As early as the first century, St. Clement of Rome gives us important teaching about the Holy Ghost. His “Epistle to the Corinthians” not only tells us that the Spirit inspired and guided the holy writers (viii, 1; xlv, 2); that He is the voice of Jesus Christ speaking to us in the Old Testament (xxii, 1 sq.); but it contains further, two very explicit statements about the Trinity. In c. xlvi, 6 (Funk, “Patres apostolici”, 2nd ed., I,158), we read that “we have only one God, one Christ, one only Spirit of grace within us, one same vocation in Christ”. In lviii, 2 (Funk, ibid., 172), the author makes this solemn affirmation; zo gar ho theos, kai zo ho kyrios Iesous Christos kai to pneuma to hagion, he te pistis kai he elpis ton eklekton, oti . . .which we may compare with the formula so frequently met with in the Old Testament: zo kyrios. From this it follows that, in Clement’s view, kyrios was equally applicable to ho theos (the Father), ho kyrios Iesous Christos, and to pneuma to hagion; and that we have three witnesses of equal authority, whose Trinity, moreover, is the foundation of Christian faith and hope.
The same doctrine is declared, in the second and third centuries, by the lips of the martyrs, and is found in the writings of the Fathers. St. Polycarp (d. 155), in his torments, thus professed his faith in the Three Adorable Persons (“Martyrium sancti Polycarpi” in Funk op. cit., I, 330): “Lord God Almighty, Father of Thy blessed and well beloved Son, Jesus Christ . . . in everything I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee by the eternal and celestial pontiff Jesus Christ, Thy well beloved Son, by whom, to Thee, with Him and with the Holy Ghost, glory now and for ever!”
St. Epipodius spoke more distinctly still (Ruinart, “Acta mart.”, Verona edition, p. 65): “I confess that Christ is God with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and it is fitting that I should give back my soul to Him Who is my Creator and my Redeemer.”
Among the apologists, Athenagoras mentions the Holy Ghost along with, and on the same plane as, the Father and the Son. “Who would not be astonished”, says he (Legat. pro christian., n. 10, in P.G., VI, col. 909), “to hear us called atheists, us who confess God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost, and hold them one in power and distinct in order [. . . ten en te henosei dynamin, kai ten en te taxei diairesin]?”
Theophilus of Antioch, who sometimes gives to the Holy Ghost, as to the Son, the name of Wisdom (sophia), mentions besides (Ad Autol., lib. I, n. 7, and II, n. 18, in P.G., VI, col. 1035, 1081) the three terms theos, logos, sophia and, being the first to apply the characteristic word that was afterwards adopted, says expressly (ibid., II, 15) that they form a trinity (trias).
Irenæus looks upon the Holy Ghost as eternal (Adv. Hær., V, xii, n. 2, in P.G., VII, 1153), existing in God ante omnem constitutionem, and produced by him at the beginning of His ways (ibid., IV, xx, 3). Considered with regard to the Father, the Holy Ghost is his wisdom (IV, xx, 3); the Son and He are the “two hands” by which God created man (IV, præf.
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, n. 4; IV, xx, 20; V, vi, 1). Considered with regard to the Church, the same Spirit is truth, grace, a pledge of immortality, a principle of union with God; intimately united to the Church, He gives the sacraments their efficacy and virtue (III, xvii, 2, xxiv, 1; IV, xxxiii, 7; V, viii, 1).
St. Hippolytus, though he does not speak at all clearly of the Holy Ghost regarded as a distinct person, supposes him, however, to be God, as well as the Father and the Son (Contra Noët., viii, xii, in P.G., X, 816, 820).
Tertullian is one of the writers of this age whose tendency to Subordinationism is most apparent, and that in spite of his being the author of the definitive formula: “Three persons, one substance“. And yet his teaching on the Holy Ghost is in every way remarkable. He seems to have been the first among the Fathers to affirm His Divinity in a clear and absolutely precise manner. In his work “Adversus Praxean” lie dwells at length on the greatness of the Paraclete. The Holy Ghost, he says, is God (c. xiii in P.L., II, 193); of the substance of the Father (iii, iv in P.L., II, 181-2); one and the same God with the Father and the Son (ii in P.L., II, 180); proceeding from the Father through the Son (iv, viii in P.L., II, 182, 187); teaching all truth (ii in P.L., II, 179).
St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, or at least the Ekthesis tes pisteos, which is commonly attributed to him, and which dates from the period 260-270, gives us this remarkable passage (P.G., X, 933 sqq.): “One is God, Father of the living Word, of the subsisting Wisdom. . . . One the Lord, one of one, God of God, invisible of invisible. . .One the Holy Ghost, having His subsistence from God. . . . Perfect Trinity, which in eternity, glory, and power, is neither divided, nor separated. . . . Unchanging and immutable Trinity.”
In 304, the martyr St. Vincent said (Ruinart, op. cit., 325): “I confess the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father most High, one of one; I recognize Him as one God with the Father and the Holy Ghost.”
But we must come down towards the year 360 to find the doctrine on the Holy Ghost explained both fully and clearly. It is St. Athanasius who does so in his “Letters to Serapion” (P.G., XXVI, col. 525 sq.). He had been informed that certain Christians held that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity was a creature. To refute them he questions the Scriptures, and they furnish him with arguments as solid as they are numerous. They tell him, in particular, that the Holy Ghost is united to the Son by relations just like those existing between the Son and the Father; that He is sent by the Son; that He is His mouth-piece and glorifies Him; that, unlike creatures, He has not been made out of nothing, but comes forth from God; that He performs a sanctifying work among men, of which no creature is capable; that in possessing Him we possess God; that the Father created everything by Him; that, in fine, He is immutable, has the attributes of immensity, oneness, and has a right to all the appellations that are used to express the dignity of the Son. Most of these conclusions he supports by means of Scriptural texts, a few from amongst which are given above. But the writer lays special stress on what is read in Matthew 28:19. “The Lord”, he writes (Ad Serap., III, n. 6, in P.G., XXVI, 633 sq.), “founded the Faith of the Church on the Trinity, when He said to His Apostles: ‘Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ If the Holy Ghost were a creature, Christ would not have associated Him with the Father; He would have avoided making a heterogeneous Trinity, composed of unlike elements. What did God stand in need of? Did He need to join to Himself a being of different nature? . . . No, the Trinity is not composed of the Creator and the creature.”
A little later, St. Basil, Didymus of Alexandria, St. Epiphanius, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Ambrose, and St. Gregory of Nyssa took up the same thesis ex professo, supporting it for the most part with the same proofs. All these writings had prepared the way for the Council of Constantinople which, in 381, condemned the Pneumatomachians and solemnly proclaimed the true doctrine. This teaching forms part of the Creed of Constantinople, as it is called, where the symbol refers to the Holy Ghost, “Who is also our Lord and Who gives life; Who proceeds from the Father, Who is adored and glorified together with the Father and the Son; Who spoke by the prophets”. Was this creed, with these particular words, approved by the council of 381? Formerly that was the common opinion, and even in recent times it has been held by authorities like Hefele, Hergenröther, and Funk; other historians, amongst whom are Harnack and Duchesne, are of the contrary opinion; but all agree in admitting that the creed of which we are speaking was received and approved by the Council of Chalcedon, in 451, and that, at least from that time, it became the official formula of Catholic orthodoxy. 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.