The Role of the Holy Spirit in Forming the Church
Addressing this subject involves a profound theology of the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Son in the Trinity and in the same Son Incarnate in time and in
Within God, the Holy Spirit is always the Third Person in order, not time, as all three Persons are co-eternal), spirated from the Father with and through the Son, and so has no independent agenda of His own. But with the Creation and Redemption there is a sort of “reversal”, by which the Holy Spirit is prior in importance in bringing about the effect God wants. Thus it is the Spirit Who hovers over the waters in Creations, overshadows the Virgin Mary bringing about the Incarnation of the Word of God, and descends upon the disciples gathered around Mary “en-souling” that visible gathering with Himself into an organic Body or supernatural communion of grace joined as a whole permanently to Christ the Invisible Head, to form one Mystical Person, Christ and His Church.
This means that in the Christ’s visible Body of the Church the Holy Spirit is superior to the visible forms of that Body; but it also means that the Holy Spirit is only operating as He receives from the Resurrected, Incarnate Son in concert with His Father in the Mission of actual reconciliation with the sanctification of a definite people. So while the Holy Spirit is superior as cause to the visible Church, the definite, historical, visible Church begun at Pentecost is never separate from the Holy Spirit as a visible organism, i.e., in head and members as one whole visible communion. Individuals and groups of it can be cut off from the Holy Spirit, but not the visible organism itself.
The disease and immorality can infect the Body of the visible Church, but can never destroy it by separating the Holy Spirit from infusing Himself into the Church as its soul by grace and joining her to her Groom in supernatural marriage, any more than the Humanity of Christ can be separated from the Person of Christ, the Second Person in God, for the Holy Spirit infallibly joins to the Son of God the concrete human being – but not human person – called Jesus. In other words, the Holy Spirit infallibly joins the extended visible body of His historical Church of the Apostles, with visible universal head (Peter and successor, who is the local head of the Church at
So it’s not that the historical Church was by accident having no alternatives and being temporarily just the only game in town, as it were, which as time went on could produce alternatives that the Holy Spirit infallibly moves the individual to decide where the best place is for himself to hook up to or even to start another grouping apart from the externally historically continuous Church. It is the reverse! The Holy Spirit infallibly en-soul-ed the visible body of disciples and Apostles around Mary permanently to be the Spouse of Christ in an indissoluble, supernatural and eternal covenant. The Holy Spirit is infallibly acting in the whole body of the Church creating it to be one organism out of many elements, and not infallibly informing each individual who then merely associates with like-minded individuals! The grace of the Holy Spirit in the individual is thus ordained to unity with the visible Church (for the nature of love is to unite freely, un-coerced).
The individual is thus reconciled to Christ and sanctified in the supernatural communion of Love of the Body of the Church joined to her Head by the Holy Spirit, and this communion of charity or divine (supernatural) love of the body of the Church is a partaking in the Eternal Communion of the Three Persons of God. Thus it is the interrelations of Persons in Divine Love of the Communion in Faith, Hope, Love, sacraments, shepherds in Heaven and on earth now and in continuity with the past, rather than the isolated individual who is the infallible recipient of the Holy Spirit. Any break with this concrete Holy Spirit-caused supernatural Communion by an individual or a group within the visible Body of the Church is a break with the Holy Spirit. And any individual who is graced by the Holy Spirit in any way is thus in divine purpose meant for complete integral union with the visible Communion of the Church.
Thus the historical Church of the Apostles with Peter the visible head of all continuing down through the ages can not be considered merely one among many which happens to be only the first. It is sprung from the New Shoot of the Olive Tree, Christ Himself, alive with the sap of the Holy Spirit and becomes the great Tree that all birds nest in and feed on.
The Protestant revolt flushed whole coveys from Yahweh’s Olive Tree and lopped-off whole branches from the True Vine of the One Mystical Person of Christ and the Church in the 16th century. Thus the Protestant revolt was profoundly sinful, contrary to Christ and His will for His Body the Church and devoid of the Holy Spirit and did not renew the Church or reform it. (But it was also a chastisement, allowed for the purification of the Church, because of all those who sinned grievously as individuals and groups within the Church, sickening much of the Body for a long time). All successive believers outside His visible Catholic Church who have the grace of faith which leads to justification in the Sacrament of Baptism (which sacrament invisibly joins them to the Catholic Church) are intended in the “logical” of Divine Love to enjoy full, visible and supernatural communion with her and thus Him.
This is how the Holy Spirit remains the superior divine cause over the visible, but divinely-chosen elements of the Church. He keeps the organism of the Body essentially supernaturally alive and one down through the ages, one in divine Tradition of the Person of the Word Incarnate really Present in His extended Body visible as His Bride in a communion of Trinitarian Love. But the superiority of the Holy Spirit over the external is by way of activity is always accomplished according to the Mind of Christ and never unrelated to His Incarnate extension into His Mystical Body, the Church as a whole, by the infallible grace of the Holy Spirit, as there has been an indissoluble Covenant of Marriage between the Son of God and His Bride, the Church, on Calvary.
The Holy Spirit, being the Third distinct Person never has an activity or mission independent from the other Two, and this Trinitarian Reality of God carries over to the Incarnation and its extension into the Communion of the Church, which is a supernatural participation of that very Divine Communion already on earth in the visible communion of the Church, begun on the first Pentecost and remaining essentially and visibly one around Peter and thus around Rome to our own day.
The individual thus is meant to be fully grafted onto Christ by sacramental communion with the Catholic Church in supernatural Faith, Hope, Charity or Divine Love, through the grace of the Holy Spirit Who never leads the individual believer away from that Church.