An excerpt from Raymund Schwager's Jesus in the Drama of Salvation, New York: Crossroads, pages 209-217.

The Revelation of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity

During his earthly life, Jesus spoke only very little of the Holy Spirit, and if he did so (see Mark 3:29), his words could be understood in that general sense in which the Old Testament also knew the Spirit of God and meant by it a particular near and active presence of the creator to his creatures. In view of this fact, and because of the ready possibility of relating all the Old Testament utterances about the divine spirit to the working of the heavenly Father in Christ and to the appearances of the risen one, quite particular experiences must have occurred, as we have already shown, which were able to develop into a clear profession of the Holy Spirit and to realize it without conflicts in the community. (1)

Because the Holy Spirit has awoken and awakes in faithful freedom, love, and peace, we are drawn toward understanding also the Father-Son polarity, which reveals itself in the surrender of the crucified one "by the power of the eternal spirit," as a relationship of freedom and love. Creating and taking in, giving and surrendering, bestowing and receiving are seen in this light not merely as a flux and reflux, as an impersonal surge to and fro or dialectic change in the godhead. Since the surrender was a free act of love and as the Spirit of freedom and love, who calls forth the most fundamentally personal response in the faithful, was sent from the Father to the Son, we must all correct the pictures of an impersonal flowing current and change, and think of both Father and Son as personal poles and acting persons. What a plurality of persons in one God can mean remains at first still unanswered. Equally, the role played by the Spirit in the personal Father-Son relationship requires a closer explanation; otherwise the language used remains vague and shapeless.

Traditional theology has, at the level of the inner-trinitarian relationships, unambiguously placed the Holy Spirit after the Father and Son in the order of salvation events. The justification for this was the idea of the incarnation (John 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:5-8); and the revealed facts that it was first the Son and only later the Spirit who was sent and that at Pentecost Father and Son together poured out the Spirit. This view, although it is correct, remains however somewhat one-sided. In our investigations so far we have seen what an important role the Spirit played already in the event of the cross. This fact impels us to draw the conclusion in retrospect that even the synoptic report that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:9-11 and parallels) immediately after his baptism by John has a systematic significance, even if historical-critical exegesis likes to speak here of a later shaping by the community. Equally, it should be noted that according to all three synoptics Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit (Mark 1:12 and parallels). According to Luke, Jesus, taking up Isa. 61:1ff. at the beginning of his public ministry, spoke himself of an anointing by the "Spirit of the Lord" (Luke 4:16-21; see also Acts 4:27; 10:38). Paul emphasizes finally that "according to the Spirit of holiness" the crucified one was designated Son in power at the resurrection of the dead (Rom. 1:4; see also 1 Pet. 3:18). (2) In accordance with these important utterances, Jesus was himself led by the Spirit of God during his whole earthly mission. From this point of view it appears that a priority of the Holy Spirit over the Son who became man is shown.

Systematic theology tried for a long time to deal with the above-mentioned New Testament findings by interpreting the utterances about the working of the Spirit in Jesus in a very restrictive sense or even going against their explicit wording. In distinction to this long tradition, H. U. von Balthasar follows the biblical text more closely, and he is inspired by it to speak of a "trinitarian inversion." (3) He means by this that the order within God was turned around at the level of the economy of salvation during the earthly life of the eternal Son and that the real order only showed itself at the elevation of the crucified one. D. Coffey also pursues the same problematic, and he is led by it to a deepening of the doctrine of the Trinity within God. In an analogy with the two traditional trinitarian models, the Western which starts from the unity of the divine nature, and the Eastern which starts from the difference of the persons and from the Father's origin in himself alone, he puts forward the view that the life within God which is revealed in Christ can only be somewhat adequately described by using two complementary models. The traditional model, according to which the Father generates the Son and both together, as one principle, breathe the Spirit results from a christology from above (mission of the eternal logos into the world). The complementary christology from below, according to which Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit and directed in his mission, demands also another corresponding trinitarian model. Coffey describes it as the bestowal model, in accordance with which the Father grants the Spirit to his Son and the Son gives it back. (4) The fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son should be distinguished from the question as to how his proceeding and thus his own particular nature are to be understood. (5) While the origin in the Father and the Son has to be considered above all from the viewpoint of the post-Easter mission, the question about the particular nature of the Holy Spirit must be clarified in connection with his role during the earthly mission of the Son made man.

Even if in our context we are unable to look more closely into Coffey 's reasoning, based explicitly on the history of theology and on exegesis, his two complementary trinitarian models are nevertheless appropriate for doing justice to what we have worked out so far. We have come to see that the surrender of the crucified one is only to be understood from the viewpoint of the Spirit, and the Spirit in return only from the point of view of Christ's ministry. Two complementary approaches are necessary in order to put into words appropriately the one mystery of redemption faith. Since, in addition, the traditional trinitarian model only suggests the concept of a common working of the Father and the Son toward the Spirit, and our investigation has nevertheless shown that the direct behavior of Jesus toward the Father (prayer, faith, surrender to death) and the Father's direct actions toward the Son (anointing with the Spirit, voice from heaven after the baptism and at the transfiguration, resurrection) are of decisive significance, it appears from this side too that a deeper analysis at the trinitarian level is needed. The procession or mission model does not by itself do justice to the fundamental biblical evidence of reciprocal behavior between Father and Son, but only when it is clarified by the complementary model of reciprocal bestowal. Finally we have to consider that our dramatic model of redemption presupposes a concept of the mission of Jesus which was not presented from the outset as a fixed thing. Since the rejection of the basileia message created a new situation, he had to discover anew in prayer and in listening to the voice of the Father how his mission continued, and he had also to agree anew, as the prayer on the Mount of Olives makes clear, to the deeper task. If the mission that the traditional trinitarian doctrine takes as a guide cannot be described as a once for all and unilinear process but must be understood as the fruit of a reciprocal conversation, then it demands of itself a deepening analysis, by means of a model which gives expression to the reciprocal relationship of Father and Son. The unilinear movement from Father to Son and the common actions of both toward the Spirit are not enough really to do justice to the dramatic fate of Jesus.

A particular difficulty with the procession and mission model is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as one single principle. (6)

The impression is thereby given that the Holy Spirit arises from the one divine nature rather than from the two subordinated persons. This difficulty is removed by the model of bestowal, for according to that, the Holy Spirit is the reciprocal (and not merely common) love of Father and Son. The Father bestows the Spirit on the Son and the Son gives it back. But there arises now another difficulty. The suspicion can easily emerge that two origins are attributed to the Spirit, one in the Father and one in the Son, which contradicts a central principle of the ecclesiastical doctrine of the Trinity, (7) which has to be maintained if one does not wish to be lost in contradictions.

The effectiveness of the trinitarian model of reciprocal bestowal depends to a large extent on whether the difficulty just mentioned can be resolved. We will attempt to do this in such a way that at the same time further implications of our dramatic model of salvation history emerge more clearly. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of freedom. As an essential element of freedom, we first considered freedom of choice, as it was the presupposition for Jesus' hearers being able to accept or reject his message. By means of it even he, on the Mount of Olives, subordinated his wish to be spared the cup of suffering to the will of his heavenly Father. This human freedom of choice in God corresponds in an analogous way to the freedom of his eternal counsel in creation and redemption.

But freedom of choice is not by any means the whole of what we mean by freedom. When considering the problem of judgment as self-judgment, we saw that the yes or no to God does not mean merely the following of individual commandments. It is essentially a matter of the standard by which individuals build up their world. Even in the event of the cross, Jesus lived his freedom -- through and beyond his yes to suffering -- as the surrender of his whole being to the Father. Finally, at the post-Easter sending out of the Spirit, the freedom of the disciples showed itself above all in their being inwardly grasped and liberated from compulsions and fears, and thus becoming capable of going out into the world in all openness and giving themselves up to a mission. In all these examples the same movement can be seen: a working from a person's innermost depths outward to others (be it in giving or receiving). This deeply personal working can only be designated as freedom because it includes a distinction between the action and the actor, and is therefore free from any "oppression" or "entanglement." That is, the gift of the basileia message is to be received as a person's own life principle in such a way that it renews all thinking, acting, and feeling from within, but at the same time it demands such an inner distinctness from it that all good deeds are attributed not to oneself but only to God's working. Similarly we see in the fate of Jesus on the cross how on the one hand he was gripped by the event in the depths of his soul, but on the other hand he maintained such a distinction from the powers which he encountered that he did not become their passive object, but was able actively to transform the evil into sacrificial love. His disciples also after Easter were inwardly so deeply pervaded by the Spirit that they began to speak and act in a new way, and yet they maintained in the experience of the Spirit a distinctness, so that they did not attribute the new power to themselves and they remained capable of distinguishing the good spirit from the deceiving spirits. The freedom of the Spirit, then, shows itself in the drama of salvation as a polarity, as a working from the innermost personal depths, maintaining at the same time a distinctness from the person as self.

From the viewpoint of this experience of freedom and of the Spirit in salvation history, we can to some extent feel our way toward the mystery of the Spirit within God. The Father releases from the ultimate depths of his person the Son, and the latter is entirely constituted by what he receives. Despite this, the two of them do not become absorbed into this event. The Father is not dialectically transformed into the Son, so that he ceases to be the Father, nor does the Son change back into the Father. Although the Father gives everything, he remains distinct from what he gives, and although the Son receives everything, he remains equally distinct from the giver.

What the distinctness means can be seen above all in the salvation-historical act. The Father is not the Father because Jesus announced him, but because he precedes everyone, Jesus is able to announce him. Correspondingly, the Father is not Father within God because he generates the Son, but he is once more distinct from this process, and he is himself thanks to his own origin in himself (sine principio). If he was a person only because of the generation, then no longer he but this act of generation would be the first in the trinitarian order. Generation itself would be the original process of distinguishing, from which -- sequentially -- Father and Son would arise as from the same origin (as if from one principle). In this case one could not speak of a giving and receiving, a generating and being generated, a first and a second person in God, but only of the breaking up of a distinctness, which caused two poles to arise as from the same origin. But the New Testament writings bear witness over against such a supposition to a quite different experience of salvation history. The Father releases the Son entirely from himself (paternitas), but he does not become so absorbed in the relationship that it becomes the reason for his existence; he exists rather because of his mysterious origin in himself. In a similar way, the Son, too, is separate from his own being as a person. It is true that he exists only because he receives his being totally (filiatio), but he does not become completely absorbed in this receiving. According to the witness of salvation history, his full being as a person consists neither in a merely passive state of being received, nor is there any suggestion that he would cease to exist if he were to give back all that he received. Since he can give himself back entirely and nevertheless remain himself, he must be distinct in his actions of thanking and giving back from the principle by which he receives himself as a person. Since, further, the relationship of Father to Son is not exhausted in the Father's mission to the Son, but since he continues to speak and deal with the envoy at the level of God's inner being, we have to assume, besides the relationship which constitutes the Son as a person, the Father conducts himself in yet another way, a way which is directed toward the already constituted Son. The father's origin in himself is, then, different not merely from his generation, but distinct from this again is his turning to or his love for the already generated Son. The experience of freedom in salvation history with its two poles, working from the depths of the person with a simultaneous distinctness of action from actor helps us, consequently, to perceive also within God himself very subtle but fundamental differentiations (of a logical, not temporal, order). The God of Jesus Christ is not a God in whose unsoundable depths there exists a formless "brooding" or "surging to and fro."

Thanks to the clear perception of several distinctions within God himself, the question about the one origin (unica spiratio) of the Holy Spirit from the reciprocal love between Father and Son can be more easily approached. Since what the Son gives back to the Father is distinct from the principle by which he is a person, he can distinguish his love from himself and let go of it. It is not identical with him in an undifferentiated way; it is in fact not even the fruit of his own person alone, for it is attracted by the other side, by the generous goodness of the Father. The Father too distinguishes his love for the Son from the principle by which he generates and constitutes him. He too, then, can let go of his love as his own. Here again, it is not merely the fruit of his own working, for it is related to the Son, insofar as he is already constituted and it is attracted by his thankfulness. The reciprocal love is therefore not put together from the Father's own love and the Son's own love, but both let go of their love as their own, so that it becomes one common love. The Father loves the Son on account of his thankfulness, but the Son is thankful because he sees the love of the Father. Thus the Holy Spirit is the free-moving love itself. (8) The reciprocal love between Father and Son can therefore be freely active and become its own person, because both let go of it as their own.

In the history of salvation, something common and moving freely between Father and Son is seen first of all in the message of the kingdom of God at hand. Jesus announces it entirely as the kingdom of his Father and at the same time speaks completely in his own name ("Amen, I say to you"). The word of proclamation belongs entirely to both and at the same time is detached from both: "Everything is given over to me by my Father; no one knows the Father, only the Son and that one to whom the Son wants to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27). This word, which arises completely from the reciprocity of the Father and Son and speaks of it, originates from within their intimacy and is addressed to other, human hearers. The word of proclamation shows itself thus as the first figure in salvation history by which reciprocal love (Holy Spirit) becomes manifest.

Full reciprocity and commonality is revealed even more clearly in the last three acts of the drama. The Son gives himself to the Father in dying, the latter answers in the resurrection, and both together send out the Spirit. Thus the three different forms of bestowal are already repeated within each act, even if in a differing way. The Son can only entrust himself completely in dying because he is already gripped in his depths by the God who is not a God of the dead but of the living (Mark 12:26ff. and parallels). It is precisely in the act of surrender to the Father, which includes the Father's communication to him, that the Spirit springs up for humankind ("streams of living water" [John 7:37-39; 19:34-37]). Even the resurrection is not a one-sided deed of the Father, for by it he answers the Son who "with loud cries and tears offered up prayers and supplications to him who was able to save him from death" (Heb. 5:7). The immediate common fruit of the request on the part of his Son become man and of the heeding of the heavenly Father is the pneumatic body of the risen one as "life-giving spirit" (1 Cor. 15:44ff.), which is communicated to humankind (Acts 1:2; 2:33).

The model of reciprocal bestowal proves, then, well suited to bringing out the innermost dimensions of the dramatic salvation event. At the same time it becomes clear how reciprocal love flows into such an event of release that we can no longer speak of two acts in opposing directions, from Father to Son and from Son to Father. Each one lets go of his love as his own in favor of the other, so that this love can be constituted as the one common love and can become a person.

Because the Son himself is, at one and the same time, receiving and actively letting go and because the Holy Spirit is pure letting go, the Father is able to communicate himself through them to creatures without the distinction between creator and creature being abolished. Communication takes place at the level of these persons and their free existence and not at the level of the one essential being. Since, further, the Holy Spirit according to his entire personal character is reciprocal love, letting go of itself, it is to him that the mission in salvation history falls: to unite people with Christ and with one another. This throws light on the statement that he creates the one body with many members (1 Cor. 12:4-13). His particular nature makes it also comprehensible that Christ can live as the most inner being in the faithful: "I have been crucified with Christ; no longer do I live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:19ff.).

We next ask, in whom does the Spirit work? Here there arises a problem which can show up again the consequences of the two complementary trinitarian models. If one thinks in a linear way from the viewpoint of the procession and mission model, then it is natural to suppose that the Holy Spirit only unites those people with Christ who have already heard of the crucified and risen one and believe in him (for the Son precedes the Father). That axiom with such difficult consequences, "outside the church no salvation," seems to go together with this view. In distinction to this, we have seen that one must speak of Christ already on the cross identifying with all humans. This is essentially brought about by the Spirit.

Following the transcendental christology of K. Rahner, Coffey identifies the Holy Spirit with the transcendental love of the eternal Son's human nature for the Father. (9) But this transcendental love must express itself, and during Jesus' earthly life it took shape progressively in his human acts of love for the Father and became incarnate in then. The highest act of his concrete human love took place in the surrender to death. This is at the same time to be understood as the highest form of the "incarnation" of the Holy Spirit (or of transcendental love) in an act of Christ's human love. (10) If now the Holy Spirit from the viewpoint of his personal individual nature is a bond of love, indeed of reciprocal love, and if he incarnated himself completely for sinners in the crucified one's surrender to death, then it becomes understandable that the Son was able in dying actually to reach all people. His identification with sinners took place, then, by the power of that Spirit incarnate in his human love and whose working consists of uniting persons with one another. In the total entrusting to the Father there took place both the giving back to him of the Spirit and the releasing of the same Spirit for humankind. (11) Since the Father inspired the surrender of the Son, the Spirit through their reciprocal giving became in fact free for his working in all people. Thus the redeeming deed on the cross can reach all people, before they themselves know anything about it.

For complete unification, consent on both sides is needed. Each individual has to answer for what is offered to him as a gift. This response takes place explicitly and unambiguously in faith and in baptism. That communication of the Spirit which comes about in baptism and which -- at least at the fundamental level -- presupposes faith in Christ, takes place according to the procession model. But that other communication of the same Spirit, which springs forth immediately from the cross and accompanies all people inwardly from the beginning of their existence onward, takes place according to the model of bestowal. In this case also a free consent is necessary. However, since the personal character of the Spirit is clearly different from that of the Father and the Son, and since he is not a fixed term but love itself hovering where he will, consent to his working can be given in very differing ways, which are no longer verifiable by us.

The complementary trinitarian models make it to some extent understandable why on the one hand all people can be saved thanks to the hidden working of the Holy Spirit, and why on the other hand explicit faith and baptism are nevertheless necessary. They show, moreover, that the Christian proclamation has on the one hand to be directly oriented to the express message of Jesus, and on the other hand it must also seek out the hidden working of the Spirit in human beings in order to give an unambiguous incarnational form to the Spirit by relating everything back to the message of Jesus Christ.


1. "He [Paul] found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered him, 'We haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit'" (Acts 19:2).

2. See O'Donnell (1989), 37-39.

3. Balthasar (1973-83), 2/2:167-175.

4. Coffee (1979), 11-32, 91-178.

5. "Its (bestowal model's] complementarity to the processional model is shown from the fact that whereas the latter corresponds to the fact of the procession of the Holy Spirit, the former corresponds to the manner of this procession" (ibid., 31).

6. "...quod Spiritus Sanctus ex Patre et Filio aeternaliter est, et essentiam suam suumque esse subsistens habet ex Patre simul et Filio, et ex utroque aeternaliter tamquam ab uno principio et unica spiratione procedit" (DS 1300).

7. Omnia in deo "sunt unum, ubi non obviat relationis oppositio" (DS 1330).

8. "Its substance can be stated quite simply: the Holy Spirit is the mutual love of the Father and the Son. Notice that it is not said that the Holy Spirit is the result or term of this mutual love. He is the love itself" (Coffee [1984], 471).

9. Coffey (1984), 475.

10. "There can be no greater human love than a love unto death. Hence in the death of Jesus the progressive 'incarnation' of the Holy Spirit in his transcendental love of the Father attains the limit that is possible in this life" (ibid., 477; see also Kilmartin [1988], 168-170).

11. See Coffee (1979), 147-155.