With added ‘Holy Spirit’

No one has greater need of the help of the Holy Spirit than I, and it is help which I often feel I have received. But I do not justify my decisions on the grounds of his inspiration – I need to justify them through my natural faculties. I accept that the Church is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error in infallible matters and that his general guidance supports the Church. But when he is invoked as support for specific non-infallible matters I demur. Was the Spirit there when John XXIII was elected? But how about Alexander VI? As Cardinal Ratzinger said on Bavarian television “It would be a mistake to believe that the Holy Spirit picks the pope because there are too many examples of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have chosen.” He said the Spirit leaves considerable room for the free exercise of human judgment, probably guaranteeing only that, in the end, the church will not be ruined.

The good priests of my parish were no doubt called by the Spirit but how about the paedophile priest? Was the Spirit behind the Inquisition, and also behind the Council declaration on religious liberty? Was the Spirit behind Pope St Gregory the Great when he said that married sexual intercourse could not in practice be performed without sin or behind the Council’s statement that it must be honoured with great reverence? Since on some occasions he may be present and on others he is apparently not, and we have no way of knowing which, there is a problem.

Until some good evidence can be produced of his presence in a specific matter it seems to be no more than a kind of superstitious magic to bolster a case by claiming his support. Like me the Magisterium has to go through the ordinary processes of judgment, and then observe the fruits. Claiming a further buttress in the Holy Spirit suggests a lack of confidence in the evidence for the teaching. It might be better to employ the humility Bernard Shaw put into Joan of Arc’s mouth (mutatis mutandis) when she was asked if she were in a state of grace: “If I do not have the Holy Spirit may God bring him to me: if I have, may God keep him with me.”

History is studded with examples of men ascribing their triumphs or defeats to the will of God. The Elizabethans put the defeat of the Armada down to the will of God; the Puritans under Cromwell similarly recognized his hand in the winning the battle of Marston Moor. The will of God has frequently been used as an excuse both by Christianity and other religions for committing atrocities.

The thoughts above are extracted from my book Autonomy and Obedience in the Catholic Church (T&T Clarke 2002). But my interest here is more personal: how do we in practice relate to the Holy Spirit? That raises a number of questions:

o Do we habitually relate to the Holy Spirit in prayer, or is he the forgotten member of the Trinity?

o Have we ever experienced his help – directly or indirectly?

o Is there a danger that we attribute our choices to the Holy Spirit when they are merely our own choices?

o What rôle does the Holy Spirit play in the Trinity?

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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90 Responses to With added ‘Holy Spirit’

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    I have rarely invoked the help of the Holy Spirit explicitly, but the number of occasions of falling on my feet makes me suspect having received it regardless. In prayer I generally consider myself to be addressing the Godhead as a whole, perhaps with some emphasis on the Father. As for the role of the Spirit in the Trinity – is it really any of our business?

  2. John Nolan says:

    ‘I accept that the Church is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error in infallible matters’. Leaving aside the tautology inherent in this statement, it raises an interesting question. The Church defines what teachings are infallible – those of the Extraordinary Magisterium, i.e. papal definitions ex cathedra and solemn declarations of ecumenical Councils, and those of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium which are held to be definitive. Both require assent of faith. If the Holy Spirit gives the Church the authority to teach infallibly and to define which teachings are infallible and which are not, then there can be ‘loyal dissent’ from the latter but not from the former.

    Not all Council declarations are infallible (in the case of Vatican II it can be argued that none of them are per se) although they require ‘religious submission of intellect and will’ which is not the same as ‘assent of faith’. It is therefore permissible to question the decree on religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) which was controversial at the time and remains so; but to claim the Church to be in error when she forbids artificial contraception, abortion, euthanasia and homosexual behaviour, or when she declares that she has ‘no authority whatsoever’ to ordain women as priests, is not an option for those who wish to remain in communion with her.

    Pope Gregory the Great’s observation concerning marital sexual intercourse is found in patristic sources. The idea that sex must be honoured with great reverence strikes me as a bit silly. The late Auberon Waugh once remarked that it would take all the enjoyment out of it.

    • John Candido says:

      It is heartening to see that some conservatives actually acknowledge that the term ‘loyal dissent’ exists, and is to be given serious consideration. How serious a consideration would depend on who you were to question for an answer on what are the boundaries of loyal dissent. Much like the infallibility problem; some Roman Catholics make this a simple exercise and nominate everything emanating from the Vatican or your local Bishop that concerns itself about Catholic teaching, are infallible teachings. Others seem to draw the line between the ordinary magisterium on one side and pronouncements that emanate from ex-cathedra statements of Popes, or solemn pronouncements from ecumenical councils, i.e. the extraordinary magisterium, as infallible.

      It would seem to me, an untrained person in theology that the Church needs to settle this issue for the benefit of all Catholics with another ex-cathedra statement by a Pope or by a solemn pronouncement by a future ecumenical council. The purpose of these statements would be to define for today and for the foreseeable future, the question of what constitutes an infallible teaching, who may author an infallible statement or teaching, and how an infallible statement or teaching is to be formulated or constituted.

      Of course lots of people can say that there is no need for this, as this formal process is already well known. I beg to differ. A formal reiteration of this matter may be a very beneficial matter that may clarify the matter contemporarily and into the future. To wit, a gathering of all Bishops of the world in an ecumenical council would be the most ideal manner of reinvestigating the issue of infallibility in a comprehensive fashion. A final document in several languages can then be promulgated through the internet and the Vatican website, to the global population of Catholics and any other interested person. This could conceivably happen with the planned council on family issues in Rome, after wide consultation with the Laity around the world.

      It would be far preferable if an ecumenical council vigorously investigate this question together with the Pope. I believe this would be seen to be more consultative and broadly based, rather than it being the sole work of the Pope, his office and his set of advisors.

      As for the Holy Spirit and its work of preserving the Church from error or from destruction, I am in two minds about it. I am sure that it does this. As to how it does this, is a mystery that we will probably never know the answer. Much the same can be said of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and influence for individuals. It is analogous to nationalism and flag-waving. Too much flag-waving can be a problem; likewise not enough nationalism can be a problem as well. Is the right-wing of politics the only true patriots in our nation-states? The left can be as patriotic as any member of the right. Anyone who says otherwise is talking through their hat. We could also say the same about Catholic liberals and conservatives ad infinitum.

  3. Brian Hamill says:

    In reply to Jon Wilson’s comment about the Church forbidding artificial contraception, I would like to know what he makes of the story that Pope Saint John Paul II specifically allowed nuns who, in the middle of civil war in Africa, were in imminent danger of rape to take a contraceptive pill to preclude any offspring of such an act of violence. If true, this has a whole range of possible further applications. Church teaching on morality is always provisional since circumstances can arise never envisaged by the Church. On the other hand, those teachings of the Church who expound general principles, such as the decree of religious liberty, are much further along the line of infallibility.

    • Vincent says:

      There’s a good article on the Belgian nuns at http://americanpapist.com/2007/11/bioethics-essay-did-congo-nuns-receive.html. Plenty of theological support but nothing ‘official’. However it’s a no-brainer. An act of rape is not an act of sexual intercourse in any real sense, so the rules simply don’t apply. To claim that a woman in a case of rape cannot suspend her ovulation, or use a diaphragm to prevent the invasive seed requires the most legalistic of minds.

      • milliganp says:

        The problem with using the argument that rape lacks the unitive dimension of the sexual act as a justification for contraceptive use leaves one open to extending the rule to all extra-marital sex.

      • Vincent says:

        “I am going to seduce this young lady but I will not protect her through using a condom because that would be two sins instead of just one.”

        Difficult to imagine, isn’t it?

      • milliganp says:

        Vincent, I posited this question on the moral theology section of the EWTN website. The reply said that raping a woman is a sin against the woman, wearing a condom is a sin against God and therefore greater.
        I don’t get it either; I thought God was capable of infinite forgiveness.

      • Vincent says:

        What a splendid example of just how barmy Catholics can get!

      • Quentin says:

        Yes, I agree – but it’s a serious issue. Presumably EWTN is not aware that a sin against a woman is a sin against God (Whatever you do unto my little ones…)

        It’s worth noting that HV only addresses marriage; not a word about intercourse outside marriage. Nor was there any reason to consider the issue. Theologians disagree about whether the ruling against contraception applies outside marriage. (Given that, ‘probabilism’ kicks in: the orthodox dictum that an uncertain law cannot bind means that if there is disagreement between reputable theologians the law is not binding.)

  4. Brian Hamill says:

    Immediate apologies to Peter Wilson and John Nolan for my making up a hybrid person in my reference to John Wilson.

  5. John Nolan says:

    Brian, you or I don’t decide what is infallible and what is not; the Church does, and teaching on morality that constitutes part of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is to be regarded as infallible and definitive. The point of my comment was that she can only do so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and if we don’t believe the Holy Spirit guides her in this, then it is probable that He doesn’t guide her in anything. Some Anglicans believe that the Holy Spirit will prevent the Churches which have Apostolic succession from falling into gross error, and that includes the Church of Rome; their sixteenth century forebears would have had none of that.

    In 1993 Pope John Paul II made headlines by publicly stating that women raped in Bosnia (an estimated 20,000, mostly Muslim) should avoid abortion. At the same time an ‘unnamed theologian’ suggested that nuns in danger areas (e.g. Africa) should take the contraceptive pill as a precaution. The Vatican was quick to rebut this. John Paul certainly believed that the ban on artificial contraception was part of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, and therefore he did not have the power to derogate from it.

    The Church would not agree that her teaching on morality ‘is always provisional’; indeed she would say that much of it is non-negotiable. Pope Benedict XVI warned of the dangers of moral relativism and Pope Francis has said much the same, although he uses different terminology.

  6. Nektarios says:

    The Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit is one of the great doctrines of the Church, but in discussing the Holy Spirit we need first to differentiate between that which is natural and that which is spiritual. Let us be mindful of Whom we speak. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, we stand on holy ground.
    What part has the Holy spirit played in our Salvation? What part does He play in communicating Salvation?

    • Peter Foster says:

      Quentin’s “the forgotten member of the Trinity” seems about right in England.
      I have the impression that in France the Spirit is viewed more actively as the agent of Grace in supporting our personal actions; in accord with (John ch.7:v.38-39) and (Matthew ch.3: v.16)
      For example in the French series Carême Domicile
      http://www.careme-chretien.fr/
      (“Lent at Home”; the English version this year is not yet fully posted).

  7. milliganp says:

    In the way I was taught the ekonomeia of the Trinity, all actions of the Trinity occur through the Spirit; thus it was the Spirit of God that hovered over the waters of creation, it was the Spirit that inspired the authors of Scripture and the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness, filled his human nature with zeal and inspired the same zeal in the nascent Church after Pentecost.
    It was our current Pope who encouraged the Bishops at the extraordinary synod to be open to the Spirit by not taking “merely dogmatic” positions on the matters being considered.
    It would be wrong to blame the Holy Spirit for some of the views held with conviction by some Bishops and Theologians that are merely the product of human culture and equally opposed views that are merely the product of counter-culture.
    As an example, the theology of the role of women in the church is pretty disastrous pre Vatican II. Even nuns were warned against contemplative prayer lest their naturally hysterical nature might lead them into the error of thinking they were receiving Divine inspiration. I was told by a nun that it was only after Vatican II that her order allowed nuns to read scripture.
    There are numerous Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals who do not hold that marriage being open to life leads ipso-facto to a ban on every form of artificial control of fertility.
    Similarly many hold that the reservation of priestly orders to males is a tradition that is not of iself part of the deposit of faith. While head of the CDF the then Cardinal Ratzinger tried to get St. John Paul II to make a formal declaration on the matter, but even though he later became Pope he did not make the declaration himself; it’s a very small chink in the armour of the doctrine, but it is there nonetheless.

    • John Nolan says:

      Paul Milligan

      John Paul II did make a formal declaration on the matter (women priests) in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Cardinal Ratzinger in response to a dubium affirmed that it was to be held as definitive in terms of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. There is therefore no need to invoke the Extraordinary Magisterium on this matter, and to imagine that there is even a smidgeon of a chink is no more than wishful thinking.

  8. John Candido says:

    Congratulations to Her Majesty The Queen for being the longest reigning monarch in British history.

  9. John Candido says:

    Correction, Her Majesty is the oldest reigning monarch in the world, with the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was thought to have been around 90 years of age when he passed away this week. The Queen will overtake her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria as the longest reigning monarch in history in September this year.

  10. John Nolan says:

    John Candido

    Considering her age, the Queen looks in remarkably good health. If she lives as long as her mother did, then Charles will have the distinction of being the oldest person to succeed to the throne, assuming he lives that long; it’s not unknown for the succession to skip a generation.

    • John Candido says:

      Despite the general disinterest or lack of enthusiasm for HRH Prince Charles to accede the throne on the passing or abdication of Her Majesty The Queen, I rather like Prince Charles and would like to see him become King of England and the UK one day. I have no doubt that he is a sensitive and caring fellow who is deeply interested in the progress and advancement of all of his subjects in the UK. Charles is a very dedicated and caring father and husband, who would do anything for all of the members of his family.

      There isn’t a soul in the universe that has not made mistakes in their lives. All of these questions about the suitability of Charles to accede the throne, have their root in the failed marriage of Charles and Diana, and the tragic circumstances surrounding the accident in Paris that caused the untimely death of HRH Princess Diana, then known as Lady Diana. This awfully tragic accident saddened the entire world. Much like when President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas Texas, most people remember where they were when they heard the tragic news of Lady Diana’s passing. RIP.

  11. Quentin says:

    Having asked everyone about our response to the Holy Spirit in prayer, I have spent a little time thinking about myself.

    I find that I most typically turn to Our Lady in personal prayer. And I know why because my wife has told me. She says that any time I want something badly, I instinctively ask a woman for it. On the other hand, if I am about to do something difficult then I turn to the Holy Spirit. And this is particularly important when I have to make a moral decision of some kind.

    I can only retail the results in human terms. Our Lady, it seems to me, always answers my prayers. She is powerful with her son. The other day I was threatened with a family tragedy, and I was vividly conscious of Our Lady assuring me that it would be all right. I didn’t know what all right meant in these circumstances, and I left that to her. (And it was all right)

    Praying to the Holy Spirit helps me to clear my mind. I find it easier to see things with clarity, and to distinguish between good and questionable motives. I have no doubt that I make better and more objective decisions. When I was marriage counseling I would try to get to Mass in the morning for my prayer to the Spirit.I knew that much depended on my judgment, and that much depended on the work that the Spirit did within my clients. Indeed, watching clients bravely struggling to come up from the mire, I could almost see parted tongues as it were of fire over their heads. Watching the Spirit at work was a remarkable experience.

    • Martha says:

      I think the two liturgical prayers or hymns to the Holy Spirit, Veni Creator Spiritus, and Veni Sancte Spiritus, are very beautiful and inspiring, Come Holy Spirit, Creator, come, and, loosely, Come down O love divine.

      The shorter prayer, Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love, etc., is one which I use particularly if I am trying to find the right words on occasions when a good spiritual or moral message, or a sympathetic one, is important, making a decision, trying to explain something, attempting to diffuse a misunderstanding or tense situation, and sometimes when writing a difficult letter.

      It certainly helps to clear my mind, and I trust that He also helps positively in each situation. Your Post will encourage me to ask for this special help more often.

  12. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    A few quotes from Meister Eckhart on Disinterest:

    ….a disinterested heart, reduced to nothingness, is the optimum, the condition of maximum sensitivity.

    What is the prayer of the disinterested heart? … A disinterested man, pure in heart, has no prayer, for to pray is to want something from God, something added that one desires, or something that God is to take away. The disinterested person, however, wants nothing, and neither has he anything of which he would be rid. Therefore he has no prayer, or he prays only to be uniform with God…. When the soul achieves this, it loses its identity, it absorbs God and is reduced to nothing…. Nothing helps toward this end like disinterest.

    There is no peace except in disinterest.

    The more subject to creatures a man is, the less he conforms to God, but the disinterested heart, being void of creatures, is constantly worshipping God and conforming to Him, and is therefore sensitive to His influence…. The desires of the flesh are contrary to those of the spirit…. Therefore, discard the form and be joined to the formless essence [of God]…. The less one pays attention to the creature things, the more the Creator pursues one…. Disinterest is best of all, for by it the soul is unified, knowledge is made pure, the heart is kindled, the spirit wakened, … the virtues enhanced. Disinterest brings knowledge of God; cut off from the creature, the soul unites with God….

    • John Nolan says:

      Nektarios, what do you mean by disinterested? Impartial? Or lacking interest?

      • overload says:

        Q. “How are you?”
        A. “As the Master desires.” (St. Josephine Bakhita)

      • John L says:

        Lacking interest is rendered as “uninterested”, and many incorrectly use “disinterested” where “uninterested” is what they mean. I take it Nektarios used “disinterested” in its correct sense – Impartial, unbiased, “nothing in it for me” and similar meanings.
        Forgive the priggish interjection.

      • Nektarios says:

        John Nolan
        John L gives the correct meaning of the word disinterest

  13. Peter Foster says:

    John Nolan, January 22 10.09 h: says “The Church defines what teachings are infallible – those of the Extraordinary Magisterium, i.e. papal definitions ex cathedra and solemn declarations of ecumenical Councils, and those of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium which are held to be definitive.”

    This seems to go beyond the statement in Vatican I:

    “For the holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter
    not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”

    How precisely is the deposit of faith to be applied in the context of the social and economic revolutions derived from science, technology and climate change; and the now-started revolutions coming from genetics and biology which enable the manipulation of life? In what domains can it be validly applied?

    In Humanae Vitae, the Church misused religious authority [the Holy Spirit?] to decide a question which by the theory of ‘natural law’ was open to be decided by reason alone. Perhaps it was saved by the Holy Spirit from an ex cathedra declaration.

  14. Andrew Lack says:

    Oliver Cromwell followed the Holy Spirit explicitly – it helped him win the Battle of Naseby and others. Luther was a great follower of it. Queen Mary was the same in burning heretics. I guess the inquisitors of Galileo and others were also. Islamic jihadists? I would so love to trust it, but what examples there are.

    • Martha says:

      Your examples illustrate the reason for the teaching we were given as children, to be very wary of feelings and emotions in the spiritual life, and of any private revelations not officially sanctioned by the Church.

      • milliganp says:

        No private revelation is readily sanctioned by the Church. Every private revelation takes time to be recognised and approved so there is always a time when some believe before the Church.

      • Martha says:

        Milliganp, I was thinking of those which are delusions and would not be recognised by the Church. It can be a very difficult area, when a person mistakenly imagines that he is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but too much caution could perhaps prevent a great blessing or message being shared.

    • overload says:

      Was not the very motivation for the blending of Christianity and Church with state/Empire (a distressingly confusing thing to do, I feel!) a vision which promised, on the basis of a mere sign in the sky — not anything to do with the Son of God who died for us, salvation, love, etc. — victory in war?

  15. John Nolan says:

    Peter, I’m not sure what you’re on about. HV merely reiterated traditional teaching. The two ‘ex cathedra’ statements on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption (nearly a hundred years apart, and the former pre-dating Vatican I by sixteen years) defined as dogma what had been accepted as belief for over a millennium.

    Who says that ‘the Church’ misused religious authority? You yourself? And what precisely is your authority for this statement? I don’t hold much of a brief for Paul VI but I would venture that his encyclical carries more weight than the subjective opinion of Peter Foster, Esquire.

    • Peter Foster says:

      In your view, will the forthcoming encyclical on the environment and climate change be infallible?

      • milliganp says:

        Peter, your earlier post seemed to answer John Nolan’s question in advance – though I’m not sure he noticed. Although the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Asumption of the Virgin Mary had been held for considerable time they are not of direct Apostolic origin and so the declarations made the doctrined definitive – thus this is adding to revelation.
        Some would say that HV was merely reiterating belief of Apostolic origin since the story of Onesimus, which is the biblical basis for the ban on contraception, is part of the deposit of faith which arises from scripture. The addition of the pill (and later contraceptive means) blurred the applicability of the Onesimus prohibition. In this case it could be characterised as “making known new doctrine”.
        The likelihood of any infallible dogmatic statement on ecology and the environment is, I would expect, extremely low. However appropriate use of resources and the the riches of creation are certainly moral issues.
        I can’t see myself confessing creating unecessary or excessive CO2 in confession anytime soon. However there may be a level of excess which constitutes negligence (driving to work in a Humvee may get close).

    • Peter Foster says:

      John, with regard to your ad hominem argument, Paul VI did not himself examine the question

      Humanae Vitae
      The Magisterium’s Reply
      6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question.

      • Peter Foster says:

        Milligamp. Which reference in Humanae Vita leads us to Onesimus?

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Peter Foster – I imagine “Onesimus” was a slip of the brain for Onan – Genesis 38: 9.

      • overload says:

        Milliganp, this reference to Onan (and this alone!) is a very weak Scriptural justification for the necessity of openness to life in marriage. Is there no likelihood that the reason what he did was “wicked in the Lord’s sight” was primarily because of his motivation? If so, then it says nothing at all about a universal divine Law as applicable to all married couples in all circumstances.

      • milliganp says:

        Sorry about the name confusion – brain not in gear.
        I am not suggesting that the story of Onan is either about birth control or masturbation but the Church has chosen to do so.

  16. Iona says:

    For what it’s worth, – the priest who instructed me (may he rest in peace) suggested I should use the prayer: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.
    Praying specifically to the Spirit has always seemed to me like opening a door and stepping out into… One knows not what, but something new, and something not to be feared or dreaded. One might see things in a completely different way.

  17. milliganp says:

    An oft missed treasure in considering the role of the Holy Spirit is to contemplate the term the Evangelist John uses: Paraclete – which has been variously translated “advocate”, “intercessor”, “teacher, “helper”, “comforter”.

  18. overload says:

    Milliganp, I am aware of no connection between Onesimus in Holy Scripture, and HV — can you explain what you are talking about?

    With reference to the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, I hold that these seem not to be added to revelation at all, rather they are already written about in some depth in Holy Scripture; I say this on the basis that Mary is to be understood first and foremost as the Church (Jesus’ greater mother). And if this is true then I think there follows a space for the faith that the human person of Mary also embodied both these Dogmas on a micro-level in her individual human life.

    • Quentin says:

      Onesimus is in Colossians.

      • Peter Foster says:

        Thankyou Peter D Wilson.

        Milligamp. When I turn to the note on Genesis ch.38: v.38 in the New Jerusalem Bible I find:
        c. Yahweh condemns Onan for failing to put his duty to the family and nation before his own self-interest.
        The commentator, contrary to the view of St Augustine presented in Casti Conubii (para 55), does not see this as a clear-cut declaration of an immutable law relating to sexual practice.

        “The claim, “The Bible says”, […] nearly always precedes a claim that is either false or at best is partial [..] or a […] conviction of knowing what the Bible must have meant”; said in a review in The Tablet of an explication of this problem:
        “The Bible Now: homosexuality, abortion, women, the death penalty, earth”
        By Richard Elliot Friedman & Shawna Dolansky, OUP.

      • Peter Foster says:

        Sorry, Genesis ch.38: v.9

      • milliganp says:

        I though Onan and my fingers type Onesimus.

    • milliganp says:

      There is no record of Mary’s death or Assumption in scripture so we simply cannot call the Assumption part of the deposit of faith derived from Scripture. Similarly there is only a hint of the Immaculate Conception. Thomas Aquinas opposed the doctrine on the basis that Christ died for all, including Mary. Duns Scotus came up with the idea of “an extraordinary retrospecive grace” wherby the salvation effected by Christ’s death on the cross was applied “accross time”.
      The Church is the “bride of Christ” so it cannot be His mother at the same time; your position does not accord with any explanation of the dogma of which I am aware.

      • overload says:

        milliganp, “The Church is the ‘bride of Christ’ so it cannot be His mother at the same time”.
        This argument reminds me of people who protest against the Eucharist on the basis that it is cannibalism.

  19. Nektarios says:

    Jesus said, concerning the Holy Spirit, `He shall not speak of Himself, but He shall take of the things that are mine and show them unto you.’
    So what things are these that the Holy Spirit takes of Christ and shows them to us?

  20. overload says:

    Coming back to the Immaculate Conception, apologies for any conceit / ignorance; none the less, unless you think I am worthy of excommunication, please consider and/or correct me…

    My mind and faith agrees with this Dogma: it needs be that Mary the Virgin was sinless when she conceived the Son, and in bearing Him.

    I don’t know (and, as far as I can read, Scripture does not tell me) whether Mary was conceived sinlessly, or whether she was and remained sinless from conception. When Gabriel addressed Mary as “full of grace / highly favoured one”, I believe that this says he is addressing one who is free from sin. Whether she was free from sin before this moment, and whether it needs be she should have been so (I don’t think I think so), I do not know. I am willing to believe she was without sin for her life, and that she was conceived sinlessly. And on one hand I would like to believe this. However, if she was conceived sinlessly, on what basis is the revelation that this was achieved (and can only have been achieved?) by the action of an Angel? Could not her parents have found grace and favour with God, and expressed this in the act of copulation?

    Emotionally I would like to believe (and I think I am willing to believe) that Mary remained a virgin all her life; but intellectually I have questions: this is not stated in Scripture and yet there is mention of “James brother of the Lord” (Galatians 1:19) and Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” (Mark 6:3 & Matt 13:55-56). What does this mean?

    Is there a reason why Mary could not remain sinless if entering into sexual relations with Joseph and having children by him?

    • milliganp says:

      As far as I am aware there is no recognised source of a definitive pre-history of Mary or the extended family of Jesus; Some say that Joseph was a widower and had children from his first marriage. There is also the fact that the terms brother and sister extended to cousins (this tends to be the Catholic explanation of “James, brother of the Lord”).
      My argument (and this is defo a personal opinion) was that Jesus could not have immediate kin or we would have a cult of Jesus’ family outside Mary or Joseph.

    • St.Joseph says:

      overload.
      There are some Catholic Answers that will show where the Immaculate Conception is a refrence in the Bible.Genesis going back to calling Her the second Ark of the Covenant.

      Also in1830 St Catherine Laboure had the visions of Our Lady, when She asked her to have the Miraculous Medal struck and gave St Catherine the designn for the Medal.and the inscription.
      ‘O Mary Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recoursed to thee.’.

      Also when Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette, she said I Am the Immaculate Conception.Or maybe it was Fatima or both.
      This is all approved by Holy Mother Church.
      I do not doubt this-this is our faith.

    • overload says:

      Briefly, further to my previous comment, that Mary “needs” be without sin to conceive and bear the Son of God — in one sense I question if actually this is not true: considering that this world, which is full of sin, gave birth to the Son of God. No man (or woman) is an island?

      Nektarios,
      I think we can see that Jesus had two fundamental ‘births’. The two fundamental births are His Baptism (it seems here He is surely united with the Holy Spirit), and His Crucifixion (confirmed as God and Our Saviour). I suggest that these are fundamental — in one sense more fundamental than His human birth — because St John tells us that there are two things by which Jesus came: water and blood. And with this is the Holy Spirit who agrees with these two, to testify to us (and in us), of this His divinity and salvation. (1 John 5:6–)

      (A further note… before His baptism and subsequent testing in the desert, perhaps He was in the womb of Israel, so to speak.)

  21. Nektarios says:

    This arguments /discussions/postings, interesting and riddled with errors and misunderstandings as it is, has nothing to do with the topic in hand – has it? Quentin requires an answer, I have in part given mine, what are yours?
    Shall we get back to the topic in hand, please?

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you for this Nektarios. Yes, I do invite (rather than ‘require’) answers to my questions, so that we can all benefit from debating the same central issues. I have no problem with diversions – which are bound to arise in open discussion – but it’s good then to get back to the underlying issues.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      In answer to your comment, ,What part does the He (the Holy Spirit) play in communicating salvation?
      A daily Prayer of the Lady of All Nations, approved by the Vatican I say daily.

      Lord Jesus Christ Son of the Father,
      send now Your Spirit over the earth.
      Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations,
      that they may be preserved
      from degeneration ,disaster and war.
      May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary,
      be our Advocate. Amen
      This Prayer was given by Our Lady specifically to prepare the way for the proclamation of the Dogma of Mary Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        Obviously, I cannot answer your question in full on the SS blog as it would be infinitely too long. Suffice to say, that the Holy Spirit is involved with every aspect concerning God’s Salvation in us, with the Church as a whole and so on.

        I don’t believe the Holy Mother gave this prayer leading to the dogma of Mary Co-Redemptrix and Advocate,
        The reason for this is, there is only one Avocate betwixt God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Please read this out loud, Ist Espistle of John chapter 2: verses 1-2.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        First of all I was not asking you a question! Or your opinion.
        You have a free will to believe what you wish.
        I believe that the Church is a Living Church, therefore never stands still.
        The Spirit moves it as time and revelation appears.
        The Holy Spirit is I believe the Spouse of Our Blessed Mother and She still has a part to play in our salvation.

  22. overload says:

    In consideration of Nektarios, Martha, and St Joseph’s latest comments…

    Could visions/apparitions of Mary be encounters with the Holy Spirit, appearing as embodying the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (Church)? Could visions/apparitions of ‘Mary’ be encounters with the Devil (ie. read 2 Corinthians 11:12-14)? Is it possible both of these could occur at the same time, in the same encounter? Imagine a black and white yin and yang symbol, which makes up an interlocked and inseparable whole. What about adding to this some shades of grey, to allow for the inclusion of confused human imagination into the mix?

    I read on wikipedia that the name ‘Mary’ has various meanings: Wished-for child; rebellion; bitter.

    Has anyone heard of “the Mystical City of God”, written by a Franciscan nun who claimed that it was given her by Mary? Apparently the nun was told by Mary that she was being given a superior Gospel.
    So could there more than one ‘Mary’ jostling for One Mary?

    • Nektarios says:

      Overload
      Like part of St. Joseph’s posting , here is another egotistical nun, utterly deluded if she was claiming
      “she was being given a superior Gospel”.
      For starters, no other Gospel will be given than has been given.
      I for one, believe the Gospel we have that has been handed down to us, there is no other.

      As for that poor nun’s delusion, and it is delusion she was given a superior Gospel, she could not have been aware that the Holy Spirit was not the author of it and was not working with her. So who was?
      Stick with Scripture, prayerfully reading, studying and asking the Lord would open up the treasures in His Word. That way we won’t get lead astray.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        I hope you are not suggesting that I am ‘another egotistical nun, utterly deluded’.
        Am I to believe that the Orthodox Church does not believe in the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption. So why would I ask for your thoughts on Our Lady?

  23. Brendan says:

    Jesus said….” I will send you an Advocate [ The Paraclete ] with the Father “. Pentecost saw this promise – He never made promises that were not realised – fulfilled in his followers and henceforth in us , where The Paraclete ( Holy Spirit ) dwells. We proclaim this at Holy Mass in the Creed – although I suspect Nektarios may have a different take regarding the emanation of the Holy Spirit.
    To use observable ( ? empirical ) results which Christians can attribute to the workings of the Spirit of God in us, I relate a situation which I have encountered countless times in my life while’st on my journey of growth in ‘ faith ‘ in the Christian life, from receiving baptism in Christ ( my initial Pentecost ) with the supernatural endowment of Gods Spirit. This focus in the Triune – God is spiritually essential I believe to understand how the Holy Spirit ‘ works ‘. There I direct my supplications.
    All my life I have been subject to phases of acute anxiety, the kind that makes ‘ mountains of of molehills’.[ just as an aside I have a theory that some psychological atavism may be at work in such circumstances in my case ] and I have come to believe , that continued faith in an all mercify/omnipotent God ( The Father ) – the efficacy of which is laid open to me by the saving actions of His Divine Son – is only made possible in my prayers by the knowledge that the Holy Spirit living in me as a tangible prescence , can deliver the ‘ help ‘ I need in my distressed state. In which case I can say that my prayers have been ‘ answered ‘ in that I can be fully at peace and at one with myself again. The ‘saints ‘ on earth as well as the saints in Heaven surely must testify to this universal ‘ phenomenon. ‘ For me that’s how the Holy Spirit unfailingly works.

  24. Nektarios says:

    St. Joseph
    You correctly assumed, I was not referring or inferring that you were an egoistical or deluded nun.
    I too believe the Church, not just the RCC make up the body of Christ, and is living.
    However, I am not free as a Christian, as part of the body of Christ, I do not have the liberty to believe what I wish. The Church believes certain things.
    If I am to be conformed to the image of Christ through the workings of the Holy Spirit, then I can only trust what essentially the Scriptures teach. The world is full of so-called Christian people being led astray with all sorts of things, many making shipwreck of their faith. We must hold fast to the things that are surely believed among us.

  25. overload says:

    St. Joseph, the Holy Spirit alone is not Mary’s spouse, the Trinity is Her spouse.

    Nektarios,
    I see nothing about choosing to have an ’emotional’ belief in Mary as Jesus’ and our Mother which is necessarily contrary to Scripture. And regarding the concept that she is “Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate”: if we are clear in admitting that to us now ‘Mary’ =(is the same as)= the Body of Christ (the One True Church), then I believe this is in accordance with Scripture. You say (as the Scriptures say) that Jesus Christ (the Trinity) alone is the mediator and redeemer. Indeed, and we — so much as we are the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit”, the Body of Christ — we are born in Christ, living in Him (and together in Her), and He in us, living. So He enacts His redemptive work both in us and through us to each other in Him (in Her), and to reach out to proclaim the Gospel to others.

    St. Joseph, what Star is this you speak? Bear in mind the translation of Lucifer is “morning star”.
    On the other hand, St. Peter instructs us heed prophesy in Scripture until “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. So in this instance the morning star is Christ.

    • Nektarios says:

      Overload
      I will hold fast to sound words.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Overload.
      Our Blessed Mother intercedes for us and points us to Her Son .
      She does not come between us and Him.
      She is the ‘Star of the sea’, a shining light in the darkness.
      Perhaps that is too deep for your understanding.
      One could associate Our Lady with crushing Lucifer with Her Heel.
      But then maybe too vague for you as well!
      BTW the Trinity is three ‘persons in One God.’

      • overload says:

        St Joseph,

        I didn’t say that our Blessed Mother comes between us and her Son.
        I agree about the Trinity as One; hence if Mary is the spouse of one member I think she is necessarily spouse of all three.

        ‘Star of the sea’, what does this mean? I am reminded of another Scripture, this one from Ezekiel:
        In the pride of your heart
        you say, “I am a god;
        I sit on the throne of a god
        in the heart of the seas.
        But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
        though you think you are as wise as a god.”

      • overload says:

        Correction:
        In the pride of your heart
        you say, “I am a god;
        I sit on the throne of a god
        in the heart of the seas.”
        But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
        though you think you are as wise as a god.

      • overload says:

        “One could associate Our Lady with crushing Lucifer with Her Heel.”
        Amen.

  26. St.Joseph says:

    Overload
    I think you may be getting confused!.
    Why does’ Star of the Sea-remind you of the poem’
    I hope you are not suggesting that Our Lady believes Her self to be God.
    As Catholics we call Her the Mother of God. In the Hail Mary Prayer we pray.
    The Blessed Trinity is 3 Persons in one God.Father Son and Holy Spirit.
    We call these Mysteries.
    We accept that as our Faith.
    I did not say that you said ‘Our Blessed Mother comes between us and Her Son’!!!!
    Where did you get that from?.

  27. St.Joseph says:

    Overload.
    For your information.
    The hymn Hail Queen of Heaven and O Purist of Creatures has the recognition of Our Lady as Sweet Star of the Sea.Plus many more. I thought you would have known that.Obviously not,
    Catholic Hymns!!

  28. Quentin says:

    We need some clarity here. The distinction must be made between person and nature. In this context person means identity, it tells us who someone is — so the three persons have three different identities. Nature describes what a person is, and this is the one divine nature which each shares. Thus it is right to call Mary the mother of God, but not right to call her the mother of the father or of the spirit.

    Many descriptions of Mary are born out of piety rather than theology. They do no harm unless they confuse our basic understanding. Thus Christ is indeed the only advocate, but we might refer to Mary as an advocate by way of association. She may have a special position but, by the same argument, we are all advocates when we pray for one another.

    • overload says:

      Quentin, you talk of Mary as having a special position. No doubt (and as Scripture accords) she was Blessed to be the Mother of God. So I think we remember this, particularly according to the flesh, historically, partly as an archetype. And, from a Scriptural perspective, I think we should consider her amongst the Apostles (and Saints and Martyrs who have given a full witness to Christ), all of whom hold a special position. Who (if anyone) is more special than who: I think this is for God to say.
      Further to this point, Scripture tells me that I — so much as I do God’s will — am also the Mother of God. So also with you. So I think in a sense God wants to lift us all (individually and collectively) up to a special privileged position, and offer us equality, if, living in faith and obedience, we will let Him make and complete us as His masterpiece(s).

  29. Peter Foster says:

    To come back to Quentin’s questions: the Gospels give us the theoretical basis of the Spirit giving the power of grace to help the decisions of those who seek it; but the Spirit, though an agent, is too abstract to contemplate in comparison with Christ. For this reason prayers invoking the Spirit tend to be ritualistic e.g. “come…. and renew the face of the earth” .In practice for many the direct relation to the message of Christ comes through his presence in the Eucharist [also exemplified in the past by the now defunct ritual of Benediction]

    The successors of the apostles are human beings who struggle with matters of morals as do we all. However, the claims of certain and accurate guidance by the Holy Spirit for Church proclamations have lacked humility. It seems the Church thought it had the grand theory of everything [still sought by the physicists] and could and should control every aspect of Christian life; whereas the truth is that for Christians, life is a constant struggle to find Christlike solutions to our problems. In each epoch the interplay, between the theories in the current state of knowledge and the message of Christ, necessarily creates problems to which we should always be open, hopefully with the help of the Spirit.

  30. overload says:

    We talk of receiving the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name, and we hold that there is a difference in this respect between the baptised and not-baptised.
    So on the one hand we find Christians saying “we baptised are fundamentally different, we are saved and we have a capacity to love which the non-baptised do not have; they have not been born again in the Spirit of Christ.” — and yet everyone listening is well aware that it is far from unheard of that the non-baptised show an equal (or sometimes greater) capacity to love than the baptised.
    Is the Holy Spirit, and His living presence in the human heart, and salvation of Christ, available to all, baptised or not, Christian or not?
    In this respect: what we think and what we really believe; do these two meet?
    This is perhaps a point of discussion on which Protestant and Catholics would differ in what they say? And would they differ in what they believe?

  31. Iona says:

    Peter Foster – Benediction, defunct? – In the church I attend, Benediction takes place every Saturday morning.

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