ARTICLE IV - THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY GHOST
We shall recall what divine revelation, the traditional teaching of
the Church, and the explanation of this teaching given by theologians,
especially St. Thomas, teach us about the seven gifts of the Holy
THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE
The revealed doctrine on the gifts of the Holy Ghost is contained
principally in the classic text of Isaias (II: 2) which the fathers
have often commented upon, saying that it is applied first of all to
the Messias, and then by participation to all the just, to whom Christ
promised to send the Holy Ghost. In this text, Isaias says in
reference to the Messias: "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon
Him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of
counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness,
and He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord." (1)
In the Book of Wisdom we read also: "Wherefore I wished, and
understanding was given me; and I called upon God, and the spirit of
wisdom came upon me. And I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones.
. . . Silver in respect to her shall be counted as clay. I loved her
above health and beauty. . . . Now all good things came to me together
with her. . . . I knew not that she was the mother of them all. Which
I have learned without guile, and communicate without envy. . . . For
she is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use, become the
friends of God. . . . She reneweth all things, and through nations
conveyeth herself into holy souls, she maketh the friends of God and
prophets. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom." (2)
This passage in itself shows that wisdom is the highest of the gifts
of the Holy Ghost enumerated by Isaias.
This Old Testament revelation takes on its full meaning in the
light of our Savior's words: "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete,
that He may abide with you forever. The spirit of truth . . . shall be
in you. . . . The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He
will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind,
whatsoever I shall have said to you." (3) To fortify the faithful
against the promoters of heresy, St. John adds: "But you have the
unction from the Holy One. . . . Let the unction, which you have
received from Him, abide in you. And you have no need that any man
teach you; but as His unction teacheth you of all things and is truth,
and is no lie." (4) Moreover, Scripture contains texts commonly quoted
as relating to each gift in particular.(5)
In the course of time, the fathers of the Church often commented on
these words of Scripture, and, beginning with the third century,
tradition explicitly affirms that the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost
are in all the just.(6) Pope St. Damasus, in 382, speaks of the
sevenfold Spirit which rested on the Messias, and he enumerates the
St. Augustine, especially, explains this doctrine in his commentary
on the Sermon on the Mount.(8) He shows the correspondence between the
evangelical beatitudes and the seven gifts. Fear represents the first
degree of the spiritual life; wisdom is its crown. Between these two
extremes, St. Augustine distinguishes a double period of purifying
preparation for wisdom: a remote preparation, by the active practice
of the moral virtues corresponding to the gifts of piety, fortitude,
knowledge, and counsel; then an immediate preparation, in which the
soul is purified as a result of a more enlightened faith by the gift
of understanding, of a firmer hope sustained by the gift of fortitude,
and of a more ardent charity. The first preparation is called the
active life; the second, the contemplative life,(9) because moral
activity is here entirely subordinated to a faith rendered luminous by
contemplation, which, in pacified and docile souls, will one day
culminate in perfect wisdom.(10)
To know the teaching of the Church on this subject we shall recall
what the Council of Trent says: "The efficient cause [of our
justification] is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies
gratuitously (I Cor. 6: II), signing and anointing with the Holy
Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance (Eph. I: 13
The Catechism of the Council of Trent fixes this point exactly by
enumerating the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost according to Isaias (11:
2 f.), and by adding: "These gifts of the Holy Ghost are for us, as it
were, a divine source whence we draw the living knowledge of the
precepts of Christian life. Moreover, by them we can know whether the
Holy Ghost dwells in us." (12) St. Paul says, in fact: "For the Spirit
Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God."
(13) He gives us this testimony by the filial love which He inspires
in us, and by which He makes Himself, so to speak, felt by us.(14)
One of the most beautiful testimonies that tradition offers us on
the seven gifts is found in the liturgy for Pentecost. We read in the
sequence for the Mass of that day:
Veni sancte Spiritus,
Et entitle coelitus
Lucis tuae radium.
"Come, 0 Holy Ghost, and send from heaven a ray of Thy light. Come,
Father of the poor. Come, Giver of graces. Come, Light of hearts,
excellent Counselor, sweet Guest of our soul, sweet Refresh ment, Rest
in labor, Coolness in heat, Comfort in tears."
0 lux beatissima,
Reple cordis intima
"0 blessed Light, inundate the very depths of the hearts of Thy
faithful. . . . Warm what is cold, straighten what is crooked."
Da tuis fidelibus,
In te confidentibus,
"Give to Thy faithful who trust in Thee, the sacred sevenfold gift.
Give them the merit of virtue. Give them a happy end. Give them
In the Veni Creator Spiritus, we read likewise:
Tu septiformis munere. . . .
Accende lumen sensibus,
lnfunde amorem cordibus.
"The sevenfold gift is Thine. . . . Kindle our senses with fire
from above and pour Thy love into our hearts." (15)
Finally, the testimony of tradition is admirably expressed by the
encyclical of Leo XIII on the Holy Ghost, in which the Pope declares
that to complete our supernatural life we need the seven gifts of the
Holy Ghost. He says:
"The just man, that is to say, he who lives the life of divine grace
and acts by the fitting virtues as by means of faculties, has need of
those seven gifts, which are properly attributed to the Holy Ghost. By
means of them the soul is furnished and strengthened so as to be able
to obey more easily and promptly His voice and impulse. Wherefore
these gifts are of such efficacy that they lead the just man to the
highest degree of sanctity; and of such excellence that they continue
to exist even in heaven, though in a more perfect way. By means of
these gifts the soul is excited and encouraged to seek after and
attain the evangelical beatitudes which, like the flowers that come
forth in the springtime, are the signs and harbingers of eternal
beatitude. . . .
These sublime truths, which so clearly show forth the infinite
goodness of the Holy Ghost towards us, certainly demand that we should
direct towards Him the highest homage of our love and devotion.
Christians may do this most effectually if they will daily strive to
know Him, to love Him, and to implore Him more earnestly. . . . What
should be chiefly dwelt upon and clearly explained is the multitude
and greatness of the benefits which have been bestowed, and are
constantly bestowed, upon us by this divine Giver. . . . We owe to the
Holy Ghost love, because He is God. . . . He is also to be loved
because He is the substantial, eternal, primal Love, and nothing is
more lovable than love. . . . In the second place it will obtain for
us a still more abundant supply of heavenly gifts; for whilst a narrow
heart contracts the hand of the giver, a grateful and mindful heart
causes it to expand. . . . Lastly, we ought confidently and
continually to beg of Him to illuminate us daily more and more with
His light and inflame us with His charity: for, thus inspired with
faith and love, we may press onward earnestly towards our eternal
reward, since "He is the pledge of our inheritance." (16)
Such are the principal testimonies of tradition regarding the seven
gifts of the Holy Ghost. We shall recall briefly the exact statements
brought to bear on this point by theology, especially in the doctrine
of St. Thomas. His teaching has been approved in substance by Leo
XIII, who often quoted the Angelic Doctor in the encyclical, the
principal parts of which we have just cited.
||1. The Hebrew text does not mention the gift of piety,
but the Septuagint and the Vulgate do. Since the third century,
tradition affirms this sevenfold number. Moreover, in the Hebrew text
of Isaias, fear is named a second time in verse 3, and in the Old
Testament the terms "fear of God" and "piety" have almost the same
2 Wisd. 7:7-28.
3. John 14: 15-26. .
4. See I John 2:20, 27.
5. St. Thomas quotes these texts when he treats of each of the
6. A. Gardeil, D.P., "Dons du Saint-Esprit," Dictionnaire de
theologie catholique, IV, 1728-81.
7. Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 83.
8. De sermone Domini, I, 1-4; De doctrina christiana,
II, 7; Sermo 347.
9. Cf. De Trinitate, I, 12-14.
10. Cf. Fulbert Cayre, A.A., La contemplation augustinienne,
chaps. 2 f. He shows here that contemplation, according to St.
Augustine, is a supernatural wisdom. It has for its principle,
together with faith, a superior action of the Holy Ghost, which makes
the soul, so to speak, touch and taste God.
11. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. 7.
12. Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I, chap. 9, § 3:
"I believe in the Holy Ghost."
13. Rom. 8: 16.
14. Cf. St. Thomas, In Ep. ad Rom., 8: 1
15. The composer of this beautiful prayer, which will be said until
the end of the world, must have been a great contemplative. It is
useless to know his name; he was a voice of God.
16. Encyclical Divinum illud munus (May 9, 1897), circa
finem. This text shows: (I) the necessity of the gifts ("has need
of"); (2) their nature: they make us docile to the Holy Ghost; (3)
their effects: they can lead us to the summit of sanctity.