Please read our Original Proposal
Below, is posted the Introduction to a new series of articles which will be forthcoming on the subject: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes. These articles will attempt to penetrate to depths of the reasons for the present impotency of the Church before the world. And in so doing, we hope to uncover what is necessary that the graces of the Holy Spirit may again be witnessed in the power once evidenced in the lives of the first Christians.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
And the Beatitudes
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apoc. 3: 15-16).
“The first cleansing of the world by the deluge [Flood] regarded only the stain of sin. Now the sin that was most prevalent then was the sin of concupiscence, and consequently it was fitting that the cleansing should be by means of its contrary, namely water. But the second cleansing regards both the stain of sin and the impurity of mixture, and in respect of both it is more fitting for it to be effected by fire than by water. For the power of water tends to unite rather than to separate; wherefore the natural impurity of the elements could not be removed by water as by fire. Moreover, at the end of the world the prevalent sin will be that of tepidity, as though the world were already growing old, because then, according to Matth. xxiv. 12, the charity of many shall grow cold, and consequently the cleansing will then be fittingly effected by fire.” [Thomas Aquinas – ST, Suppl., Q. 74 (‘On the Fire of the Final Conflagration’), A.2].
The words of Our Lord addressed to the “angel” (bishop) of Laodicea quoted above are arguably the most violent and repulsive in the New Testament. They should certainly be seen to apply to that lukewarmness that threatens the life and salvation of Christians in all the ages of Christian history. In addition, Laodicea was the last church to be addressed in Our Lord’s individual messages to the seven churches, and there are those commentators who have therefore interpreted these words to apply especially to the universal Church at the end of time. Whether this be Our Lord’s intention, we cannot be sure.
However, the second quote offered above, from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, would seem to offer a powerful and conclusive justification for such an interpretation. St. Thomas uses the word “tepidity” to identify that particular malaise at the end of time which calls down upon mankind Our Lord’s Final Judgment. And in identifying such tepidity with Our Lord’s declaration in Matthew 24 that during the time of the consummation of the world, the charity of many shall grow cold, we should hold little doubt that such tepidity is to be identified with the lukewarmness spoken of in the Apocalypse of St. John.
Very significant is the fact that Our Lord, in His message to the Bishop of Laodicea, does not say that He has already vomited these people out of His mouth, but rather “I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” This is not a completed judgment, but rather a warning. In similar fashion, does Our Lord say to His apostles, “the charity of man will grow cold.” We know, of course, that charity is that state of soul in which a person is living in the friendship of God, and that such charity, once possessed, can only be lost through mortal sin. We are led to ask, therefore: what does it mean for charity to grow cold, even though such “coldness” does not necessarily yet entail mortal sin and the loss of sanctifying grace? What is the nature of this thing called “lukewarmness” and “tepidity”? And why does it represent such an abomination that, despite the fact that it does not yet constitute mortal sin, it yet deserves Our Lord’s most severe condemnation? And, most important, why does St. Thomas identify such tepidity and lukewarmness with an “impurity of mixture” (see quote above) which can only be purged by the fire of the Final Judgment upon this world?
The answers to these questions might at first appear to lie in all the iniquities which Jesus tells us will be prevalent in the world at the end of time. In Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew, Our Lord offers an extensive list of the evils which will dominate the world before His Second and Final Coming: the seduction offered by false saviors, a proliferation of nations and kingdoms at war with one another, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes, the hatred of Christians by all nations, widespread betrayal of one another, false prophets, and widespread iniquity [including moral decay]. And immediately after presenting this list, Our Lord concludes: “And because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.”
But we are still left with the question as to why, in these end times, the charity of Catholics should grow cold in the face of such disasters, persecution, and moral decay. The reason cannot just lie in some sort of discouragement in the face of such evils, which might well be said to have existed to one extent or another at any time of Christian history. Certainly, these same evils existed at the time of the Apostles. But after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the charity of these men, who previously had been cowering in the Upper Room in the face of these evils, burst forth from this hiding place in the full power and boldness of the Holy Spirit – a power which was able to convert whole nations, heal sickness and infirmity, perform miracles, and even raise the dead. We are therefore led to ask why these same, or similar, evils present in the world at the end of time have the opposite effect – of causing charity in Christians to grow cold. And the proof, as they say, “is in the pudding”. Why do not Catholics now burst forth from their churches in the abundance of the charity and power of the Holy Spirit necessary to convert nations? And even from a minimalist standpoint, why now do we not at least posses the grace and power to prevent the massive influx of the spirit of Antichrist which now clearly appears to be growing dominant in the Church (Please see our article the The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit for analysis of this truth)?
The answer to this question lies in St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, Chapter 3. St. Paul, like Jesus, first offers an extensive list of evils (especially moral evils) which will prevail towards the end of the world:
“Know this, that in the last days shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasures more than of God.”
But it is in contemplating St. Paul’s verse which immediately follows this list of prevalent evils that we arrive at the reason why such decay and perversity has now been enabled to come to dominion in both the Church and the world:
“Having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”
In this concluding statement, St. Paul is obviously not referring to those who commit the mortal sins enumerated in the paragraph above. Persons who are blasphemers, wicked, slanderers, incontinent, and traitors do not “have an appearance of godliness”, and certainly cannot be said to possess a charity which has merely “grown cold”. They possess no charity or friendship with God whatsoever. Rather, he would seem to be speaking of those who indeed have an appearance of Godliness, who are still alive in the sanctifying grace and charity of God, but somehow are denying, and failing to live in, the power of the Holy Spirit which they have received. He is speaking, in other words, of those who are tepid and lukewarm, and therefore constitute Catholics in whom charity has indeed grown cold.
Finally, if we are to take St. Thomas’ analysis seriously, this coldness by which they are “grieving the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30) is constituted by an “impurity of mixture” existing in both the individual souls of Catholics and collectively in the universal Church. It therefore consists in “mixing” the Light and Life of Christ with the spirit of this world. As St. James writes:
“Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world, is the enemy of God? Whosoever, therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” (James 4: 4).
Here we must emphasize again, that in speaking of a process of “becoming” an enemy of God, St. James would appear to be speaking of that condition in the souls of Christians, produced through a process of trying to accommodate their Faith to the world (what St. James calls “double-mindedness”), which has established them in a state of tepidity and lukewarmness, and which finally disposes them to an actual act of mortal sin. And most important, we must begin by understanding that such tepidity and lukewarmness are not to be understood as the world understands these terms. They can exist even in the midst of great passion and activity, including passion and activity ostensibly in the pursuit of God and defense of the Faith. This is so, because as St. Thomas points out, the means they employ embody an “impurity of mixture”. Their passion and activity are established upon the ways of man rather than in the Ways of God. Their tepidity is towards God, while their warmness is towards their own desires and agendas which, in a myriad of forms, detract from God and His Ways.
Over the centuries, Satan has been able to weave a profoundly complicated and subtle web of delusions (called by St. Paul “the operation of error”) which have convinced almost all Catholics that they must use a vast array of means in service of the Christian Faith which in reality constitute denial of the truth that “Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration”. (James 1: 17). Most often this self-deceit takes the forms of not standing in the fullness of Truth revealed through Christ and His Church. This does not entail explicitly denying these truths (which would result in an actual loss of the Faith and consequent total loss of supernatural charity in the soul), but rather in ignoring, diluting, or being silent in respect of them – and thus denying the radiance which proceeds from Christ in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Such is charity grown cold, and such is the “impurity of mixture” which is the tepidity of the lukewarm Catholic in his desire to be both a friend of God and at the same time a friend of this world.
In order to understand how such becomes possible in Catholics, and also why it has ensnared Catholics in an ever-increasing web of self-deceit down through the Christian centuries, we need to come first to a clear understanding of the existence of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit (and therefore the state of charity) in souls, and what is required in the depths of human freedom not only for His continued presence, but also for His deeper penetration into Christian life.
Both St. Augustine and St. Thomas taught that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the First Seven Beatitudes. It is in examining these correspondences that we will come to understand how the grace and power of the Holy Spirit is made present and effective in our lives. At the same time we will discover why failure to correspond the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit with the actual living of their respective Beatitudes in our daily lives necessarily produces that “impurity of mixture” which, if not remedied by deeper conversion, disposes us to an ever-increasing grieving of the Holy Spirit, which culminates in an act of mortal sin, and which makes of us enemies of God.
The Gifts and their Corresponding Beatitudes
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness (piety). And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaias 11:1-3).
This passage is, of course, a prophecy of the coming of Christ. Since the Gifts mentioned here are the anointings of the Holy Spirit which made the Sacred Humanity of Christ pleasing and perfect in the sight of His Father, they are also the same Gifts which the Holy Spirit confers on us in baptism (and strengthens in Confirmation) in order to accomplish our sanctification. These seven Gifts are, in fact, supernatural dispositions (habits) which empower us to be receptive to the workings of God’s grace in our souls. As we have said, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas taught that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit correspond to the first seven Beatitudes as taught in the Sermon on the Mount. St. Thomas compares these Gifts to the sails of a ship which are ever present in order to “catch” the supernatural graces and powers necessary for our transformation into the holiness of Christ. In other words, the Gifts empower the transformations of human nature which are enumerated in the Beatitudes, and which reveal what it means to be a saint. We might therefore say that our effective living of the Beatitudes is a test as to our cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We begin, therefore, by listing the correspondences between the Gifts and Beatitudes:
Gifts (Isaias 11:1-3) Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-9)
Fear of the Lord: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Piety: Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Knowledge: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Fortitude: Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Counsel: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Understanding: Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Wisdom: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
In our further study, we must never forget that these Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and their corresponding Beatitudes are the very interior life of Jesus Christ. In sending these gifts to us through the action of the Holy Spirit, Our Lord has given us the graces of His own Life, that we may be transformed into His likeness and attain to union with Him. The passage from Isaias lists these Gifts from the highest to the lowest. This is only appropriate since they are there applied to Christ Who is God become Man. Since we will be especially interested in the process by which a man or woman is transformed into sainthood, we shall begin with the lowest and work upwards towards the more sublime.
We shall begin with Fear of the Lord which, while often considered the most lowly of the Gifts, can at the same time be considered the most important: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Without the proper beginning, there is no proper End; without this foundation, there is no Christian life. It is the Gift of Fear of the Lord which has been very conspicuously denied since Vatican Council II. And yet it took up dwelling, as we shall see, even in the sacred and sinless Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.