Knowledge from a Higher Light
"You have been anointed with the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge..." (1 Jn 2:20).
St Thomas Aquinas assigns the Gift of Knowledge to the perfection of the Virtue of Faith. Fr Jordan Aumann OP writes that "The gift of knowledge is a supernatural habit through which the human intellect, under the action of the Holy Spirit, judges rightly concerning created things as related to eternal life and Christian perfection."
The key to this Gift is that the Spirit helps us to know, as if by some divine intuition, and thus to judge rightly how created things are related to our ultimate end in God. Hence, Knowledge is connected to Understanding and Wisdom but there are differences. As we have already seen, Wisdom allows us to see as God sees, to judge wisely divine things; Understanding gives us a divine sense of the truth, allowing us to penetrate revealed truths by a divine insight but without making any judgments. The role of judging rightly concerning all created things belongs to Knowledge and it is a by a higher light - that of the Holy Spirit - than just simple reason illumined by faith.
What this means in practical terms is that Knowledge enlightens us so that we can judge how something of this created world - and that includes the people we meet and love - are related to our fulfillment in Christ. It is easy to be distracted by the good things of this world, or to become so caught up in politics and social activism, or even bound by certain friendships, such that we forget that we are pilgrims on this earth, made for union with the Triune God.
Thus, fr Aumann says that Knowledge causes in us a certain detachment from the charms of the world. It also teaches us to use created things in a holy way and (working with other gifts and virtues) inspires us concerning the best method of conduct with our neighbour as regards eternal life. As such, he says that "by this gift preachers know what they ought to say to their hearers and what they ought to urge upon them. Directors perceive the state of souls under their guidance, their spiritual needs and the remedies for their faults. Superiors know in what way they ought to govern those under them, and parents, how to form their children..."
It is clear from the life of St Justin Martyr (depicted in mosaic above), whose memorial we keep today that the Gifts of Knowledge and Understanding helped him tremendously, both in his conversion to Christianity and his many apologetical works in defence of the truth of the Faith he had embraced.
Let us ask him to pray for us, that we too may receive an outpouring of these Gifts from the Holy Spirit!
"When through His Word God made the intricate structure of the world, You, O Holy Spirit, extended your quickening power over all creation, bringing life and goodness. So now, breathed into us, bring life and goodness; make us spiritual. At the birth of the Church You again overshadowed God's new creation, and sent out the Apostles to preach Christ's victory. So now, descend on us and make us ministers of divine truth and goodness."