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The Spirit: source of new life

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 3 April 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Guest of the soul, the Holy Spirit is the inner source of the new life which Christ shares with those who believe in him. It is a life according to the "law of the Spirit," which in the power of the resurrection already prevails over the power of sin and death at work in man since the original fall. St. Paul himself identifies with this dramatic conflict between the inner feeling for what is good and the attractiveness of evil, between the tendency of the "mind" to serve the law of God and the tyranny of the "flesh" which subjects one to sin (cf. Rom 7:14-23). He exclaims: "Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?" (Rom 7:24).

But here is the new interior experience which corresponds to the revealed truth about the redemptive action of grace: "Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:1-2). It is a new state of life begun in our hearts "through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5:5).

2. The whole Christian life is lived in faith and charity, and in the practice of all of the virtues, according to the interior action of this renewing Spirit, who imparts the grace which justifies, vivifies and sanctifies. With this grace comes all the new virtues which constitute the fabric of the supernatural life. This life is developed not only by the natural faculties of man—the intellect, will, and senses—but also by the new capacities that are added on along with grace, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains (Summa Theol., I-II, q. 62, aa. 1, 3). They give to the intellect the ability to adhere to God-Truth in faith; to the heart the ability to love in charity, which in man is like "a participation in the divine Love itself, the Holy Spirit" (II-II, q. 23, a. 3, ad 3). They also give to all the powers of the soul and in some way to the body, too, a participation in the new life with acts worthy of men elevated to participating in the nature and life of God in grace: consortes divinae naturae, as St. Peter says (2 Pet 1:4).

This state is like a new interior organism, in which the law of grace is made manifest: a law written in hearts rather than on stone tablets or manuscripts. St. Paul calls this law, as we have seen, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" [1] .

3. In the preceding catechetical talks dedicated to the Holy Spirit's influence on the life of the Church, we have emphasized the variety of gifts which he gives for the development of the whole community. This same variety is evident in the personal life of the Christian: every person receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the concrete, existential situation in which he or she lives, according to the measure of God's love from which each one's vocation, journey and spiritual history take their origin.

We read in the account of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit fills the entire community, but also each person present. While the wind, symbolizing the Spirit, is said to have "filled the entire house in which they were" (Acts 2:2), it is said precisely that the tongues of fire, another symbol of the Spirit, "came to rest on each one of them" (2:3); then, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (2:4). The fullness is given to each one; this fullness implies a variety of gifts for all the aspects of one's personal life.

Among these gifts we wish to recall and briefly highlight those which the catechism and theological tradition particularly call gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is true that everything is a gift, both in the order of grace and that of nature, and more generally, in all of creation. In the language of theology and of the catechism however, the name gifts of the Holy Spirit is reserved for those exquisitely divine energies which the Holy Spirit pours into the soul to perfect the supernatural virtues in order to give the human spirit the capacity to act in modo divino (cf. Summa Theol., I-II, q. 68, aa. 1, 6).

4. It must be said that the first description and list of the gifts is found in the Old Testament, more exactly, in the book of Isaiah, where the prophet attributes to the messianic king "a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord." Then he names the sixth gift a second time, saying that the king's "delight shall be the fear of the Lord" (Is 11:2-3).

In the Greek Septuagint translation and in the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome, the repetition is avoided. "Piety" is listed as the sixth gift instead of "fear of the Lord," so that the prophecy finishes with these words: "a spirit of knowledge and of piety, and he will be full of the spirit of the fear of the Lord" (vv. 2-3). But one can say that this duplication of fear and piety does not depart from the biblical tradition regarding the virtues of the great figures of the Old Testament. In the Christian theological, liturgical and catechetical tradition it becomes a fuller rereading of the prophecy in its application to the Messiah and an enrichment of its literal sense. In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus himself applies another messianic text of Isaiah (cf. 61:1) to himself: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." (Lk 4:8). This citation corresponds to the beginning of the prophecy just quoted and goes like this: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him" (Is 11:2). According to the tradition taken up by St. Thomas, the gifts of the Holy Spirit "are named by Scripture as they exist in Christ, according to the text of Isaiah," but they are met again, derived from Christ, in the Christian soul [2] .

The biblical references just cited have been compared to the fundamental dispositions of the human soul, considered in light of its supernatural elevation and the infused virtues themselves. The medieval theology of the seven gifts was thus developed, which, although not having an absolutely dogmatic character and so not claiming to limit the number of gifts or the specific categories in which they can be distributed, has been and remains very useful both in understanding the variety of the gifts in Christ and the saints, and in giving a good structure to the spiritual life.

5. St. Thomas [3] and other theologians and catechists have found in this same text of Isaiah a guide for arranging the gifts in their relationship to the spiritual life in an explanation which can only be synthesized here:

1) First of all there is the gift of wisdom, by means of which the Holy Spirit enlightens the intellect. He enables it to know the "highest reasons" of revelation and the spiritual life, and form sound and right judgments concerning the faith and Christian living; as a "spiritual" man (pneumatikòs) or even "carnal" man (cf. 1 Cor 2:14-15; Rom 7:14).

2) Then there is the gift of understanding, which is a particular keenness, given by the Spirit, producing intuitive knowledge of the Word of God in its height and depth.

3) The gift of knowledge is the supernatural capacity to see and to determine with precision the content of revelation and to distinguish the things of God in one's knowledge of the universe.

4) With the gift of counsel the Holy Spirit gives a supernatural ability to regulate one's personal life in regard to the difficult actions to be accomplished and the hard choices to be made, as well as in the governance and direction given to others.

5) With the gift of fortitude the Holy Spirit supports the will and makes it prompt, active, and persevering in facing difficulties and even extreme suffering. This happens especially in martyrdom; in martyrdom of blood, but also in that of the heart and in the martyrdom of illness, weakness and infirmity.

6) Through the gift of piety the Holy Spirit directs the heart of man toward God with feelings, affections, thoughts and prayers which express our filiation with the Father revealed by Christ. It causes us to penetrate and assimilate the mystery of "God with us," especially in union with Christ, the incarnate Word, in filial relations with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in company with the angels and saints in heaven, in communion with the Church.

7) With the gift of the fear of the Lord the Holy Spirit puts in the Christian soul a profound respect for the law of God and its imperatives for Christian living. This gift frees the soul from the temptations of "servile fear," enriching it instead with a "filial fear" steeped in love.

6. This doctrine of the gifts of the Holy Spirit continues to be a very useful teaching of the spiritual life. It helps us to give direction to ourselves and to train others, for whom we have a responsibility of formation, in an unceasing dialogue with the Holy Spirit and in a loving and trusting abandonment to his guidance. This doctrine is connected with and always refers back to the messianic text of Isaiah. When applied to Jesus, it tells of the greatness of his perfection. When applied to the Christian soul, it teaches us the fundamental moments in the dynamism of the interior life: to understand (wisdom, knowledge, and understanding); to decide (counsel and fortitude); to remain and grow in a personal relationship with God, in the life of prayer and in an upright life according to the Gospel (piety and fear of the Lord).

Thus there is a fundamental importance to being in tune with the eternal Spirit-Gift who must be known from revelation in the Old and New Testament. He is a unique, infinite Love given to us with a multiplicity and variety of manifestations and gifts, in harmony with the general plan of creation.

[1]   Rom 8:2; cf. St. Augustine, De spiritu et littera, c. 24: PL 44:225; St. Thomas, Summa Theol., I-II, q. 106, a. 1
[2]   cf. Summa Theol., I-II, q. 68, a. 1
[3]   cf. I-II, q. 68, aa. 4, 7

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Gruß gilt den Teilnehmern an der Osterromfahrt der Jugend der Diözese Regensburg. Ferner grüße ich die Teilnehmer an der Studienfahrt des katholischen Bildungswerkes Marktredwitz, die Pilgergruppe katholischer Soldatenfamilien aus Shape in Belgien sowie die Pilgergruppe der katholischen Militärseelsorge Klosterlechfeld bei Augsburg.

Die Botschaft von Ostern, die wir in den letzten Tagen neu vernommen haben, möge Euch allen Mut machen, Zeugnis zu geben von Jesu Auferstehung inmitten einer säkularisierten Welt. Was Euch trägt auf den Durststrecken des Alltags, ist der Glaube and die Auferstehung, die begonnen hat kraft der Taufe, durch die wir Christus einverleibt sind. Was Gott an Jesus in der Auferstehung getan hat, das kommt auch uns zugute, denn er hat uns ”dazu bestimmt, an Wesen und Gestalt seines Sohnes teilzuhaben, damit dieser der Erstgeborene unter vielen Brüdern sei“. Auch uns ist durch die Auferweckung Jesu endgültige Hoffnung in Aussicht gestellt.

Euch allen und Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je souhaite la bienvenue aux pèlerins de langue française venus à Rome en cette semaine pascale. J’adresse, en particulier, mon cordial salut aux prêtres de Montréal à qui je souhaite un bon stage de formation. Je salue avec joie le pèlerinage français de la région apostolique Midi-Pyrénées conduit par Monseigneur Gaidon et Monseigneur Vanel, avec les chorales liturgiques qui l’accompagnent. Je salue également le pèlerinage de l’Association des Retraitants Paroissiaux en formant les meilleurs vœux pour son apostolat. A chacun d’entre vous, chers amis, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai numerosi fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My cordial greetings go to the newly ordained Deacons from the Pontifical Scots College and from the Pontifical Irish College, together with their parents, relatives and friends. Dear Deacons: May the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received on the day of your Ordination always sustain you in your ministry of service to the People of God. As joyful witnesses of the Risen Lord, may you model your lives ever more fully upon Christ, the obedient servant of the Father’s will. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I invoke the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai numerosi gruppi di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me es grato saludar ahora a los numerosos grupos de peregrinos de lengua española, procedentes de España y de América Latina, especialmente a los de jóvenes y a los parroquiales.

De modo particular saludo a las Religiosas del Instituto Catequista Dolores Sopeña; a los feligreses de la Parroquia Castrense-Diocesana de San Francisco, de San Fernando (Cádiz-España); al grupo de la Obra de Ejercicios Espirituales de Navarra, así como al grupo de estudiantes del Liceo Monterrey, de México.

Que la alegría que nos trae Cristo resucitado llene todo vuestro ser y os ayude a ser siempre testigos de su acción salvífica en el mundo. Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí os imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Desejando a quantos me ouvis, em especial aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, as alegrias da Páscoa do Senhor, com confiança, serenidade e paz, para que todos, pela “novidade” de vida, sejais sempre testemunhas de Cristo, nossa Páscoa, dou-vos a minha Bênção.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Wdniu Zmartwychwstania Kościół śpiewa te słowa, wielbiąc Ofiarę wielkanocną. Victimae Paschali.

Kościół ogłasza zwycięstwo Ukrzyżowanego poprzez śmiertelną walkę. Jest to walka, zwarcie śmiertelne (duellum) pomiędzy Życiem a śmiercią.

Wielkanoc jest dniem kosmicznego przesilenia: zwycięstwo odniosło Życie. Chrystus jest Życiem. Jest Drogą i Prawdą.

W Chrystusie ukrzyżowanym i zmartwychwstałym dany jest ludziom klucz: Boży klucz. Jest to klucz do cywilizacji miłości, klucz do cywilizacji Życia przez Prawdę i Miłośc.

Pani Jasnogórska!

Naród mój, a także inne narody sąsiedzkie i pobratymcze stają u progu nowych czasów, które mają tworzyc jako szafarze swej przyszłości.

Jakim kluczem będą tę przyszłość otwierać?

Matko Chrystusa, który jest Prawdą i Życiem, wyjmij z ich rąk ten klucz, który wprowadza do cywilizacji śmierci. Utwierdź w ich dłoniach klucz cywilizacji Życia.

Przez wiele pokoleń zmartwychwstanie Chrystusa było dla nas natchnieniem, by przezwycieżyć śmierć narodu wolą życia.

Nie daj, abyśmy teraz ulegli. Nie pozwól, byśmy naszą przyszłość związali z cywilizacją śmierci!

Dux Vitae - mortuus - regnat Vivus!

Witam księży biskupów z Gdańska i z Sandomierza-Radomia; witam grupy pielgrzymie: współpracowników misyjnych sióstr pallotynek; Unię Młodych z Katolickiego Uniwersytetu w Lublinie; Polską Misję Katolicką z Düsseldorfu; studentów Wyższej Szkoły Rolniczo-Pedagogicznej z Siedlec; grupę “Turysty” z Bielska-Białej; duszpasterstwo kolejarzy z Lublina; grupę nauczycieli z Bielska-Białej oraz wszystkich innych pielgrzymów z kraju i emigracji nie objętych tymi grupami.

A diversi gruppi di fedeli italiani

Saluto ora tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana che prendono parte a questa Udienza, augurando loro la gioia che proviene dal Cristo risorto.

Rivolgo un pensiero particolare al gruppo dei diaconi gesuiti del Collegio Internazionale del Gesù, in Roma, i quali, all’indomani della loro Ordinazione, sono venuti qui insieme con i loro Superiori e i loro familiari.

Carissimi neo-diaconi, vi esprimo le mie felicitazioni per questo traguardo, da voi raggiunto sulla via che vi condurrà, a Dio piacendo, all’altare con l’Ordinazione Sacerdotale.

Nell’apostolato che vi attende, siate uomini di Dio, affermando in tutta la vostra condotta il primato dello spirituale, la rettitudine della vostra fede e la totalità della vostra donazione al Signore, alla luce del carisma a voi lasciato dal vostro Fondatore, Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, di cui quest’anno si celebra il 5 centenario della nascita.

Saluto il pellegrinaggio dei giovani dell’Oratorio di “Santa Maria ed Elisabetta”, della parrocchia di San Giovanni Evangelista in Brescia. Forse non tutti sanno che si tratta proprio della parrocchia dove è cresciuto Giovanni Battista Montini -poi Paolo VI -trovando colà spunti eccellenti per la sua formazione cristiana e spirituale.

A tutti i giovani auguro che la tradizione educativa dell’oratorio continui ad essere sorgente di intensa e fervorosa vita cristiana. Saluto poi le Religiose di diverse Congregazioni, aderenti al “Movimento dei Focolari”, riunite al Centro di Castel Gandolfo per approfondire il carisma delle rispettive Fondazioni. Vi esprimo il mio apprezzamento per la vostra generosa corrispondenza agli impulsi dello Spirito Santo. Nell’impegno ecclesiale, a cui siete dedicate, non cessate di recare alle persone che incontrate il conforto della fede cristiana e della solidarietà umana. Il Signore vi assista e vi protegga sempre.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

E ora un particolare saluto a tutti i giovani, ammalati e sposi novelli.

Voi siete testimoni, in questa settimana di Pasqua, degli eventi meravigliosi compiuti in Cristo.

Egli è morto per compiere il sacrificio che ci ha redenti stabilendo una nuova alleanza; Egli è risorto, iniziando per tutti una nuova vita.

Lasciate, dunque, cari giovani, che il mistero pasquale penetri fino nei vostri cuori, in modo tale che questo evento di morte e di risurrezione dia senso alla vostra vita e alla vostra quotidiana testimonianza.

E voi, ammalati, unite sempre le vostre sofferenze al sacrificio di Cristo al fine di partecipare al suo mistero salvifico. Il Risorto diverrà così, per voi, sorgente di speranza, di fortezza nelle prove e di santificazione.

Infine, voi sposi novelli sappiate scoprire nel Cristo risorto, che solo garantisce solidità ed esito felice ad ogni agire umano, la fonte inesauribile del vostro amore sempre fedele e sempre nuovo.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.

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