08 June 2014

The seven properties of fire and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

Church of St. John the Baptist, Quincy, Illinois
On this great Solemnity of Pentecost, we are reminded by Saint Luke the Evangelist that "there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:3-4).

Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit came down upon them as fire? The Evanglical Doctor, Saint Anthony of Padua, offers seven connected, intriguing, and likely reasons:
Note that by burning, fire brings low what is high, joins together what is divided (as iron to iron), makes bright what is dark, penetrates what is hard, is always mobile, directs all its movements and force upwards and flees the earth, and moves whatever it is engendered in its own proper operation. These seven properties of fire can be referred to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which
by the gift of fear, brings low what is high (that is, proud);
by the gift of piety, joins divided and separated hearts;
by the gift of knowledge, makes bright what is dark;
by the gift of fortitude, penetrates hard hearts;
by the gift of counsel, is always in motion
(for he who is counseled by his inspiration does not remain idle, but moves promptly to his own work and the salvation of others. "The grace of the Holy Spirit knows no sluggishness of effort" [Saint Ambrose]);
by the gift of understanding, directs all its movements, etc
(because by his inspiration he gives man to understand, that is, to inwardly read his heart, that he may seek what is heavenly and flee what is earthly);
by the gift of wisdom, it moves the mind in which it is engendered to its own operation
(because it gives it a taste for it. Ecclesiasticus 24 says: I perfumed my dwelling [24:21]. The mind of the just, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, is redolent as a vessel or place in which something sweet-scented is placed.)
It seems to me that these seven reasons provide an excellent beginning for a retreat before or after Pentecost, and could also be used to make a thorough examination of conscience. You might take each of these properties of fire to prayer each day of this coming week and ask where it is - or should be - found in your life. Since we have anointed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, these seven properties, these seven gifts, should be found in each of us.

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