Epistle to Ansgar, Letter 04: God the Holy Ghost

28 January AD 2024, Feast of St Thomas Aquinas

Dear Godson,

This day is the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the schoolman who, for once and all, reconciled faith and philosophy, church and science.

Any man who says there is conflict speaks in ignorance, or in malice, either being too literal in his interpretation of scripture, or too hasty in calling the ever-changing guesswork of science factual. It is to be noted that true Churchmen and true scientists themselves see no such conflict, nor appearance of conflict.

The same Holy Ghost who inspired Moses and the prophets, and inspired the saints and apostles, was He who moved softly across the face of the deep when creation was formless and void, brooding as a dove over her chicks. The Creator will not take amiss any disciplined and honest investigation of the artwork and architecture involved in the making of stars and atoms, sea and sky, microbe and mastodon, the geometry of the leaf, the lifecycle of galaxies, the engineering of the inner amoeba.

Thomas Aquinas would approve of any intellectual approach to these great things that kept its aim and nature in mind: science is meant to topple the idols of false beliefs about nature, not to erect them.

No greater threat to astrology exists than sending a man to trample on the moon, and leave a footprint there; no greater threat to the preposterous arrogance of alchemy, with its promises of elixirs to prolong life or stones to make gold from lead, than the humble researches of chemistry. Christianity, alone of all faiths, preaches that God is rational, and made a rational creation equipping us with reason to enable us to study, learn, and adore the hand of God by seeing his handiwork.

How else can one see the unseen Holy Ghost, except to see the world that was hatched from beneath his wings?

God the Father is the main character of the Old Testament, as is God the Son in the Gospels. Both are quoted at length, as in the Ten Commandments, or in the Beatitudes, and their miracles and mighty works are recorded, recalled, lauded in these and many other works.

God the Holy Ghost is harder to see, and is not described, even in metaphor, save in one or two place in the Old Testament or Gospels: there, He is said to brood over the deep before creation; and likewise to descended like a dove on Christ during the baptism, before, as it were, the new creation. Again, the spirit is breathed into Adam to make him a living soul when the first of human life begins; and likewise the risen Christ breathes the spirit to his apostles when the first of Christian life, a life beyond life, true life, begins.

But in the Acts of the Apostles, we see the Spirit in action. The power of the Spirit as divided tongues of flame descends upon the brows of the apostles and Mary at Pentecost, the baptism of fire foreseen by John the Baptist.

Moses saw God the Father, at least in part, and lived, whereas, during the Transfiguration, three of the Apostles saw God the Son in his undisguised glory, as did Saint John once again at the beginning of his visions of the Apocalypse. But who has ever seen God the Holy Ghost?

The Holy Ghost is the spirit that issues from the Father and Son, their mutual love, which gives life to all living things, and spiritual life to the spirit of man. This spirit can be seen animating any nation or institution devoted to God. It is the spirit that inspires the Prophets and grants life to the unborn, and renewed life to the dead.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see as much of the spirit in action as we can see: it is this that descends on the Apostles, fills them, gives them power, advises them what to say, performs the great works and wonders of healing the sick and raising the dead, to confirm to onlookers the holy men spoke with at the direction and with the authority of heaven.  We often wonder why miracles are rare, but their primary purpose seems to be to confirm that if the power of Christ or of His servants can raise a paralyzed cripple from his sick-bed, it can also forgive sins. We are shown things we can see so that we will have faith in things we cannot see. Likewise, we have depictions of God the Son, whose face men looked upon, but to see the Holy Ghost, we must look at the Church, and see what spirit instructs, animates and grants her growth: It is He.


Your godfather

John Charles Justinmartyr Wright