Pentecost (3) — A Plenitude of Gifts from the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit — the Giver Of Gifts
Both in Sacred Scriptures and in the Sacred Traditions of the Christian Faith, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Divine Trinity is noted as the ‘Giver of gifts’. The gifts of God, the spiritual gifts, are traditionally attributed to the Holy Spirit as its dispenser, or put in better terms, as its producer in the souls of the faithful. The Holy Spirit is both the giver of gifts as well as the ultimate gift of God itself; since it is the presence of the Holy Spirit itself and the ability he confers that brings about the supernatural manifestations that Christian tradition has come to refer to as ‘supernatural gifts’ or charisma.
The Holy Spirit is the font of all supernatural gifts and abilities necessary for a glorious, victorious and meritorious Christian living. It is to the Divine Spirit that the faithful soul must turn in its quest to possess those supernatural powers that renders the soul pleasing to God conformed to the Divine will even while it sojourns in the flesh. The gifts that the Spirit confers are indeed a plenitude. There are the traditional Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but there are also countless other gifts that come from the ‘Giver of gifts’. Of his many gifts, some are visible and clearly manifested, other are hidden or rather inconspicuous. The faithful possess these gifts and use them to the degree each is conformed the God the giver and to the degree they serve the purpose of God among his people.
- The Seven Primary Gifts of the Holy Spirit
For the purpose of this reflection, we shall affix to the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit the qualifier ‘primary’ and so address them as the ‘Seven Primary Gifts of the Holy Spirit’. The reason is to distinguish the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit from the many other gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the faithful. In other words, it is to acknowledge the fact that indeed the seven gifts are only the primary gifts among the plenitude of supernatural gifts and faculties with which the Holy Spirit adorns the Body of Christ, the Church and by which He empowers the faithful towards an efficacious and graceful life in Christ. But this is also very important, as it helps to remind us that the traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are both primary and necessary in the life of every Christian.
The traditional seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are both ‘primary’ and ‘necessary’, in as much as they are the first gifts of grace received at baptism and in as much as they provide the disposition for the reception and exercise of the other supernatural gifts. They are as well ‘primary’ because upon them are founded the gracious and efficacious exercise of the Christian life, the life of grace, the life of the beatitudes. These gifts are necessary for the Christian life to be lived in the first place and in the true sense. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are the wheels of the evangelical beatitudes. In this sense too, they are primary for the Christian life; little wonder then they come to us together with the grace of regeneration and baptismal rebirth. They come to us along with the gift of divine life itself and are purposed to be its constant companions.
- The Many Gifts of the Holy Spirit
But beyond these primary seven gifts, the Holy Spirit goes on to generously adorn all those who yield to his divine dominion with a plenitude of other gifts and potents, as He pleases. These other gifts, we shall refer to as the Secondary Gifts or the Special Gifts. However, the Secondary or Special gifts are built on the Primary Gifts and depend on them for sustenance and effectiveness. Whereas the seven primary gifts are given to us together with sanctifying grace and serve primarily for the sanctification of those who receive them; the special gifts are not necessarily given for the sanctification of those who receive them, but for the service of the Church and the good of others.
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In other words, whereas, the seven gifts are given to all the baptised as necessary for salvation, the special gifts are given according to the need of the Christian community and as the Spirit wills. This is why they are indeed ‘secondary’ gifts. Even though the secondary gifts are gifts of grace, they are not necessarily proofs of sanctifying grace or the presence of the Holy Spirit in the soul; as the exercise of the seven gifts are indeed proofs of sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who produces them in the soul.
Some of these secondary gifts or special gifts are listed in different parts of the New Testament. We can find them in Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10; 1 Corinthians 12:28–30; Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 4:11 and Mark 16:17–18. Some examples of the special gifts listed in the Bible are the gifts of discernment, the gift of prophecy, the gift of healing, the gift of miracles, the gift of praying in tongues, as well as the gift of speaking and interpretation of tongues. The bible also lists other charisms and ministries as gifts, including: Apostles, Teachers, Leaders, Prophets, Pastors, Evangelists as well as Service, Giving, Exhortation and works of Mercy.
The gifts of casting out evil spirits, supernatural protection, new tongues and healing are recorded in Mark 16:17–18. There are also other gifts, such as celibacy, intercession, hospitality, etc, listed in other parts of the Epistles. However, one must note that the gifts with which the Holy Spirit adorns the Church are not limited and cannot be limited to those listed in the New Testament. Recall that even the seven primary gifts of the Holy Spirit are not found in the New Testament, but in the prophecy of the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1–3). The book of Joel records the gifts of dreams and visions, as supernatural charisms that accompany the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Yet there are many more gifts and adornments form the Holy Spirit that have been manifested in the life and ministry of the Saints that are found neither in the Old nor in the New Testaments. This means that what we find in Sacred Scriptures are only some among the plenitude of gifts with which the Holy Spirit enriches the faithful for the ministry of the Church.
- Categorizing the Many Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Generally, we can divide these gifts into three broad categories, namely: the Charismatic Gifts, Ministerial Gifts and the Mystical Gifts. The charismatic gifts would refer to those gifts that constitute a special manifestation of the Spirit, given for the benefit of individual Christians or Christian communities, to meet some material or spiritual need or as an aid to the proclamation of the gospel. Here we list the gifts of miracles, healing, visions, locutions, discernment, exorcism, etc. The ministerial gifts would refer to the varied special gifts of leadership and service employed in the life of the Church for purpose of fulfilling the mandate of witnessing to Christ in the world. Here we would list the gifts of teaching, prophecy, exhortation, evangelizing, giving, serving, counselling, administering, etc.
We use the term ‘mystical gifts’ here, to refer to those truly extra-ordinary supernatural prodigies and manifestations in the lives of the Saints that go beyond merely meeting particular material or spiritual need, but are in themselves edifying proofs of sanctity and of mystical union with God. Here we list such gifts as: ecstasy, levitation, bilocation, locution, incorruptibility, stigmata, flame of love, reading of hearts, the piercing of hearts, the exchange of hearts, odour of sanctity, among others. We shall, however focus on the seven primary gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- The Purpose of the Many Gifts of the Holy Spirit
But why does God, through his Spirit, pour out such manifold abundance of gifts upon his children? It ought to be noted that God graciously pours out his gifts upon the faithful, as a sign of his unquantifiable love for his creatures, especially his children, that is, those of his creatures, who willingly surrender to his will and accept his righteous dominion. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, God manifests His power and his presence among his people. In this way, he aids them in the dilemmas of earthly life and gives them a foretaste of the glorious life of heaven. But God pours out his gifts above all, for the building up of his family, the Church. It is therefore right and necessary to desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with His many gifts.
Michael Richmond Duru
3rd June 2022