How can I better understand the concept of the Holy Spirit?

Written By Bonnie Malone

The film Chocolat tells the story of a gypsy woman and her daughter as they relocate to a very traditional and religious village in the French countryside. A hard, cold wind brings the pair to town (donned in bright red, hooded capes). They arrive in the middle of Lent and open a chocolaterie—shocking for certain, but not as shocking as their refusal to go to church.

Unexpectedly, their presence begins to transform the relationships and ideas of the a very God-like way. Whenever I see this film I think of the Holy Spirit, personified in the love of a mother and a daughter (who wear red, come with the wind and defy expectations). Amazing, isn't it, how relationships can be so transforming? We all have stories of people who show up in our lives, in a haphazard way, even irritating at first, only to stretch us and change us completely.

The early church spent much time arguing about categories (the who, and how, and when and so on) with respect to God. One argument centered upon the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son. The Nicene Creed demonstrated that, for at least one group, it was important to understand that the Holy Spirit was poured out from both the Father and the Son. The idea was that the love between the Father and the Son was so great that a third Spirit naturally overflowed from that love. The Holy Spirit actually emanated from the Divine love between the Creator and Redeemer of the world.

I am not much for theological categories, and the concept of the Trinity will always confuse me, but I think the idea that the Spirit flows from the Father and Son is an important one. Our God models for us a love so strong that it creates something new, unwieldy and beautifully creative—the Holy Spirit. If we believe that we are created in the image of God, and that imitating God is a worthwhile endeavor, then we could expect that something new, holy, and Spiritlike would come from each of our loving relationships.