Defending the Faith of our Fathers!
Christ's Faithful People

Apologetics Page Library Page TOC Index Page Foot Notes Previous Next


Class 21

Gifts of the Holy Spirit (continued)

In the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit that we try to understand more fully with the help of Isaiah, but they’re not very precise. Our reason is designed to focus on light, not the darkness that shrouds faith. God gives himself through the gifts and perfects the faculty. The gifts are not principles of action, but receptive funnels. Through the influence of God on the gifts, the virtues are perfected. If we don’t look at them in the light of the experience of faith, it is difficult to perceive what is involved. The gift of understanding gives us a permanent intuition of the deeper penetration of the divine truths. It may concern a specific matter or something in the future. We perceive not the clarity of an argument, but the conviction that this is where God is leading us. The darkness of the mystery of faith remains, but as a consequence of the gift, the reasoning is pacified so that we may remain attached to the mystery. In our mind, we have ratio and intellectus, the power of intuition. The gift of understanding limits the ratio, to develop the intuition of God nourished by this gift. It is necessary sometimes to stop thinking in prayer, to experience the surrender of God. Dominicans try to understand everything, to attack the mystery. What is most important is not in the order of knowledge, but on the order of the meeting with God. People need not more arguments, but to rest less on some of the arguments. The gates of the human mind have to be opened, to allow the king of Glory to come into the soul.

So in faith there is always something hidden. God through charity and the gift of the understanding enlightens the mind. The saints not only believe but penetrate the truths of the faith. Scripture speaks to us and provokes acts of love. This gift of understanding doesn’t require extensive knowledge. Even simple people can receive it.

The gift of knowledge helps us to judge rightly the truths of the faith, in accordance with the proper principles of the faith. We see things as a work of God and not as an absolute value. We are helped to refrain from anxiety and undue fascination to see the hand of God. God sometimes silences our senses in prayer, which can be both painful and fascinating. Our knowledge will not be perfect until love accompanies it. One way loving knowledge can be deepened is through suffering, especially the suffering of the cross of others.

The gift of wisdom gives a taste that descends to the will and the other faculties of the soul, without necessarily a taste of sweetness. The action of God in the soul is always antinomical: we experience both sweetness and suffering. The world is seen with the eyes of God; the truths of science and faith complement; the truth of God becomes more attractive; faith is easily distinguished from heresy. Human wisdom is discursive, based on philosophy and the fruit of which is theology. The fruit of wisdom is love. Wisdom flows from the Holy Spirit. We are more receptive to God. It is elicited in the soul overcome by God. We cannot possess it, but only experience it. Toward God our soul is feminine and receptive. Mary is the seat of Wisdom.

The gift of counsel is a complement to the virtue of prudence, how we are to act toward our sanctification and to others’. The Holy Spirit suggests solutions to overcome obstacles. It gives us certitude in our action.

The gift of fortitude helps us to execute what was suggested by the gift of counsel. The Holy Spirit urges us to persevere. We learn to appreciate the proximity of God. We notice his inspirations and the awareness of the fact that God is close, like soldiers in battle knowing their general is with them. It gives us the certitude that goodness will win, even after our death. There is a difference between Christian and atheist fortitude. The Christian is willing to suffer for an effect to be achieved long after his martyrdom.

The gift of piety allows for a filial relationship with the Father, and a fraternal relationship with others. We discover the love of God present in every moment of our lives. The gift of fear of the Lord is not a paralyzing fear, but a fear of sin which is afraid to offend the Father. Saint Thomas ties this fear to the emotions of the pleasure appetite. It is a fear that grows out of respect and love of God.

We could say much more about these gifts and about how relate to God. Nothing is precise here. We speak in a poetical way.

The experience of grace

The question could be raised if we can experience the gifts and grace? If we say yes, is this not a denial of faith. Since the gifts involve a movement generating a response, somehow we must recognize some movement of God. So the movement of the Holy Spirit must be reflected in some way in our spirit. How do we distinguish them from our own ambition and projects? We shouldn’t interpret the movements of the Holy Spirit in a nominalist way, that they’re divine obligations. Pentecostals bring the Holy Spirit into every little action, and this makes us feel uneasy. Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. This movement takes place in our choices. It cannot be outside the generosity of our response and our awareness. Saint Thomas introduces two terms: quasi-experimental cognition of God, and the instinct of the Holy Spirit. Before we look at these, we will look at some contemporary understandings.

Our intellect can only have concepts of God and our emotions cannot touch God. But when our will touches God, He gives Himself and the grace of God influences our whole being. If we exercise faith, there is some contact established with God and there is a movement by which God shows us what we ought to do in our moral life. Rahner asks whether we’ve thanked others without any recognition or pleasure, but simply on account of the experience of God and his will within? Have we ever loved God without having any overwhelming feeling? In great aridity? The experience meant here is that of eternity, that the spirit is more than merely a part of the world. The saints want to savor this experience of accepting the mystery in the concrete situations of our life. We Christians when we do this have already experienced the supernatural. The chalice is only drunk by those who experience fullness in emptiness.

Fr. Marie-Eugene de L’enfant Jesus, OCD, writes that the actions of God are distinct from our experience of them. God can infuse his sublimist favors without the soul’s consciousness. We cannot affirm there is no mystical life without a mystical experience. Saint John of the Cross says that when divine favors come, there’s often no effect, like sunshine in a dustless room. Purifications are periods in which God deprives the soul of the experience of his presence. The soul is left with the feeling God has forgotten, yet perseveres in the practice of the virtues and of charity. Due to these purifications, it is God and not his consolations which is loved. Fr. Marie-Eugene says there is one dominant impression throughout the quasi experience, the contrary of what is given (something which might be called negative). His light produces darkness in the intellect; his strength seems to make the soul weak. The great saints experience moments of the questioning of God’s existence. Having this negative experience, this paradox, is the most constant and authentic sign of the divine action. We can say there is the mystery of the greatness of God which might even be terrifying at the same time as a great fascination. This experience of the contrary experience is important for people to know in the spiritual life — such an experience will come. All sorts of temptations come and the joy seems to disappear. Often people are tempted here to despair, whether priests or married people. These are moments given to us by God to persevere. We should make acts of charity in the face of this darkness.

At different times the gift of understanding fills the soul with penetrating darkness and penetrating clarity. The gift of fortitude is more the gift of Christ on the Cross (abandonment) and Saint Lawrence. The gift of knowledge can produce a distaste for people or show the value of the plan of God. The recipient’s appreciation of this experience is influenced by his temperament. The surest sign of the divine presence is the fruit of the action. Spiritual fecundity always accompanies the action of the Holy Spirit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are not limited to miracles. The discernment of the fruits of the Holy Spirit will not always be easy. Sanctity is the meeting of our weakness with the Holy Spirit, and we experience the weakness. Sometimes the fecundity will be made manifest only at a later date. The true fecundity of the Church, the work of sanctity in the Church, depends on our letting the Holy Spirit take charge, to accept his inner workings in faith. This leads to fecundity. The beginnings of new religious communities, there is always the doubt of whether it will work out. The struggles of the founder really requires abandonment.

Saint Thomas has the quasi-experience and the instinct of the Holy Spirit. This recognition comes through the gifts of wisdom and charity by appropriation. In the recognition of these gifts there is the quasi-experience of the cognition of God. In the union of the person with God in the faith, there is the echo of the Holy Spirit. This union is saturated with love, and there’s a delight. The term experimentalis denotes an affective reaction that accompanies the cognition. It doesn’t refer to the means of cognition — that we know experimentally — but that there is a certain fascination. There is an affective experience in the will. The cognition of the God gives a taste to the soul due to which the characteristics attributed to the divine persons are recognized. We don’t have a means to verify it though. The emphasis on the quasi stresses that the experimentalis is analogical. The instinctus Spiritus Sancti is used 68 times by Saint Thomas. The grace of the Holy Spirit means that we instinctively become aware of what is accord with our nature. The instinct surpasses our reason and the theological virtues.

Saint Thomas had access to a work of Aristotle from which he took the term instinctus. The term is the action of the Holy Spirit, whose influence is as if dominant in the human will. The term doesn’t mention whether it is an impulse or an enlightenment. But God invites by it, Saint Thomas says. The person moved by the divine instinct should move immediately and follow the impetus of the Holy Spirit. There is a divine instinct above that which is prudence. The preference for instinctus over inspiratio shows that the movement of the Holy Spirit is not always accompanied by a recognition that it comes from the Holy Spirit. The supernatural dimension is recognized sometimes only later. This is not an extraordinary grace. It’s an ordinary part of the Christian life. A holy person has an habitual recognition of these inspirations. Mary had such an obedience to the Holy Spirit that she desired marriage and virginity and placed the mystery in the hands of God. The contact with this instinct of the Holy Spirit opens up to the ineffable the living mystery of the Church which cannot be written down and which is transmitted from generation to generation. This is what is essential in the life of the Church. This is why the Church is more Marian than Petrine. Even if there are no pastors, with the Holy Spirit the Church is there.


Apologetics Page Library Page TOC Index Page Foot Notes Previous Next

Click here to goto CFP Home Page