Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Gift Surpassing All Other Gifts, Save One

On the eve of the great feast of Pentecost, we come to the final and greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of wisdom. This is truly ‘the’ gift, the one that surpasses all the others, the one that, in a sense, gives all the others their form and sense.

Wisdom is, in human terms, that by which we integrate all that we know, all that is true and good and beautiful, into a whole. That quality by which we not only see each individual piece of knowledge or understanding, but see how all of it fits together into a beautiful picture. This is the normal human sense of the word ‘wisdom’, and of course it is in human terms a property of age and long life experience. Humanly, it is only with the years and much hard won insight into life that we attain wisdom.

Or, it can be given as a free gift of God in baptism, which of course we then grow into with time. The gift of the Spirit of wisdom is that by which we see all reality as having its source, substance, meaning, and end in the mystery of Divine Love. He made us out of love; He made us to love; He made us to be completed by our communion with Love; all created things are given to us to be caught up in the mystery of love given, love received, love known, love loved.

This is the deep wisdom of the Spirit. And this whole integration of all reality into the mystery of the Divine Charity, the Divine Mercy, is not some intellectual grasping, some wonderful conceptual schema that we can diagram out and reduce to precise mathematical formulae.

It is, rather, a contemplation of Love in the contemplation of the Trinity. It is this knowledge that transcends the intellect that the whole of reality is Trinitarian—Love begetting Love, Love receiving Love, Love proceeding from Love, and then the Triune Love pouring out in a endless ceaseless cataract to what is non-love, because it is non-being, to give it being by loving it, and so there is Creation, and then that same Triune Love pouring out to heal Creation broken by the refusal to love, healing it by introducing this very Triune communion of Love into the very place where that refusal to love collapses into futility, non-being, death—the Cross of Christ. 

And this same cataract of Love rushing into Hell, into the tomb, into the very depth of human failure, and (a rising tide raises all boats!) bearing all flesh up, up, up to the heart of the Trinity, the heart of Love—the Resurrection and Ascension.

And then Love comes down again and resides in our hearts—the gift of the Spirit!—and this gift begets in us Holy Wisdom, the ability to receive, contemplate, and understand our whole life and all of reality in the key of love, the key of wisdom, that which unlocks the whole secret, solves the whole riddle, delivers to us the Answer to every human problem, every human sorrow, every human misery and evil in this world.

Wisdom is the greatest of all the gifts, save one. And that One is, of course, God Himself come to dwell in our hearts, the Indwelling Trinity. That is what we celebrate tomorrow as we celebrate Pentecost—God is with us, forever, and makes our whole life, if we will it, if we but cooperate with Him, a sharing in the divine life.

So that is my little catechesis on the gifts of the Spirit. All of them, in truth, are the first-fruits of this Indwelling God within us—the fear which makes us dread nothing so much as losing this presence, the fortitude that allows us to brave any danger for its sake, the real affection of piety for this God who has done this astounding thing.

And the gifts that perfect our intellect—the constant sensitivity to the Spirit’s guidance in the here and now, the divine insight into all creation goods, the spiritual understanding of our revealed faith—these too flow directly from His presence in our hearts. All of which we contemplate by the crowning gift of Wisdom in which we have the means to abide in Him and know His abiding in us.

And so, indeed, come, Holy Spirit.

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