Good morning Father Angelo,
First of all, I want to thank you for your service, because after my conversion your answers in the Catechism have brought much light, even in those difficult moments when I doubted some of the dogmas. Unfortunately, I think there are many “dealers” of false truths and interpretations of the Word of God that have often undermined my Faith.
My question is the following: I have always thought that, Jesus being the incarnate Word of God, He had always been in communion with the Holy Spirit, too, therefore also in His earthly life, since the moment of the Incarnation.
How come, then, that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him from Heaven only during the Baptism?
Did it have a purely demonstrative purpose?
Before the Baptism did Jesus enjoy the “fullness” of God or it is just after the Baptism that He is “filled” with the Spirit?
I apologize for my language, it is certainly ill-suited, and I hope you can answer my question. I once again thank you for what you are doing.
I will keep you in my prayers!
Answer from the priest
1. When talking about Jesus, it is necessary to distinguish between His divine nature and His human nature.
2. According to His divine nature, He is the only God together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As He said “The Father and I are one” (Jn. 10:30), so He can say the same thing about the Holy Spirit.
3. According to His human nature, Jesus was filled with grace to such an extent that every grace received by men is a participation in His grace.
In the Prologue of his Gospel, St. John writes: “We saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). And “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace” (Jn. 1:16).
4. Well, if of John the Baptist it is said: “He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk. 1:15), and this grace derives from Jesus in advance, in the same way that he redeemed the righteous of the Old Testament, how much more Christ’s soul should be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit!
5. St. Augustine had already realized this when he wrote: “It is most absurd to say that Christ received the Holy Ghost, when He was already thirty years old: for when He came to be baptized, since He was without sin, therefore was He not without the Holy Ghost. For if it is written of John that “he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb”, what must we say of the Man-Christ, whose conception in the flesh was not carnal, but spiritual? Therefore now,” i.e. at His baptism, “He deigned to foreshadow His body,” i.e. the Church, “in which those who are baptized receive the Holy Ghost in a special manner.” (De Trin., 15, 26).
6. Why then did Christ want that during his Baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove?
St. Thomas replies: “What took place with respect to Christ in His baptism, as Chrysostom says “is connected with the mystery accomplished in all who were to be baptized afterwards”. Now, all those who are baptized with the baptism of Christ receive the Holy Ghost, unless they approach unworthily; according to the Gospel: “He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost”. Therefore it was fitting that when our Lord was baptized the Holy Ghost should descend upon Him” (Summa Theologiae, 3, 39,6).
7. Once again St. Thomas adds: “So that we do not believe that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in his baptism as though Christ needed to receive the Spirit anew for his sanctification, the Baptist gives the reason for the Spirit’s coming down. He says that the Spirit descended not for the benefit of Christ, but for our benefit, that is, so that the grace of Christ might be made known to us. And so he says: “and I did not know him, but that he may be made manifest in Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water” (Jn. 1:31) (Commentary on the Gospel of John 1:32).
I thank you for what you wrote at the beginning of your email.
I wish you a steady progress in your life in God, I entrust you to God and I bless you.
Translated by: Francesca