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God the Son, Word

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Question: Is it not more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Word? Calling the Second Person of the Trinity the Son came only after the Incarnation, whereas, “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). If this is true, why does the Creed say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son?

Art Osten, Fox River Grove, Illinois

Answer: Your question rests on a false premise. Jesus did not become the Son by his incarnation. He is eternal Son, eternally begotten. The Father is Father because he has always had the Son. At no point was the Father alone. There never was a time when the Son did not exist. Thus, to propose that “the Word” is the only or best term to use in expressing Jesus’ divinity presupposes that Jesus’ sonship is only in his humanity and, thus, comes after his incarnation. But, this is not the case. Long before his incarnation, long before anything was created, the Father and the Son were together, and the Holy Spirit was eternally proceeding from them both. It is simply false to assert that prior to his incarnation Jesus was not the Son but only the Word.

In calling the eternal Son “the Word,” St. John takes up the understanding that the Son is the perfect expression of the Father. Everything the Father is he says and thus expresses in one Word, his Son. The Son is the perfect Word, the perfect image and utterance of the Father. Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). So, in addition to being the eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity has always been “the Word” as well. One attestation does not negate or qualify the other. Both are eternally true of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus.

The creed, in saying the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (not the Father and the Word), takes up the language of Scripture. Jesus speaks of his Father and calls himself the Son and indicates that the Holy Spirit proceeds from them both. While it is true that other language could have been used (for example: The Third Person proceeds from the First Person and the Second Person), the creed simply takes up the terminology Jesus uses.

‘Catholic and Curious’

Question: Is it true that you have written a book? If so, what is it about, and where can I purchase a copy?

Teresa Foster, Washington, DC.

Answer: It is true. The book is “Catholic and Curious: Your Questions Answered” (Our Sunday Visitor, $18.95). It is a collection of over 500 questions and answers on the Catholic faith. It is, in effect, a collection of the questions and answers seen right here in this column, which I have been authoring for over five years.

The material is arranged in a number of categories: God, the Bible, liturgy and sacraments, moral life, the Church, prayers and practices, the last things and other topics, which are then divided into subcategories, such as the Trinity and ethics in society. There is also a very good index in the back to find quick answers. It is over 500 pages of material!

If you have liked this column over the years, I think you will love the book. It is available at OSVCatholicBookstore.com. Please help spread the word. It is my hope that the book will help Catholics share the Faith and dive deeper themselves. It might also be a good auxiliary book for RCIA classes or a gift book for recent converts or returning Catholics. I am grateful if you can help spread the word about this recent publication.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.

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