of Jesus Christ, in which he has long, detailed chapters pertaining to God the Father and Jesus Christ but only has a few pages regarding the Holy Spirit. This is in large part because there are no earthly titles that we can attribute to the Spirit. God the Father is known as the Fatherly Creator, and Jesus Christ is known as the Son who is both divine and human. Despite being clearly different from us in their divinity and perfection, it is a bit easier to wrap our minds around them because we understand and encounter the words “father” and “son” on a daily basis. Those words in themselves tell us a lot about the identities of these Two Persons of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is more removed from our understanding of the natural world. It can be difficult for us to understand Him, because it is harder for us to attribute Him somehow to the natural world in which we live (as we do with the other two Persons of God by referring to God the Father as “the Father and Creator” and by recognizing Jesus as His fully human and divine Son). The Spirit is but a Spirit, having no tangible form, and, therefore, we have difficulty grasping a full understanding of Him. For, as Ratzinger says, “One cannot display the spirit of God as one displays goods for sale in a shop.” He lives within us, residing in our soul and moving us towards the divine love of God.
In order to better understand the work of the Holy Spirit, it is important to look at the name that has been given to Him: The Paraclete – the advocate, helper, defender, and comforter. Breathed into us by Christ, the Spirit remains within us, guiding us along our journey to God. He is the love that emanates from God the Father and God the Son. Essentially, the Spirit is the One responsible for making the Father and the Son consubstantial with one another. To put it in the words of Ratzinger, the Holy Spirit is “the unity of the Father and the Son” and “it is in [this Spirit], in the fruitfulness of the Father and the Son’s act of giving, that they are One.”
In the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit makes His most famous appearance to the apostles: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Just as Christ had promised, the apostles were baptized with the Spirit. It filled them, giving them the courage to go forth and proclaim the salvation of God. The Spirit drew the apostles into a closer relationship with God, making them more active in their ministry. He does the same for us today. He gives us the strength to rise above fear and uncertainty in order to follow God’s will. The Holy Spirit brings us back to divine love. He engages us in a relationship with God the Father and God the Son. He moves us towards active faith. It is through Him that we receive our vocation. It is through Him that we are called to active discipleship. It is through Him that we encounter God’s never-ending love.