The Interior Master
"The Spirit dwells in our hearts. He does not remain inactive. 'For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God' (Romans 8:14). 'If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit ' (Galatians 5:25). We are spiritual men, in the Christian sense of the word, not to the extent that we free ourselves from the human condition, or that we become disembodied spirits through an ascetic and human effort; but to the extent that we are led by the Spirit of Christ. The spiritual life is nothing other than the life of the Holy Spirit in us.
The Spirit has two ways of leading us. He acts under the form of inspirations which manifest themselves in a twofold way. Sometimes, he simply lets us act by ourselves, make acts of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, or moral acts of prudence, justice, fortitude or temperance. We ourselves set these acts in motion. The Holy Spirit is not absent, he is the first cause that puts our supernatural energies into action, but we hold on to the direction, the management of our life. That is the foundation of the Christian life: the supernatural but personal government of ourselves through the Christian virtues.
Only we possess those virtues in such an imperfect way! The exercise of the virtues suffers from the weakness of our will and our reason, even when enlightened by faith. Only the Holy Spirit is at the level of the divine life in us. That life can only blossom fully if the Spirit takes direction of it himself. This second way of leading us exists and it is guaranteed to us through what we call the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which are infused into our souls with sanctifying grace at Baptism: gifts of the intellectual order, of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel; and gifts of the order of the will, those of piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are interior receptivities which permit us to receive and to respond to the inspirations by which the Spirit urges and prompts us. Then we no longer have the principal role in the direction of our conduct; filled with his assistance, we have only to consent to his working.
These two ways of being led could be compared to the progress of a boat with oars of with a sail. With oars, one must work with the strength of the arms and direct the boat: one keeps the initiative. But with a sail, if the wind blows, the course no longer depends on us, we go faster and are not as tired.
The ordinary mode of our life is to work actively by means of the virtues, for the Spirit does not always blow (although he blows more often than not, but we do not pay attention, because we are not on the same wavelength). The Spirit's voice is gentle and discreet, and the voice of our nature speaks more loudly. And besides, we like to direct our own affairs according to our own understanding.
In short, with the years, there is a more and more marked tendency in us to listen rather to ourselves, whereas the Spirit, the Power of God, is in us. Let us resolves not to extinguish the Spirit. Let us listen to him by interior silence, humble prayer that he will guide and enlighten us, mistrust of our human strength, humility and receptivity to his delicate touches. Indeed, one can be mistaken. We need a discernment of spirits and an apprenticeship, under the control of a human guide. But if we are faithful, our perceptive capacity will be sharpened, just as the ear of a trained musician becomes capable of picking up more and more subtle nuances of sound. When all is said and done, that is the only way to reproduce the beauty of Christ's face in us, to allow him to love and to live in us. By ourselves, we are too coarse. His Spirit, his love must live in us. The whole art of the spiritual life lies there."
"Grant unto Your Church, we beseech You, O merciful God, that being gathered by the Holy Spirit, she may never be troubled by attack from the foe."
The stained glass of the Holy Spirit descending as a dove is from All Saints' church on Jesus Lane in Cambridge.