The Holy Spirit is the New living Law, alive and acting in us and through us. As Christians our true Moses is Jesus himself, and our two tables of the Ten Commandments is the Living Divine Spirit in us, communicating Divine Life to us and guiding us 24/7. We are not dealing with a set of rules, or commandments, but with a living Spirit. This is why it is of the utmost importance to make every effort during this lifetime to learn to know who the Holy Spirit is, how He works, and to learn how to correspond in the best way to his Action in us. All Christians, individually and as a whole, need to be experts in the Holy Spirit. This is the most essential and vital science in which each human being needs to gain knowledge and expertise.
The Holy Spirit is our inner Master, the Master of all our being, senses, emotions, mind, and spirit. It is in the secret of our heart that God pours His Spirit into us. However, He first needs to purify our heart, transform it from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel 36). And after this his desire is to dwell in our Heart of flesh with His Spirit, being united to us and guiding us.
God gives us: the Holy Spirit himself, the uncreated third person of the Trinity, uncreated. He gives to our soul his seven gifts to illumine us, guide us, help us discern and give us the piety and strength to do His Will. He gives us support and help for our body. Despite this, the key aspect of the Holy Spirit that is given to us remains the Seven Gifts, because it is through them that our conscious soul can – by the Grace of God – listen, accept and correspond to the grace of God (the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts).
Therefore, it is very traditional and rather common to speak about the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the human soul, to help the mind through Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, and the will through Piety, Fortitude, Fear of God. Different images can be used to help us understand the relationship between the seven spirits or Gifts of the Holy Spirit and our Faculties.
The Ship with Seven Masts
Our main faculties – mind and will – are like the seven masts of a ship that need to be filled by the winds in order to function correctly and move, i.e. sail in spiritual life. Our mind has four different ways of functioning and our will three, hence the need for the seven gifts. When the sails are deployed, the capacity to respond or catch the winds increases.
This is why the seven gifts (or capacities to catch the sevenfold Spirit) need to grow in us.
The Seven Branched Lampstand
Another image that helps us understand the relationship between the Holy Spirit and our faculties is the lampstand, or Menorah, we find in the Jerusalem Temple, and in the book of Revelation.
Each human being is like a lampstand having seven branches, each one capable of holding one lamp: oil and wick. If there is enough oil and a good wick, then the Fire of the sevenfold Holy Spirit can light up each one of them.
The Modus Operandi of the Seven Gifts
We can develop the teaching on the Seven Gifts, gift by gift, but this is not the purpose of this short article. Here, we would like to deepen our understanding of the way the Gifts of the Holy Spirit operate in us.
First of all, it is not enough to mention the Gift, any gift or each gift, explain it and ask for it, and then implement in it in our life. The gifts are not implemented in one particular way, or uniquely. What we need to understand is the relationship between the modus operandiof each gift and our stage of growth. We can clearly distinguish at least five modus operandi of the gifts in us:
|Committed Christian||General Help of the Grace of God: strengthening the moral structure of the human being: fulfilling the 10 Commandments.|
|Purification of the||– sense||
Human Mode of Action
Deep Purification (Dark Night of the Spirit), Transition
|Spiritual Engagement – Betrothal (united with Jesus’ Head)||
Divine Mode of Action
|Transformative Union||Incandescent Mode – Directly Active|
|United with Jesus’ Body||Redemptive Mode – directly influencing our brothers and sisters
Having a share in their darkness
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit do not work uniformly. The purity and degree of transformation in God determine the mode in which the activity of the Holy Spirit is deployed.
Strangely enough, if on one hand we tend to distinguish the existence of seven different Gifts of the Holy Spirit, cannot comprehend the order they have between themselves, the relationship between this order and the anthropology, and finally, we don’t have the faintest idea of the existence of variations in the action of the seven gifts in us, according to our spiritual growth. St John of the Cross, however, states it succinctly with this fundamental principle in Spiritual Life namely, the Holy Spirit’s way of acting in us depends on the main need we have at the stage we have reached.
In conclusion, then, not being able to differentiate the different modus operandiof the Holy Spirit is quite a failure in our understanding of Spiritual Life.
Often Christians navigate between 1 and 2, thinking that 2 is being spiritual and being under the influence of the Holy Spirit, not guessing at all that the first spiritual way of acting of the Holy Spirit belongs to a “human mode”, because God adapts Himself to the baser way of acting of the Old Man in us. Hence this is why St Paul speaks about existing on “milk” and not “solid food”.
In consequence, to date with regard to spiritual literature, in spiritual literature on the Holy Spirit we often hear more about the Charisms of the Holy Spirit rather than the seven gifts! And if we hear about the seven gifts we never hear about their mode of operation.
Really, St John of the Cross should be taught to the entire world when studying basic Theology.
It becomes worse, of course, when we use some lateral criteria of discernment, taken out of context, to discern unilaterally about the action of the Holy Spirit in the human being, weighing up His action by “consolation” and “desolation” i.e. feeling and not feeling His action in us. This is really the end of any possible spiritual life, of any proper discernment! People should really read St John of the Cross closely. It is from this point of lack of proper analysis and understanding of what is happening, namely, moving from the human to the divine mode of action of the Holy Spirit, that St John of the Cross starts to write!
More often we deserve what St Paul said: “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”(1 Cor 3:1-2) A good way of getting ready is by raising awareness of the issue, in order to move the faithful to seek greater depths in their spiritual life and not to be content with little, thinking we have achieved a great deal.
The most common case that can arise, however, is that the most generous-hearted of the Faithful will be blessed by reaching the second mode (2a, 2b, 2c) and will think that this is the most they can reach and will start to go around in circles, or worse, to go backward.
What Do We Mean by “Mode”
As we can see, “mode” is a key word in this article, or any of the synonyms for it: one can use a synonym of it: modality, way, manner.
“Mode” implies the different aspects and parameters of the Action of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in and through the faculties of the human being, mainly mind and will. It implies these different aspects being all interconnected with one another:
– the Height of the action (in God or outside of God)
– the Intensity of the action
– the Speed of the action
– the Purity: if the person is still in the three stages of purification, the main work of the Holy Spirit is to achieve the purification, stage after stage.
– the Means used: created means or uncreated means, i.e. God himself.
– the Goal of the act: the goal is to bring the person to the next step, to reach a greater mode. Reaching the fifth mode, the goal is to take a share in the salvation of our brothers and sisters.
In order to conclude, I would like to remind the main point we are addressing here. If we talk about the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit we need to remember that they don’t act in us always in the same way. Each stage of our growth and transformation in God implies a different modality in the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact He adapts himself to the immediate need of the person in matters of purification, transformation, growth.
The different modes of action of the Holy Spirit should be studied and taken into consideration in all the activities of the Church. This aspect is all together fundamental and necessary. It is not because it has rarely been studied and used that we have the right to neglect it. The great master in these matters remains St John of the Cross.