The Five Most Surprising Names for the Holy Spirit

ParacleteIn Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we have two persons who appear to us in radically different forms, or so it often seems.

Christ is God in the flesh nailed to the Cross. He is the God who wept and slept, who ate food, and who sweated in the Garden of Gethsemane. The images of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, are of a radically different character: tongues of fire, the heavenly wind, the dove that flies away. In Christ, we touch and see God. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, seems to be God intangible.

But Scripture also speaks of the Holy Spirit in terms that assure us of His definite presence in our midst. Here are five surprising biblical names for the third person of the Trinity.

The Kiss. Song of Songs opens with a line traditionally understood as a reference to the Trinity: Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth. (Translations are Douay-Rheims unless otherwise noted.) Church Fathers have seen in these words a trinitarian formula, in which the ‘him’ of the verse is the Father, the ‘mouth’ is the Son, and the ‘kiss’ is the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is the kiss that the mouth of the beloved Son imprints forever on our hearts,” writes Jesuit theologian Blaise Arminjon. “The same kiss eternally united the Father and the Son within the Trinity is now uniting us to them.” The ‘divine kiss’ is indeed an apt name for the Holy Spirit, by whom Mary conceived Christ. The Holy Spirit is also the one who washes away original sin in baptism and who makes Christ present in the Eucharist—all of which unite us, in Christ, to God the Father. Put simply, the Holy Spirit is the ‘kiss’ that unites humanity to divinity.

The Best Wine. In Song of Songs 7:9-10, we find another name for the Holy Spirit in a trinitarian setting: “I said: I will go up into the palm tree, and will take hold of the fruit thereof: and thy breasts shall be as the clusters of the vine: and the odour of thy mouth like apples. Thy throat like the best wine, worthy for my beloved to drink, and for his lips and his teeth to ruminate.” In this exchange between Bridge and Bridegroom—or Christ and the Father—the wine is symbolizes the love they share, personified in the Holy Spirit, according to Arminjon. Mechthild of Magdeburg, a medieval mystic from Germany, explains this metaphor through another one: “the Father is the cupbearer of this intoxicating life, the Son is the cup and the Spirit is the wine.” (This name also has intriguing Eucharistic connotations!)

Finger of God. Christ introduced us to the Holy Spirit using several names. One of the more famous is the ‘Paraclete,’ a word transliterated directly from the Greek, meaning ‘advocate,’ ‘intercessor,’ and ‘counselor,’ according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. Lesser known is the name Jesus gives to the Holy Spirit in Luke 11:20, “But if I by the finger of God cast out devils; doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you.” In the Old Testament, as the catechism notes, the Ten Commandments were said to be written by the “finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Indeed, as Catholic Christians, we believe all Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit, making the “finger of God” a particularly fitting name for Him. St. Augustine also sees it as an apt name “because of the distribution of gifts” which are given through the Holy Spirit. “For in none of our members is division more apparent than in our fingers,” St. Augustine said.

As with the images in Song of Songs, some Church fathers also saw trinitarian implications in this name. “The Son was said to be the hand and arm of the Father, for the Father works all things by Him,” writes St. Cyril of Alexandria. “As then the finger is not separate from the hard, but by nature a part of it; so the Holy Spirit is consubstantially united to the Son, and through Him the Son does all things.” St. Ambrose draws the same conclusion, referring to the finger as a “form of unity.”

The Seal. 1 Corinthians 1:22 offers two new names for the third person of the Trinity. The previous verses refer to the promises of God who ‘confirms’ us in Christ and has ‘anointed’ us. Then this verse adds: “Who also hath sealed us, and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.” Scripture scholars see two names for the Holy Spirit in this sentence: seal and pledge. ‘Seal’ is also used in Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. We are sealed in the Spirit most concretely in the Sacrament of Confirmation, according to the catechism. The catechism further explains the significance of the image this way: “A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object. Hence soldiers were marked with their leader’s seal and slaves with their master’s. A seal authenticates a juridical act or document and occasionally makes it secret.” In sealing us with the Holy Spirit, then, God is marking us out as belonging to Him. And what a mark of ownership we receive! This is no mere mark or symbol, but a person, the third person of the Trinity. The catechism concludes: “This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.” (In Revelation 7, the ‘seal’ refers to the chosen ones set apart by God in the end times.)

The Deposit. No one seems quite sure how to translate the second name for the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 1:22. (The name again is echoed in Ephesians 1:14.) Douay-Rheims renders it as ‘pledge.’ The New American Bible instead uses the phrase ‘first installment.’ In other translations it reads as ‘down payment,’ ‘guarantee,’ and ‘earnest.’ In Greek, the word is arrabona, defined as “money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will subsequently be paid,” according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. In the context of Scripture, we should then understand the Holy Spirit to be “both a foretaste and a pledge of future blessedness,” the lexicon says. St. John Chrysostom concludes his homily on this chapter with this exhortation: “Knowing then all this, and considering our high estate, let us exhibit a life worthy of the grace.”

 

 

Stephen Beale

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Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.rowse Maria Rowse

    Stephen…this is great! We need to know of these wonderful facets of God’s Spirit…and even more! Keep writing!

  • Denise

    What wonderful revelation on the Holy Spirit, I Thank You for it!

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