Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Psalm 142/3: The gifts of the Holy Spirit

The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Fresco Borgia Apartments,
Hall of the Mysteries of the Faith, 1492-4

In the last part of this mini-series on Psalm 142 I suggested that the next step in the plan laid out in the penitential psalms for escaping the dominion of sin was meditation.   Meditating in itself though, effects nothing.  For it to be effective, we need God to be present in our meditation and contemplations, for the Holy Spirit to give us new life, as the psalmist makes clear in the verses I want to look at today.

Verses 10-12: Knowledge of God enkindled by his spirit

 In verse 10, the psalmist asks that God make known his ways to the genuine seeker after truth:

David Tenier the Younger, 1610-90,
Rocky Landscape with pilgrims

“Notam fac mihi viam, in qua ámbulem: * quia ad te levávi ánimam meam”,

or “Make the way known to me, wherein I should walk: for I have lifted up my soul to you.”

Secondly, in verse 11, he asks for God to teach him the virtue of obedience:

“…doce me fácere voluntátem tuam, quia Deus meus es tu”,

 or ‘teach me to do your will, for you are my God’.

Finally, and most crucially, in verse 12 he asks for the help of the Holy Ghost:

Spíritus tuus bonus dedúcet me in terram rectam: * propter nomen tuum, Dómine, vivificábis me, in æquitáte tua,

or ‘Your good spirit shall lead me into the right land: For your name's sake, O Lord, you will quicken me in your justice’.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Hildegarde von Bingen, creation

The existence of the Holy Ghost is of course foreshadowed in the Old Testament: in the spirit that hovers over the waters at the time of creation. The clearest prophesy of the life of grace that the psalmist is asking for here though, is surely those famous verses from Ezekiel, featured at the last World Youth Day.

St Robert Bellarmine comments:

“That good Spirit is the Holy Ghost, who is essentially good, and through whom "the charity of God is poured out into our hearts;" and this it is that makes us wish to work and carry out our wishes; and it is of it Ezechiel speaks when he says, "And I will put my Spirit in the midst of you, and I will cause you to walk in my commandments." This good Spirit "shall lead me into the right land;" in that plain and direct road, the Lord's law, which is most plain and direct The "right land" may also mean our country above, where all is right and straight, and nothing distorted or crooked. "For thy name's sake thou wilt quicken me in thy justice." To show us that justification, which is a sort of spiritual resuscitation, is not to be had from our own merits, but from the gratuitous gift of God, he adds, "For thy name's sake," for the glory that will accrue to you by the gift of so much grace, "thou wilt quicken me in thy justice."

Indeed, each of the seven penitential psalms can readily be associated with one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, no doubt one of the reasons why the Catechism of the Catholic Church in fact cites this verse in relation to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

CCC 1831: “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

Defeating our enemies with the help of grace

I deliberately skipped over the first half of verse 11 above, which is the lead in to the request to be taught obedience and given the guidance of the Holy Ghost. In fact, it says:

Eripe me de inimícis meis, Dómine, ad te confúgi, or

Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, to you have I fled.

These gifts of the spirit, then, together with the virtues, most especially hope, are the key to escaping sin and defeating the temptations that beset us in the spiritual war that we must wage.

And the last part in this series, continues on here.

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