(LifeSiteNews) — The divine Spirit has been sent to secure unity to the spouse of Christ; and we have seen how faithfully He fulfills His mission, by giving to the members of the Church to be one, as He Himself is one. But the spouse of a God, who is, as He calls Himself, the truth, (John 14:6) must be in the truth, and can have no fellowship with error. Jesus entrusted His teachings to Her care, and has instructed Her in the person of the apostles. He said to them: “All things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) And yet, if left unaided, how can the Church preserve free from all change, during the long ages of Her existence, that word which Jesus has not written, that truth which He came from heaven to teach Her? Experience proves that everything changes Her below; that written documents are open to false interpretations, and that unwritten traditions are frequently so altered in the course of time as to defy recognition.
Here again we have a proof of our Lord’s watchful love. In order to realize the wish He had to see us one, as He and His Father are one, (John 17:11) He sent us His Spirit; and in order to keep us in the Truth, He sent us this same Spirit who is called the Spirit of Truth. “When the Spirit of Truth is come,” said He, “He will teach you all truth.” (John 16:13) And what is the truth which this Spirit will teach us? “He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” (John 14:26)
So that nothing of what the divine Word spoke to men is to be lost. The beauty of His Spouse is to be based on truth, for “Beauty is the splendor of Truth.” Her fidelity to Her Jesus shall be of the most perfect kind; for, if He be the truth, how could She ever be out of the truth? Jesus had said: “I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever; and He shall be in you.” (John 14:16-17) It is by the Holy Ghost, then, that the Church is ever to possess the truth, and that nothing can rob her of it; for this Spirit, who is sent by the Father and the Son, will abide unceasingly with and in Her.
The magnificent theory of St. Augustine comes most appropriately here. According to his teaching – which, after all, is but the explanation of the texts just cited – the Holy Ghost is the principle of the Church’s life; and He, being the spirit of truth, preserves and directs Her in the truth, so that both her teaching and her practice cannot be other than expressions of the truth.
He makes Himself responsible for Her words, just as our spirit is responsible for what our tongue utters. Hence it is that the Church, by Her union with the Holy Ghost, is so identified with truth that the apostle did not hesitate to call Her “the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) The Christian, therefore, may well rest on the Church in all that regards faith. He knows that the Church is never alone; that She is always with the Holy Spirit who lives within Her; that Her word is not Her own, but the word of the Spirit, which is the word of Jesus.
Now, this word of Jesus is preserved in the Church by the Holy Ghost, and in two ways. He guards it as contained in the four Gospels, which the evangelists wrote under His inspiration. It is by His watchful care that these holy writings have been kept free from all change during the past ages. The same is to be said of the other books of the New Testament, which were also written under the guidance of the same Spirit.
Those of the Old Testament are equally the result of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost: and although they do not give us the words spoken by our savior during His mortal life, yet do they speak of Him, and foretell His coming, and contain, moreover, the primitive revelations made by God to mankind. The books of Sacred Writ are replete with mysteries, the interpretation of which is communicated to the Church by the Holy Ghost.
The other channel of Jesus’ word is Tradition. It was impossible for everything to be written; and even before the Gospels were composed, the Church was in existence. Tradition, like the written word itself is from God; but unless the spirit of truth watch over and protect it, how can it remain pure and intact? He therefore fixes it in the memory of the Church, He preserves it from change; it is His mission; and thanks to the fidelity wherewith He fulfills His mission, the Church remains in possession of the whole treasure left Her by Her Spouse.
But it is not enough that the Church possess the word – written and Traditional – She must also have the understanding of that word, in order that She may explain it to Her children. Truth came down from heaven, that it might be communicated to men; for it is their light, and without it they would be in darkness, knowing not whither they are going. (John 12:35) The spirit of truth could not, therefore, be satisfied if the word of Jesus were kept as a hidden treasure; no, He will have it thrown open to men, that they may thence draw life to their souls.
Consequently, the Church will have to be infallible in Her teaching; for how can She be deceived Herself, or deceive others, seeing it is the spirit of truth who guides Her in all things and speaks by Her mouth? He is Her soul; and we have already had St. Augustine telling us, that when the tongue speaks, the soul is responsible.
The infallibility of our holy Mother the Church is the direct and immediate result of Her having abiding within Her the spirit of truth. It is the promise made to Her by Jesus; it is the necessary consequence of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The man who does not acknowledge the Church to be infallible, should, if He be consistent, admit that the Son of God has not been able to fulfill His promise, and that the spirit of truth is a spirit of error. But He that reasons thus has strayed from the path of life; He thought He was but denying a prerogative to the Church, whereas, in reality, He has refused to believe God Himself. It is this that constitutes the sin of heresy.
Want of due reflection may cover and hide the awful conclusion; but the conclusion is strictly implied in His principle. The heretic is at variance with the Holy Ghost, because He is at variance with the Church; He may become, once more, a living member, by humbly returning to the Spouse of Christ, but, at present, He is dead, for the soul is not animating Him. Let us again give ear to the great St. Augustine: “It sometimes happens,” says He, “that a member – say a hand, or finger, or foot, – is cut from the human body; tell me, does the soul follow the member that is thus severed? As long as it was in the body, it lived; now that it is cut off, it is dead. In the same manner, a Christian is a Catholic so long as he lives in the body (of the Church); cut off, he is a heretic; the Spirit follows not a member that is cut off.” (Semon 267: In die Pentecostes)
Glory, then, be to the Holy Spirit, who has conferred upon the spouse the “splendor of truth!” With regard to ourselves, could we, without incurring the greatest of dangers, put limits to the docility wherewith we receive teachings which come to us simultaneously from “the Spirit and the bride,” who are so indissolubly united? (Apocalypse 22:17) Whether the Church intimates what we are to believe by showing us Her own practice, or simply expressing Her sentiments, or solemnly pronouncing a definition on the subject, we must receive Her word with submission of heart. Her practice is ever in harmony with the truth, and it is the Holy Ghost, Her life-giving principle, that keeps it so; the utterance of Her sentiments is but an aspiration of that same Spirit, who never leaves Her; and as to the definitions She decrees, it is not She alone that decrees them, but the Holy Ghost who decrees them in and by Her.
If it be the visible head of the Church who utters the definition, we know that Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith may never fail, (Luke 22:32) that He obtained it from the Father, and that He gave to the Holy Ghost the mission of perpetuating this precious prerogative granted to Peter. If it be the sovereign pontiff and bishops, assembled in council, who proclaim what is the faith on any given subject, it is the Holy Ghost who speaks by this collective judgment, makes truth triumph, and puts error to flight. It is this divine Spirit that has given the spouse to crush all heresies beneath Her feet; it is He that, in all ages, has raised up within Her learned men who have confuted error whensoever or wheresoever it was broached.
So that our beloved mother the Church is gifted with infallibility, she is True, always and in all things; and she is indebted for this to Him who proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son. But there is another glory which She owes to Him. The spouse of the thrice holy God could not but be Holy. She is so; and it is from the Spirit of holiness that she receives Her holiness. Truth and holiness are inseparably united in God. Hence it was that our savior, who willed us “to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and, creatures as we are, would have us take the infinite good as our model –prayed that we might be “sanctified in the truth.” (John 17: 19)
Jesus, therefore, consigned His spouse to the direction of the Spirit, that He might make her holy. Holiness is so inherent to this divine Spirit that it is His very name. Jesus Himself calls Him the “Holy Ghost” (John 14:26, 20:22) so that it is on the authority of the Son of God that we call Him by this beautiful name. The Father is power; the Son is truth; the Spirit is holiness: and it is for this reason that the Spirit has, here below, the office of sanctifier; although the Father and Son are holy, just as truth is in the Father and the Spirit, and power is in the Spirit and the Son. The three persons of the Blessed Trinity have each their special property, but they are all one in essence or nature. Now, the special property of the Holy Ghost is love, and love produces holiness; for it unites the sovereign good with the soul that loves Him, and this union is holiness, which is the “splendor of goodness,” as beauty is the “splendor of truth.”
That She might be worthy, then, of the Emmanuel, Her spouse, the Church was to be holy. He gave Her truth, and the divine paraclete has preserved it within Her; the Spirit is to endow Her with holiness; and the Father, seeing Her true and holy, will adopt Her as His daughter: this is Her glorious destiny. Let us now see what proofs She gives of Her being Holy.
The first is Her fidelity to Her spouse. History is one long testimony of this Her fidelity. Every possible snare has been laid, every sort of violence used, to make Her unfaithful: She has bravely withstood them all: She has sacrificed everything – Her blood, Her peace, the very countries where She reigned – rather than allow what Jesus had entrusted to Her to be corrupted or changed. Count, if you can, Her martyrs, from the apostles down to our own times, who have died for the faith.
Call to mind the offers made to Her by the potentates of the earth, soliciting Her to hush up truth. Think of the threats and persecutions whereby the world sought to make Her withdraw one or other dogma of Her creed. Who that knows aught of past or present history can forget the great battle she fought against the emperors of Germany in defense of the liberty wherewith Her Jesus had made Her free, and of which He is so jealous; or the noble love of justice She evinced when Her refusal to sanction, by an unlawful dispensation, the adultery of a king was to be followed by the apostasy of England; or the high-minded love of principle She showed in the person of Pius IX, when She braved the clamors of modern infidelity, yea, and the cowardly remonstrances of temporizing Catholics, rather than allow a Jewish boy (who had been baptized when in danger of death) to be exposed to the temptation of denying His faith and blaspheming the savior who had made him His child?
Such has been, and such ever will be, the conduct of the Church, because She is holy in her fidelity, and because the divine Spirit inspires Her with a love which overlooks everything when duty is at stake. She can show the code of Her laws to Her enemies and to Her faithful children, and defy them to point out a single enactment that has not been made with a view to procure the glory of Her Jesus and lead mankind to virtue. The observance of these Her laws has given millions of saints to God, whom She has produced through the influence of the Holy Ghost.
The Church claims each one of those myriads of the elect as the fruit of Her maternal care. Even those whom providence has permitted to be born of heretical parents – if they have lived in the disposition of mind of entering the true Church as soon as they should find it, and have faithfully corresponded, by a virtuous life, to the grace given to them through the merits of the redeemer – they too were children of the Church.
She is the school of devotedness and heroism. Virtues, of which men knew not so much as the name before She was founded, are now being practiced in every country of the world. There are extraordinary actions of saintliness, which She rewards with the honor of canonization; there are the more humble and hidden virtues, which are to be published only on the day of judgment. The precepts of Jesus are observed by all His disciples; they obey Him as their dear master. This master has also His counsels, which all cannot follow, but which afford the Church a new scope for the development of Her gift of holiness. Not only are there individual and generous souls who fervently practice these counsels; there are the religious orders, whose aim is perfection, and whose first law is the obligation, under vow, of observing the evangelical counsels unitedly with that of the precepts; and these orders are produced in the Church by the action of the Spirit of holiness.
After this, we cannot wonder at Her having the gift of miracles, which is the outward mark of holiness. It is a supernatural gift, which our Lord told Her She would always possess: (John 14:12) Now, the apostle assures us, that “the working of miracles” comes directly from the Holy Ghost. (1 Corinthians 12:11)
It may be objected that all the members of the Church are not holy: to this we reply that She offers to all the means of becoming so, but that their free-will may and frequently does reject such means. Free will has been granted to man that he might thereby merit; and it is a contradiction in terms to say that He who has free will is, at the same time, necessitated to choose good. Moreover, an immense number of those who are now in a state of sin, but who are members of the Church by faith and respectful submission to Her lawful pastors and particularly to the sovereign pontiff, will, sooner or later, be reconciled to God and die in holy dispositions. It is the mercy of the Holy Ghost that works this wonderful change, and He works it through the Church, who, imitating Her divine spouse, “breaketh not the bruised reed, nor quencheth the smoking flax.” (Isaiah 42:3)
How could She be otherwise than holy, who has received, in order to administer them to Her children, the seven sacraments, of which we have spoken in one of the preceding weeks? What more holy than these divine rites, some of which give life to sinners, and others an increase of grace to the just? These sacraments, which were instituted by Christ and given in heritage to His Church, all bear some relation with the Holy Ghost.
In baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, His operation is direct; in the Eucharistic sacrifice, it is by His action that the Man-God lives and is immolated on our altars; it is He that restores baptismal grace by penance; He is the Spirit of fortitude, who strengthens the dying by extreme unction; He is the sacred link which inseparably unites husband and wife together in the sacrament of matrimony. Our Jesus gave us these seven sacraments as a pledge of His love, when He left us to return to His Father; but the treasure remained sealed up until the descent of the Holy Ghost. It was for Him to prepare the spouse, by sanctifying Her, to receive these precious gifts into Her royal hands, and to administer them faithfully to Her children; it was for Him, therefore, to put Her in possession of them.
Lastly, the Church is Holy because of Her ceaseless prayer. He who is “the spirit of grace and of prayer” (Zacharias 12:10) is ever producing, in the children of the Church, those varied acts of adoration, thanksgiving, petition, repentance, and love, which constitute the sublime concert of prayer. To these He adds, for many of the faithful, the gifts of contemplation, whereby either the creature is raised up to his God, or God comes down to Him with favors which seem only fit for such as are already in heaven. Who could enumerate the aspirations, we mean the effusions of love, which the holy spouse sends up to Her Jesus in those millions of prayers which are day and night ascending from earth to heaven, and seem to unite the two in the embrace of closest intimacy? How could She be otherwise than holy who, as the apostle so forcibly expresses it, has Her “conversation in heaven?” (Philippians 3:20)
But if the individual prayer offered up by Her children is thus admirable by its multiplicity and its ardor – how beautiful and grand must not be the united prayer of the Church Herself in Her liturgy, wherein the Holy Ghost acts with all the plenitude of His inspiration and puts upon Her lips those thrilling and sublime words, which we have undertaken to explain in our “Liturgical Year?” We would ask those who have followed us thus far if the liturgy is not the best of all prayers, and the guide and soul of their own individual prayer? Let them, therefore, love the holy mother who gives them to partake of Her own abundance! Let them glorify the Spirit of grace and prayers for all that He so mercifully deigns to do both for Her and them!
O Church of our God! Thou art sanctified in truth! By thee we are taught the whole doctrine of our Jesus! By thee we are put in the path of that holiness which is thy very life. What would we have more, having truth and holiness? They who seek them out of thee, seek in vain. Happy we that have nothing to seek, because we have thee for our mother, who art ever lavishing upon us all thy grand gifts and lights! Oh! how beautiful art thou on this solemnity of Pentecost, which gave thee the riches thou givest to us! We gaze with delighted wonder at the magnificent prerogatives prepared for thee by thy Jesus and communicated to thee by the Holy Ghost. And now that we know thee better, we will love thee with warmer hearts!
The station for the Thursday of Whitsuntide is in the basilica of St. Laurence outside the walls. This venerable church, where lie the relics of the intrepid archdeacon of Rome, is one of the grandest trophies of the victory gained by the Holy Ghost over the prince of this world. This annual assembly of the faithful in so holy a place, and for all these long ages, is an eloquent testimony of the completeness of that victory which made Rome and her power subject to Christ.
The Armenian Church comes, for the fourth time, to aid us in our homage to the Holy Ghost. The richest fragrance of antiquity is in the stanzas we select for today.
(Canon quintce diei.)
Today, the choir of Apostles rejoice at the coming of the Spirit of God : He consoles them, He lives with them, taking the place of the Incarnate Word. Let us offer Him our holy songs of praise!
Today, a Living-Water sprang up in Jerusalem: it filled the rivers of God, which ran through the whole earth, inebriating it with the fourfold Fountain of Eden. Let us offer Him our holy songs of praise!
Today, the young plants of the Church were gladdened with spiritual dew from the clouds of the Spirit; the fields were made rich in justice; the desert was made to bloom with purest virginity. Let us offer Him our holy songs of praise!
We subjoin a Sequence from Germany; in which her illustrious prophetess, the holy Abbess Hildegarde, gives expression to her love of the divine Spirit, whose inspiration she almost uninterruptedly enjoyed and obeyed.
O sacred Fire! O Paraclete Spirit! thou art the Life of every creature’s life.
Thou art the Holy One, vivifying all beings!
Thou art the Holy One, healing with thine unction them that are dangerously bruised!
Thou art the Holy One, cleansing our festered wounds!
O Breath of Holiness! O Fire of Charity! O thou sweet Savor of the soul, and the heart’s Infusion of the pleasing odor of virtues!
O purest Fount! wherein is reflected God s mercy that adopts aliens for His Children, and goes in search of them that are lost.
Breast-plate of life, that givest all the members hope of compact strength! O Girdle of beautiful energy, save us thy happy people!
Be the Protector of them that have been imprisoned by the enemy! Loose the bonds of them, whom God’s power would save!
O Way, which nothing can resist! that penetratest heaven, and earth, and every deep abyss, bringing all to order and unity!
Tis by thee that clouds glide in the firmament, that air wings its flight, that rocks yield springs, that waters flow, and earth gives forth her verdure.
‘Tis thou that leadest men to knowledge, gladdening them with the inspiration of wisdom.
Praise then, be to thee, O thou praise-yielding Spirit, thou Joy of life, our Hope, our highest Honor, the giver of the reward of Light! Amen.
THE GIFT OF COUNSEL
We have seen how necessary for the sanctification of a Christian is the gift of fortitude; but it is not sufficient; there is need of another gift, which completes it. This other gift is counsel. Fortitude needs direction. The gift of knowledge is not the guide of fortitude, and for this reason – that knowledge teaches the soul her last end and gives her general rules for her conduct; but it does not bring her light sufficient for the special application of God’s law to particular cases, and for the practical doing our duty.
In those varied circumstances in which we are to be placed, and in the decisions we must then form, we shall have to hearken to the voice of the Holy Ghost, and this voice speaks to us through the gift of counsel. It will tell us if we are attentive to its speaking, what we must do and what we must not do, what we must say and what we must not say, what we may keep and what we must give up. The Holy Ghost acts upon our understanding by the gift of counsel, as He acts upon our will by the gift of fortitude.
This precious gift bears upon our whole life; for we are continually obliged to be deciding on one of two sides or questions. How grateful, then, should we not be to the Holy Ghost, who is ever ready to be our counselor, if we will but permit Him! And if we follow His direction, what snares He will teach us to avoid! How many illusions He will dispel! How grand the truths He will show us! But in order that His inspirations may not be lost upon us, we must be on our guard against such miseries of our nature as the following: natural impulse, which is but too often the sole motive of our acts; rashness, which makes us follow whatever feeling happens to be uppermost in our mind; precipitation, which urges us to judge or act before we have seen both sides of the case; and lastly, indifference, which makes us decide at haphazard, out of a repugnance we have to take the trouble of examining what is the best course to pursue.
By the gift of counsel, the Holy Ghost saves us from all these evils. He corrects the impetuosity, or, it may be, the apathy of our temperament. He keeps the soul alive to what is true and good and conducive to her real interests. He introduces into the soul that virtue which completes the seasons every other – we mean discretion, whereby the other virtues are harmonized and kept from extremes. Under the direction of the gift of Counsel, the Christian has nothing to fear; the Holy Ghost takes the whole responsibility. What matters it, therefore, if the world find fault, or criticize, or express surprise, or be scandalized? The world thinks itself wise; but it has not the gift of counsel. Hence, it often happens that what is undertaken by its advice results in the very opposite to what was intended. Was it not of the world that God spoke, when He said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways?” (Isaiah 55:8)
Let us, then, with all the ardor of our hearts, desire this divine gift, which will preserve us from the danger of being our own guides; but let us remember, it will only dwell in us on the condition of our allowing it to be master. If the Holy Ghost see that we are not led by worldly principles, and that we acknowledge our own weakness, He will be our counsel; if He find that we are wise in our own eyes, He will withdraw His light and leave us to ourselves.
O Holy Spirit! We would not that thou shouldst ever abandon us. Sad experience has taught us how fraught with danger is all human prudence. Most cheerfully do we promise thee to mistrust our own ideas, which are so apt to blind and mislead us. Keep up within us the magnificent gift thou gavest us at baptism: be thou our counsel, yea, unreservedly and forever! “Show me, O Lord, thy ways, and teach me thy paths. Direct me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God who canst save me; therefore have I waited on thee, all the day long.” (Psalm 24:4-5)
We know that we are to be judged for all our works and intentions; but we know, too, that we have nothing to fear so long as we are faithful to thy guidance. Therefore will we attentively “hear what the Lord God will speak in us”; (Psalm 84:9) we will listen to thee, O Holy Spirit of counsel, whether thou speakest to us directly thyself, or whether thou sendest us to those whom thou shalt appoint as our guides. Blessed, then, be Jesus, who has sent us such a counselor! And blessed be thou, O Holy Spirit! who deignest to give us thine aid, in spite of all our past resistance!