by Andrew Gniadek
All translations are my own
The Purpose of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The purpose of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to help us have the power to begin living a life with God, a supernatural life, a Christocentric life, a God-referenced life. There are three things to understand about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
First, the person must enter the supernatural life through Baptism and possess the three supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity. These three virtues give the person the disposition to perform faith-filled, hope-filled, and charitable actions: these enable us to be in a way that was impossible without the Holy Spirit giving these virtues at Baptism.
Second, the Holy Spirit’s real grace is the dynamism that allows these virtues to work through the person. Thus, even at Baptism, without Confirmation, the Holy Spirit is working in the person through the life of sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues and the other virtues the person cultivates governed by these virtues.
Third, through the sacrament of confirmation and the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the person not only moves further into the Christocentric life, making the person more and more in the image of Christ, but also removes obstacles to the practice of the virtues. These gifts allow the person to develop in his or her understanding of the order of things, the hidden meaning of Revelation and the practice of religion, patience in suffering, right value of things, etc.
Therefore, the gifts begets fruits, which are really just actions (works) of the person, and these works give the person supernatural merit for the actions because the principle was the infinite God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Just as Christ’s actions had infinite merit to the Father, so each Christian’s actions, in the Holy Spirit and through Christ, has merit with the Father as well.
The Source of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The source of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself. First, when a person is baptized into the faith, the person receives what is called sanctifying grace, which gives the person three supernatural virtues: faith, hope, and charity. These virtues must be cultivated by living a life ultimately under the greatest commandment: love God above all things, and love your neighbor for God’s sake. When a person receives Confirmation, the person receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and just like any gift, is called to cultivate these gifts in union with the Holy Spirit, who wants to make that person more Christ-like, so that through being made more and more each day into the image of Christ, the person is given access to the Father, the source of all blessings.
The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit
In the book of Isaias, we hear about the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
And the spirit of God shall be brought to rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, and the spirit of fear of the God shall fill him. (Isaias 11:2-3)
Each gift of the Holy Spirit has a fruit or fruits that grow from that gift.
The Gift of Wisdom: the fruit of Wisdom is Charity
Wisdom is contemplating the real order of things and how these things relate to one another and ultimately to God. We see God as the source and summit of all things, and how all things connect back to Him.
The fruit of this gift is charity: this is self-gift, the love that God loves us with, and actions that produce this fruit conform with the greatest commandment: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself for God’s sake.
The Gift of Understanding: the fruit of Understanding is Peace
Understanding bestows the power to see the hidden meaning, that which is not immediately present on the surface, of religion and Revelation.
The fruit of this gift is peace: this is a wholeness and seeing how things fit together as a whole. The peace here causes rest because the whole is seen. The person can take notice of the things of God in religion and revelation and brings them together to create this whole and in this whole rest peacefully.
The Gift of Knowledge: the fruit of Knowledge is Joy
Knowledge allows us to relate to things according to value, that is, to see things in a real way and not be attached to them in a disordered way.
The fruit of this gift is joy: joy in what the person does and who the person deals with. The person with the fruit of joy acts in a way where if all things were taken from the person, the person knows God, the highest value, cannot be taken from him or her. The person gives thanks to God for all the things He has given the person; the person delights and rejoices in all the graces God has given and sees their value to the person as well as the graces given to neighbors and the value to that person, the world, and the Church.
The Gift of Fortitude: the fruit of Fortitude is Patience
Fortitude helps us to not be discouraged when we encounter pain, obstacles, or other things that stand in our way of being Christ-like and in our growth in virtue and the spiritual life.
Fortitude’s fruit of patience gives the person a long fuse, in that the person can suffer many things and not vent wrath and succumb to anger’s sway; second, the person has longanimity, in that the person not only can be patient, but also is disposed to patience in a habitual way.
Gift of Piety: the two fruits of Piety are Faith and Mildness
Piety shows us the that we are adopted sons and daughters of God as well as seeing our neighbors in his light.
There are two fruits of Piety: first, faith, which is the basis for our affection to God and seeing our neighbors as children of God; second, mildness (gentleness), which follows the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and acts through His governance in all things.
The Gift of Fear of the Lord: the fruit is Self-Control
Fear of the Lord gives us the light to see ourselves as God’s creatures, dependent on him for our very existence through all things we have in ourselves and the world, as well as controlling our passions and desires to keep them only for God, not based on our self-love.
The fruit of Fear of the Lord is self-control. The person possesses modesty, continency, and chastity, among other things, because the person has mastered the appetites to orient them to God, not towards the self-love-based desires of the person.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and their relation to the Human Person and Freedom
First, when God gives a gift, he does not “take it back.” For example, let’s say you give a gift to your spouse and your spouse receives it from you despite not really wanting the gift. In the middle of the night, your spouse takes the gift and dumps it in the garbage. In this case, your intention as the giver of the gift was not to take it away from your spouse, but in freedom, your spouse threw the gift away.
We see in ourselves the gifts God has given us, and we also see clearly how sometimes we use those gifts for ourselves in self-love and sometimes we use those gifts for God’s sake in reference to Him alone. God could take away the gifts He gave us, but God, like the spouse who gave the gift in the previous example, gives for good; once he has given a gift, he will not take it back. Yet, that does not preclude us from using the gifts for the wrong things or just not developing the gift or just throwing it away.
God does not take away gifts he gives. However, if a person freely chooses to be in a state of mortal sin, then the person loses the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in a way, the gifts are taken away; instead of the person choosing to grow in friendship with God, the person chooses him or herself over God. God leaves the soul because the soul has chosen to leave God, not the other way around. Like in Francis Thompson’s poem The Hound of Heaven, God will continue to seek the lost person despite rejecting God with mortal sin. A person who has clearly rejected God in this way will only come back to God when the person sees God properly and chooses to do so; the choice of return, metanoia, lies always with the person.
Any person can receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit who is baptized and wants to be confirmed. Again, the question of the gifts is not God being limited in giving to only certain special people; we need to choose to receive the gifts.
How to learn more
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