Tag Archives: Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Heaven in Our Hands: Living the Beatitudes

Heaven in Our Hands: Living the Beatitudes: Receiving the Blessings You Long For

by Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. (1994)

The primary value of this book is that it gives a modern take on what St. Augustine had (unknown to me) already offered as the pairings of each of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit with each of the eight Beatitudes. It is a very down to earth yet effective book.

Fr. Groeschel assigns each pairing to one of the ascending stages of the spiritual journey: Purgative, Illuminative, and Unitive. These divisions go back to the early days of Christian thought: St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine, among others.

Here is a solid excerpt from early in the book, as the author is getting warmed up. It is from Chapter 2, “Written on Our Hearts”, in a sections called “The Law of the Spirit of Life”:

Why this concern about the gifts of the Holy Spirit? The fact is that we cannot successfully continue or even begin to live the life of the Beatitudes unless we are lifted up “on eagles’ wings” (Ex 19:4) through the improvement of these spiritual gifts. Many people–including clergy and religious–spend a considerable amount of energy on Christian activities such as prayer and good works, yet don’t appear to have a clue as to their ultimate goal, the final destination of their spiritual journey. Even the concept of a spiritual journey often escapes their notice.

Scripture tells us that the gospel abrogated the law given to Moses, and that we follow “the law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2). But if you were to ask most people where this law of the Spirit of life is to be found or what it entails, they would be hard pressed to tell you.

Some would guess that the law of the Spirit of life means the Sermon on the Mount, or the whole gospel, or all the teachings included in the sacred tradition of the Church and the apostolic teaching. And in fact, all of these sources represent the external, visible, comprehensible, even printable law, if you will. This visible law guides us and is called the law of Christ. But the Fathers of the Church, in an all-but-forgotten teaching, maintain that the “law of the Spirit of life” is written on the heart (or inner being) of the devout follower of Christ.

St. Paul clearly describes the true location of this law: “you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:3). In Galatians we are told to “walk by the Spirit,” and that if we are led by the Spirit, we are “not under the law” (Gal 5:16-18).

St. John Chrysostom in several sermons speaks of the new law as the Holy Spirit himself. St. Augustine wrote an entire treatise, “De Spiritu et Littera,” where we find the following summary on this important and little-known doctrine: “What else are the laws of God himself poured into our hearts than the presence itself of the Holy Spirit? By his presence love is poured out into our hearts which is the fullness of the law.”

The ultimate location of God’s law is in the heart (or in the center of being) of the individual believer. This teaching has not been popular because it can be misunderstood easily and lead to moral subjectivism. Yet the Holy Spirit can’t write one moral law onto my heart and another one onto yours. We obviously need the “external” moral teaching of Scripture and tradition to keep us from sinking into a quagmire of confusion. At the same time we must remember that this law is inscribed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

– pp. 44-45

Advertisements

The Sanctifier

The Sanctifier

by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez (2003; originally 1957 (English))

I had almost forgotten how good this book is. Luckily I had left a few bookmarks throughout the book that helped me locate the parts that really made an impact on me. Archbishop Martinez is an enjoyable writer to read, which I had really forgotten. Strange, as I had read this only about two years ago. Not so strange, perhaps, due to the other good books I have read since then.

Martinez, a Mexican archbishop, wrote this sometime before his death in 1956. It was promptly translated into English and published a year later, with an observation by the translator that this was overdue. That hint is the closest I can come to determining when the original Spanish edition was released.

There is an abridged version of this called True Devotion to the Holy Spirit, which leaves off the fourth and final–and worthwhile–section on the Beatitudes. So be warned that an online shopper might be prompted to purchase both of them together, with that ever-present suggestion, “readers who bought this, bought that”. If they did, they shouldn’t have.

(You can read a few pages, common to both, from the abridged edition.)

After a section consisting of a succession of short topical chapters that share the title of the aforementioned abridged edition, follow a section on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (first referenced by the prophet Isaiah) and another on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit (which ought to be familiar to anyone who has read the epistles of St. Paul).

I particularly like his treatment of the Gifts, as he always gives a hierarchy of each gift. For instance, about the Gift of Counsel, he first talks about natural human prudence by which we conduct our worldly affairs. Then he speaks about supernatural virtuous prudence through which we navigate the difficulties of life. Finally he goes into divine prudence, which he tells us is the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Counsel, describing it as the equivalent of getting advice from above the level of our intelligence, and further outlining three degrees of progress in this gift. I can hardly do it justice in one summary paragraph, so I encourage you to read it for yourself.

I will give an excerpt, though. I would be tempted to take it from Chapter 18 of Part I, “Our Response to Christ Crucified”, but it would be too lengthy. Indeed, it would be tempting to offer most if not all of that chapter. Instead I give you something shorter from Part IV “The Beatitudes”. Here follows a relatively short passage from Chapter 8, ‘The Seventh Beatitude “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Mt. 5:9)’:

The fruit of wisdom and love is peace. But have we not said that peace was produced in the soul by the virtues and gifts proper to the earlier stages? Did not the first three beatitudes bring peace by tearing out of the soul the roots of restlessness? And did not justice and mercy establish proper relations with others?

The work accomplished by the active life was indeed a work of peace, but it was negative. It was the war that prepared the peace by shattering our enemies; it was the relentless sickle that prepared the harvest by cutting down the weeds; it was the strong wind that hurried the dark clouds along so that the sun might shine.

Pure peace is something divine that only wisdom and love can produce. To be peaceful, it is not enough to live in sweet concord with our brother. It is not sufficient to have all our powers in tranquil harmony under the empire of the will. Rather, all the desires of the soul must be fused in one single divine desire, all flowing as one great torrent, with no scattered currents of affection anywhere. The soul must be simple as God is simple, so that all things can be unified.

– pg. 338

(NOTE: The term “simple” as used above is not meant in the usual sense to convey any of: unintelligent, uncomplicated, humble, or unadorned, which are all common meanings of the word. Here it is used in the less-common sense of “undivided; whole; not complex; not made of many constituent parts each subject to analysis”. This is a recurring connotation that you will run into in many spiritual writings.)