An Explanation of the Apostle’s Creed – Eighth Article of the Creed

detail from a painting of the 12 Apostles with their traditional lines from the Apostle's Creed, 1424; Lower Saxony State Museum, Hanover, Germany; photographed by Jean Louis Mazieres 24 December 2015; swiped from Wikimedia Commons“I believe in the Holy Ghost.”


Our Lord Jesus Christ having accomplished our redemption by the infinite merits of His obedience, it became necessary that the fruits of such redemption should be imparted to us. Divine grace is a treasure that is not only intended for us, but one also that must be given to us. Christ is like unto the kings of this earth. As earthly kings keep a treasury and keep an almoner, who deals out to the poor whatever their royal masters set apart for their relief, so, too, has Christ, the celestial King, a treasury and a treasurer. This treasury is the Catholic Church; the treasurer is the Holy Ghost.

It is only in the Church, then, that we can receive the grace of God. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), and the Church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Consequently the Holy Spirit can be found only in the Church.

The Holy Ghost is the third person in the Deity and is as truly God as are the Father and the Son. In His nature there is nothing wanting that is essential to God. He has the same strength, the same power and glory as have the Father and the Son. This identity of nature is clearly stated in the Scriptures, “the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7) As the Father is from all eternity, and the Son is begotten likewise from all eternity, so is the Holy Ghost from all eternity, though by procession. He proceeds indeed from both the Father and the Son. This last tenet Our Lord Himself taught emphatically when He said, “But when the Paraclete cometh whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, He shall give testimony of Me.” (John 15:26) Again, in another place He says, “All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine: He,” that is, the Holy Spirit, “shall receive of Mine, and shew it to you ” (John 16:15). Hence the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, but He is sent by the Son, and what He promises is the property of the Father as of the Son. Therefore must the Holy Ghost proceed equally from the Father and the Son. It is for this reason that we call Him Spirit. Not, indeed, because the Father and the Son are not Spirits likewise, but because the procession of the third person of the Blessed Trinity from the Father and the Son may be compared to the emission of the divine breathing.


Although the Holy Ghost is everywhere, since He is God, yet He is in a special manner present in the Church and in the souls of the righteous. This presence of His is somewhat analogous to the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. As Christ with regard to His divinity fills all heaven and earth, and yet is present in the Eucharist with both His humanity and divinity, so is the Holy Ghost in the Church and in the souls of men. Thus the soul receives not alone the grace of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit Himself with His graces, and becomes really and truly a temple and a tabernacle of the living God.

This divine Spirit who, in conjunction with the Father and the Son, cooperated equally in the two great works of creation and redemption, came, on the fiftieth day after the Saviour’s ascension, into the hearts of His disciples who had gathered together for common prayer. He came in the form of fiery tongues that lit upon the heads of the Apostles, and was accompanied by a strong wind and a trembling of the earth, not unlike the coming of God on Mount Sinai. Fear and perplexity took possession of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, while courage and self-reliance were infused into the apostles, who praised and thanked the Lord.

And, to the astonishment of the people, who had come from divers parts of the world, they heard these unlettered men speaking in the tongue of each and every stranger. Peter then came forth and for the first time preached Christ openly, and led three thousand persons to baptism and faith in Christ crucified. Many other miracles were wrought that day through the Holy Ghost. Henceforth the Holy Spirit remained in the Church, teaching and enlightening her ministers, comforting, strengthening and sanctifying the faithful, and pouring out the fulness of His graces into all hearts.

This operation of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men we call the gifts of the Holy Ghost. While they are not in themselves virtues, strictly speaking, they are facilities by which men are enabled to acquire the virtues that are called the fruits of the Holy Ghost.

These gifts are seven in number. The prophet Isaias numbers them when foretelling the future Messias, the model of all perfection and our model. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: the Spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge, and of godliness, and He shall be filled with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaias 11:2,3)

Let us consider these gifts:

1. The gift of wisdom is the faculty to know and to realize that there is but one thing necessary for us, and that is to learn the knowledge of God and to accomplish the salvation of our souls. We see this wisdom in Saint Paul, who says, “I count all things to be but loss…that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

2. The gift of understanding is the faculty of understanding the different revealed truths. This again we find in Saint Paul, who writes to the Athenians, “Passing by and seeing your idols, I found an altar also on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you.” (Acts 17:23) Thus the Athenians knew that there is one God, but nothing more about Him, until Saint Paul proclaimed to them the doctrine of God. This gift we must pray for always before hearing Christian instruction, before listening to the word of God and before reading good books.

3. The gift of counsel is the faculty to decide rightly and safely for the right in cases of doubt. Thus Saint Paul advised the Romans to decide when they asked him whether they ought to eat all kinds of food, since the Christians among the Hebrews gave out that it is not allowed to partake of the articles of food forbidden in the Old Law. He told them that, while no kind of food was forbidden, it is evil for that man who eateth with offense, and added, “All things indeed are clean: it is good not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother is offended, or scandalized, or made weak.” (Romans 14:20-21)

4. The gift of fortitude is one that enables us to carry out what is right, notwithstanding all our weakness. Saint Paul says, ” I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

5. The gift of knowledge is the faculty of discerning the deceptions of Satan and of finding out the true road to happiness. This gift is alluded to by Saint Paul when he warns the Corinthians to be on their guard against the dangerous maxims of the heretics. These evil principles it is not always so easy to discern, for, as he says, “Satan himself transformeth v onself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

6. The gift of piety is a ready disposition to find happiness in God, and not in the joys of the world. All souls are concerned by what Saint Paul says of the widows, “She that liveth in pleasures, is dead while she is living.” (1 Timothy 5:6)

7. The gift of the fear of the Lord is the faculty of reflecting with salutary fear on the divine chastisements, that we may be deterred from sin. To this Saint Paul alludes when he says, ” With fear and trembling work out your salvation.” (Philippians 2:12)

The fruits of the Holy Ghost are those virtues which a man acquires when he corresponds with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. These fruits Saint Paul states to be twelve. When writing to the Galatians, 5:22, he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is charity (toward God and our neighbor); joy (in God); peace (with ourselves and our neighbor); patience (in trials); benignity (amiable deportment); goodness (of heart); longanimity (endurance); mildness (toleration of wrong); faith (in the service of God); modesty (in sentiment); continency (voluntary chastity for love of God); chastity (purity in thoughts, words and works).” The life of every saint manifests these fruits of the Holy Ghost, for as Saint Francis of Sales says, “Such a life is nothing else than the gospel presented in action.”

Once the Holy Spirit has come down on a soul it resembles a living tabernacle, a rare vessel of divine mercy, over which the chrism of divine grace is poured. In the eyes of God man is a precious vessel, as long as such vessel is clean. Sin defiles this vessel, and is like the rust which tarnishes the brightness, and with the brightness goes the divine complacency. The Holy Ghost continues to dwell in the soul of man as long as it keeps itself free from grievous sin. Mortal sin drives out the Holy Spirit and desecrates the temple of God. Then the soul no longer resembles the house of God, but rather a robbers’ den, for in it revel the evil pas- sions, robbing it of divine grace and killing its spiritual life. Mortal sin is a spiritual Church robbery, a spiritual sanctuary desecration, to be visited with the chastisements of God. “If any man violate the temple of God,” saith Saint Paul, “him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). As Baltassar, the desecrator of the sanctuary, was destroyed because he carried off and polluted the sacred gold and silver vessels of the Temple at Jerusalem (Daniel 5), so, too, shall the sinner fare who shall fail to restore its brightness to the vessel of divine mercy by purifying works of penance.


History of the Festival. Its Meaning.

The special religious observance of Pentecost by Christians is so ancient that its beginning can hardly be discovered. Saint Augustine tells us that even in his time it was a festival universally observed throughout the world. The word “Pentecost” is Greek for the fiftieth a day, and the festival was kept by the Israelites in commemoration of the promulgation of the law on Mount Sinai. It was also a feast on which many Jews were in Jerusalem, for Pentecost was the third chief festival among them, as it is a principal feast with us.

On the first Christian Pentecost an event occurred which may be compared with the promulgation of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. Amid circumstances very similar, the Lawgiver of the New Dispensation descended into the hearts of the faithful, for it was also the fiftieth day after the celebration of the first Christian Passover. The destroying angel had again passed over those redeemed by the blood of Christ, and mankind had effected their passage through the Red Sea of the precious blood of Our Saviour. In order to fully understand this extraordinary event, we must consider briefly the circumstances amid which it occurred.

1. No new law was given; the law given on Mount Sinai was thenceforth to be the expression of His will. But the understanding of the law was given, with strength to observe it. In the future the law is to be dispensed, not in a spirit of slavish fear, but in a spirit of charity and love.

2. We read in the first verse of Genesis, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty: and the Spirit of God moved over the waters.” From this starting-point began the ordering of the universe in the six days of creation. So, too, did the Son redeem spiritual creation, the soul receiving the first-fruits of such redemption, which consisted of imparting grace, when the Holy Spirit swept over it. Hence personal redemption began with the first Pentecost.

3. As the Israelites of old, by the orders of Moses, prepared and sanctified themselves against the coming of the Lord, so, too, did the disciples prepare and sanctify themselves by prayer. For the Holy Ghost resembles the dove, the emblem of purity, under which form He appeared at the river Jordan. He resembles the dove of Noe, that returned to the ark because it could not find any place to set its foot, while the raven, the emblem of uncleanness, lit upon the bodies of the drowned people and ate itself to death on carrion. If the Holy Ghost would descend upon you, you must first prepare and sanctify yourself.

4. The Holy Ghost came down amid the rolling of thunder. That is the great noise, “the Spirit breatheth where He will.” (John 3:8) Heathendom, unable to withstand Him, was shattered by His power. So does the Pentecost festival dawn on each individual soul when it feels within it an active power which breaks its obstinacy. A powerful change must first take place in man. As long as he does not experience this change within him he has not yet entered into the grace-streams of the Holy Ghost

5. The wind signifies the breath. Adam’s soul was breathed into him. So, too, was the spiritual breathing to be infused into the spiritual creation. As the wind penetrates all parts, so the new doctrines were to penetrate all lands. “For the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world.” (Wisdom 1:7) It was no longer one land that was chosen, but all lands.

6. Fire represents the operation of the Holy Ghost. It illumines, purifies and warms. It transforms whatever it lays hold upon. Thus does the divine Spirit illumine the soul, purify the heart, inflame charity, and change the disposition. A flame can be divided and yet each part remains fire. The heavenly Spirit can be poured out and distributed into all hearts, and each one may have a plenitude.

7. A tongue is also a symbol of the heavenly Spirit, “for He it is who teacheth all truth” (John 16:13). By Him the teachers in the Church are enlightened. By this is signified that the teachings of Jesus Christ are to be promulgated by the living word and not merely by what is written. Therefore even if the providence of God in His goodness had not left us a printed page the teachings of Christ would never be falsified or altered. The safe preservation of His teachings depends not on the Bible but on the Church.

8. The assembled apostles are the figure of the Church, which gathers all nations about the Gospel. The assembled people at Jerusalem are likewise a figure of the Church, which embraces all nations. Thus, even on the first Pentecost, the Church showed her catholicity, that is to say, universality. Such is the meaning of the festival of Pentecost for the Church and for individual men.

– text taken from An Explanation of the Apostle’s Creed: A Thorough Exposition of Catholic Faith, by Father H Rolfus, D.D., published by Benziger Brothers, 1907; it has the Imprimatur of +John M Farley, Auxiliary Bishop and Adminsitrator of New York, June 1902