BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (45) – What are the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit?

– Rev José Mario O Mandía

The word “mission” comes from Latin which means “to send.” When a Person proceeds from another, He is also sent. The Son proceeds from the Father; He is sent by the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; He is sent by the Father and the Son. In other words, mission follows procession: the Son proceeds from the Father, and is sent to men by the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and is sent to men by the Father and the Son (cf CCC 258).

Mission can either be visible (or external) and invisible (or internal).


The Son’s visible mission is carried out in the Incarnation: “I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (John 8:42).

The Holy Spirit is sent on a visible mission in the form of a dove, or tongues of fire. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). “But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me…” (John 15:26). 


The invisible mission is internal: it happens in the souls of those to whom the Person is sent. The destination of the invisible mission are those men and women who are in sanctifying grace, i.e., those who have received baptism and have not lost it through grave sin (one can, of course, recover lost sanctifying grace through confession.) What is the purpose of this mission? To make the receiver more like God, to make him a fitting dwelling place for God. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Saint Thomas Aquinas explains (STh I q 43 a 6): “According to Augustine (De Trinitate, iii, 4; xv, 27), the invisible mission is for the creature’s sanctification. Now every creature that has grace is sanctified. Therefore the invisible mission is to every such creature.”

We know that God is present in all His creatures by the mere fact of creating them. But mission is a new kind of presence of God in the soul and this presence happens when the person has sanctifying grace.

The Son, perfect image  of the Father, is sent so that we may know the Father. “I have not come of my own accord; he who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me” (John 7:28-29)

The Holy Spirit, perfect love between Father and Son, is sent to form us as children according to the example of the Son. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Galatians 4:6).

How about the Father? Is the Father sent? Saint Augustine, again quoted by Saint Thomas (STh I q 43 a 4), says “The Father alone is never described as being sent” (De Trinitate, ii, 3). The Father does not proceed from anyone, and is not sent by anyone.

But through the Son and the Holy Spirit, the entire Blessed Trinity dwells in the soul of the person in sanctifying grace.

“O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action” (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, quoted in CCC 260).

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