What is a Spirit?

by Fr. Christian Mathis on January 31, 2013

Now that I have completed the blog series on Fr. Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims for Christian Living, it is time to get back to another series I began on the Baltimore Catechism. I will take it as a lesson that it is wise to stick to one series at a time.

The last question and answer from the Baltimore Catechism addressed on this blog described God as, “the self-existing and infinitely perfect Spirit.” It is not all that surprising to find that the next question is, “What is a spirit?” The answer according to those gathered at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore was:

A spirit is a being that has understanding and free will, but no body, and will never die.

On the surface, almost all of the answers given in the Baltimore Catechism seem simplistic, but when looked at more closely I would argue that while they are indeed simple, they are far from simplistic. It is amazing that those who wrote this catechism were able to capture large theological topics in such short sentences. It is true that many of the answers provided are short in length, yet they are rich in content.

In the short sentence above we learn quite a bit about what it means when we describe God as a spirit. First of all we learn that he has understanding and free will. God freely chose to create the universe and each one of us. He continues to will us into being every moment of our lives.

We learn also that God, as a spirit, has no body. This might explain the Old Testament prescription against the creation of graven images. Any image we could create of God would never be able to represent a God who is pure spirit. The Incarnation changed this of course, and even as we believe that Jesus took on flesh and continues to this day to have a glorified body, we still know that the other two persons of the Holy Trinity do not possess bodies.

Lastly we learn that God will never die. He has no beginning and no ending. He is, as we profess, the Alpha and the Omega.

I look forward to returning to this series on the basic tenets of our Catholic faith. It seems very appropriate during this Year of Faith to take the time to strengthen the foundations of our faith, so that we can better share it with others.

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