Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Monday, May 29, 2006

Wisdom of the Most High

In the beautiful and ancient hymn to the Holy Spirit, the Veni Creator Spiritus, we sing: "You are seven-fold in Your gifts".

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf Isa 11:2) are Wisdom, Insight, Counsel, Courage, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. These seven gifts are given in fullness to Christ and called down upon us at Confirmation but we seldom grasp how they work, which is a great pity: to be given gifts that we don't know how to use of what they do! For the next week as we approach Pentecost, I propose to consider these gifts as St Thomas Aquinas saw them and as they were explained to me. I am grateful to fr Richard Conrad OP for his help and teaching on this topic.

Fr Richard Conrad will also give a talk on the Seven Gifts here at Blackfriars Cambridge, this Thursday 1 June at 8pm. All are welcome.

Wisdom is the greatest of the seven gifts, it "reaches highest and lowest" and is "the ability to make judgments in the light of the highest principles. Charity attaches us to God and makes life with Him our goal, and by wisdom we acquire a kind of 'divine perspective' on things..." Charity and wisdom are thus inately linked and it is impossible to have one without the other. Hence fr Jordan Aumann, OP explains:

"The gift of wisdom perfects charity by giving it the divine modality it lacks so long as charity is subject to the rule of human reason, even illumined by faith... this is not a purely speculative wisdom but a practical wisdom. It is true that it belongs to the gift of wisdom, in the first place, to contemplate the divine, but in the second place, it pertains to wisdom to direct human acts according to divine things.

The philosophers defined wisdom as certain and evident knowledge of things through their ultimate causes. Those who contemplate a thing and know its proximate or immediate causes have scientific knowledge. Those who can reduce their knowledge to the ultimate principles of the natural order possess philosophical wisdom, which is called metaphysics. Those who, guided by the light of faith, investigate the revealed data of revelation deduce conclusions from them and possess theological wisdom. But those who, presupposing faith and sanctifying grace, judge divine things and human things through their ultimate causes by a kind of divine instinct possess supernatural wisdom, and this is the gift of wisdom. Beyond this, there is no higher type of wisdom in this life. It is surpassed only by the beatific vision and the uncreated wisdom of God...

For this reason a simple and uneducated soul lacking the theological knowledge acquired by study may sometimes possess, through the gift of wisdom, a more profound knowledge of divine things than an eminent theologian."

(Spiritual Theology, p271)

From this, fr Aumann draws a vital conclusion for the theology of Christian perfection: namely that the mystical state is not something extraordinary in the full development and maturation of the Christian journey of perfection. It is commonly thought that mysticism is for the rare few, those who are chosen and gifted, but that is not so. By the gift of wisdom and the exercising of this gift, all the baptised are drawn to the mystical state. Fr Aumann says mysticism "is the normal atmosphere that grace demands..."

How does one dispose oneself for the actuation of the gift of wisdom? Apart from the general means such as recollection, a life of prayer, fidelity to grace, humility, fr Aumann lists the following:

1. By seeing and evaluating all things from God's point of view;
2. By combating the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness in the eyes of God;
3. By detaching oneself from the things of this world, however good and useful;
4. By cultivating indifference to spiritual consolations.

Fr Richard Conrad OP explains the gift of wisdom by saying that "when we become truly wise, Jesus Christ comes to dwell in us. We share in the Divine Wisdom that Jesus is." The key to obtaining Wisdom of course is Charity, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Fr Richard goes on to say:

"So if we have Jesus and the Spirit within us by Wisdom and Charity, we also have God the Father since we embrace Him by Love and share His perspective on things by Wisdom - which is therefore a kind of foretaste of the clear vision of God in heaven, when we will see into His mind. In fact, it is quite natural for our perspective and our affections, for our instincts and our values, to go together: if your really love someone, you want to hear that person and see things his or her way; after a long and close marriage a couple value each other very deeply and each can sense how the other is thinking - and that is how it is between us and God: if we love God we have 'a sense of how God is thinking'..."

Writing all this makes me realize how far I have to go in acquiring Wisdom(!), but the journey of Christian perfection begins with a single step, with little acts of love. Let us pray too for the grace of the Spirit:

Novena Prayer to the Holy Spirit

"O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit have instructed the hearts of the faithful, grant us by the light of the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation."

The above stained glass window of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom is from the Basilica of Fourviere in Lyon.


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