The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, given us at our Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and lives with us throughout our lives. We can’t see Him or feel Him, yet he is there within us, guiding, correcting, and protecting our every move, thought, and deed.
“Who has seen the the wind”? a book by Louis M. Savary, S. J. states that the Reverend Morton T. Kelsey took time to count the biblical verses where the Spirit is mentioned and found that 47% of the New Testament is about the Holy Spirit.
Now this is not so much an article about the Holy Spirit, but when speaking in regards to our own spirit we must consider the inclusion of the third person of the Holy Trinity, his very presence within our Psyche, our human mind and body.
At our conception God gives us a soul, the very essence of a human person, which will live forever. We are told that the soul is the mind, with the capacity for reasoning, feeling, consciousness, memory, and perception. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all understood the soul must have a logical faculty of which is the most divine of human activities. It (the soul) is the very essence of the body.
“The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be in the “form” of the body; i.e. it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirt and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.” CCC 365.
“Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people Wholly, with spirit, soul, and body kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming. (1 Thes. 5: 23). The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. Spirit signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.” CCC 367.
Then what do we know about the spirit? Not the Holy Spirit but the spirit we have within us. The spirit exemplifies the soul making the soul’s essence come alive. Mary said to Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Lk. 1: 46 - 47). Her soul brings out the very essence of God’s Greatness and her spirit exemplifies that essence.
Sometimes the two terms may appear to be similar and cause confusion. Many will say that it doesn’t matter which one we use. However, if a person is trying to distinguish which term is important in a particular conversation or writing then a little discretion is required as to the chosen term. Which ever one we choose the use will not lessen our personification towards God or our faith. Semantics may play an important role in attempting to describe anything in a logical manner, but with the soul / spirit association it should not become an issue of argument regarding faith.
Often, we may hear preachers using the two terms without relegating either one in a particular manner that will bring a clear understanding to the differences. This is why an untrained person in semantics must listen to the exhortation with caution so they do not try to formulate the meaning of the two and miss the very point he/she is trying to convey.
My best suggestion is we should always listen to, or read something with some discretionary ability. When particular terms are interjected within the mode of listening/reading, hold on to the main theme and do not get hung up on which common term becomes the reason to miss the main theme of the subject.
Ralph B. Hathaway, May 2020