The Holy Spirit, the definition of love
THE AMERICAN poet, Robert Frost, once wrote that there is a congenital something in every one of us that hates a wall.
Well, there is also something, just as non-eradicable, that loves a list; especially in those of us who are cradle Catholics.
Our classical catechisms contained lists of everything sacraments, deadly sins, commandments, cardinal virtues, minor virtues, even types of angels.
There are two such lists for the Holy Spirit, one listing the fruits and the other listing the gifts. These lists are not simply a catechetical invention, arbitrarily created for pedagogical purposes. Both have a solid biblical foundation.
Thus, the fruits of the Spirit are based on a list of virtues that Paul (Galatians 5: 22-23) describes as coming from the Spirit.
Our catechisms list 12 of these fruits: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.
The gifts ascribed to the Spirit are based upon two biblical lists, the first is given by the prophet Isaiah (11: 2) and the second is revealed by Paul in 1 Corinthians (12: 4-11).
Our catechisms, both the old and the new,
sununarise these gifts in a list of seven: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
Since, in preparation for the new Millennium, this year has been designated the year of the Holy Spirit, during Lent this column will be devoted to speaking about the Holy Spirit, and more specifically about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
However, in order to understand what these gifts are, and what precisely they bring to us, it is necessary first to situate them in their ultimate source, their generation within the life of the Trinity.
How is the Holy Spirit generated within the Trinity and how do the gifts of the Spirit flow out of that?
It might seem a daunting concept to attempt to describe, but we are not
without help from divine revelation and human analogies in doing so.
Thus the Holy Spirit has classically been defined in theological terms as 'the love between the Father and the Son.'
This is not simply an abstract formula but a phrase that tries to express, however inadequately, what results anywhere here or in heaven whenever there is a genuine, reciprocal flow of love.
Thus, simply within the normal flow of human love, it is possible to see the following dynamic: Someone, out of love and gratitude, gives a gift to another. That gift helps fire love and gratitude in that other, who then in gratitude reciprocates.
This reciprocation fires a deeper love and gratitude within the initial giver, who can now give, in an even deeper way, to that other.
This, in turn, fires a still deeper love and gratitude in that other, who can then respond, even more deeply, in love and gratitude to the original giver.
As this dynamic works, an energy, a fire, a palpable force, a spirit, begins to build which affects and infects for the good everything it comes into contact with, drawing it into its own joyous energy.
That is, by way of analogy, how the Trinity works and the Holy Spirit is
generated. Thus the Godhead can be described: God the Father, the source of everything, is always creating life and is giving it in love to the Son.
The Son is lovingly receiving that life and is, in gratitude, giving it back to the Father.
This enables the Father to give that life back in an even deeper way.
The Son, then, is able to respond even more deeply to the Father.
As this reciprocal flow of love and gratitude deepens and intensifies, an energy, a fire, a palpable force, a person, the Holy Spirit, is born and hat force infects everythingaround it, drawing it intoa palpable charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, fideLty and chstity.
That very ambierice, in turn, afftets perception, ("Love is the eye," as Hugo of St Victor puts it).
The gifts of the Spirit flow from its fruit: when one's heart and mind are coloured by love , joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, fidelity and chastity (as opposed to anger, bitterness, fear and lust) one will also understand things and react to them &an a different wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
The Holy Spirit is now working.t