representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove, c. 1660.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is an enumeration of seven spiritual gifts originating with patristic authors, later elaborated by five intellectual virtues and four other groups of ethical characteristics. They are: wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe, right judgement, knowledge, courage, and reverence. While many Roman Catholics and some other Christians accept these as a definitive list of specific attributes, others understand them merely as examples of the Holy Spirit's work through the faithful, or consider that there is no such thing as seven gifts of the Spirit in the Bible.
Hebrew Bible and New Testament
The source of the enumeration of "seven" gifts is often given as Isaiah 11:2-3. The term "Holy Spirit" does not appear, but the "Spirit of the LORD." In the Hebrew St. Petersburg Codex text only three spirits with two characteristics each, totalling six, are mentioned, and fear is mentioned twice in a concluding comment.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord — and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
Later Christian usage conforms to the Latin Vulgate, which takes the list from the Septuagint. In the Septuagint the first "spirit of.. fear of the Lord" is "spirit of... godliness" (πνεῦμα ..εὐσεβείας) the second "fear of the Lord" is fear of the Lord (πνεῦμα φόβου θεοῦ).
1 Et egredietur virga de radice Jesse, et flos de radice ejus ascendet. 2 Et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini: spiritus sapientiæ et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, spiritus scientiæ et pietatis; 3 et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini.
The seven Latin terms are then:
- timor Domini.
In Medieval Christianity
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is one of several works in medieval Christian devotional literature which follow a scheme of seven. Others include the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer, the seven Beatitudes, the seven last words from the cross. Related are the seven deadly sins.
The seven gifts were often represented as doves in medieval texts and especially figure in depictions of the Tree of Jesse which shows the Genealogy of Jesus. In many such depictions the doves encircle a bust of Christ.
Roman Catholicism teaches that initiates receive these seven gifts at Baptism, and that they are strengthened at Confirmation, so that one can proclaim the truths of the faith:
- "The reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace." For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1285)
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
St. Josaphat's Cathedral in Edmonton
, Canada is shaped as a cross with seven copper domes representing the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and descriptions outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, the seven gifts are as follows:
- Wisdom: We see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of life take on deeper meaning. We see God as our Father, appreciate the dignity of others, and find God in all things.
- Understanding: In understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as followers of Christ. A person with understanding is not confused by the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. The gift of understanding perfects a person's speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known, Aquinas writes.
- Counsel (Right Judgment): With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus.
- Fortitude (Courage): With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil.
- Knowledge: With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts.
- Piety (Reverence): With the gift of reverence, sometimes called piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the Church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift whereby, at the Holy Spirit's instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, Aquinas writes.
- Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7) because it puts our mindset in correct location with respect to God: we are the finite, dependent creatures, and He is the infinite, all-powerful Creator.
Relation to the Virtues
St. Thomas Aquinas says that four of these gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel) direct the intellect, while the other three gifts (fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord) direct the will toward God.
In some respects, the gifts are similar to the virtues, but a key distinction is that the virtues operate under the impetus of human reason (prompted by grace), whereas the gifts operate under the impetus of the Holy Spirit; the former can be used when one wishes, but the latter operate only when the Holy Spirit wishes. In the case of Fortitude, the gift has, in Latin and English, the same name as a virtue, which it is related to but from which it must be distinguished.
In Summa Theologica II.II, Thomas Aquinas asserts the following correspondences between the seven Capital Virtues and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
- The gift of wisdom corresponds to the virtue of charity.
- The gifts of understanding and knowledge correspond to the virtue of faith.
- The gift of counsel (right judgment) corresponds to the virtue of prudence.
- The gift of fortitude corresponds to the virtue of courage.
- The gift of fear of the Lord corresponds to the virtue of hope.
- The gift of Reverence corresponds to the virtue of justice.
To the virtue of temperance, no Gift is directly assigned; but the gift of fear can be taken as such, since fear drives somebody to restrict himself from forbidden pleasures.
The Rev. Brian Shanley contrasts the gifts to the virtues this way: "What the gifts do over and above the theological virtues (which they presuppose) is dispose the agent to the special promptings of the Holy Spirit in actively exercising the life of the virtues; the gifts are necessary for the perfect operations of the virtues, especially in the face of our human weakness and in difficult situations."
- ^ For example, see Victorinus, Commentarii in Apocalypsim Iohannis 1: "Septiformi spiritu: in Esaia legimus: Spiritus sapientiae et intellectus, consilii et fortitudinis, scientiae et pietatis, spiritus timoris Domini." Authors such Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, and John Cassian all speak of the gifts with familiarity.
- ^ Bruce Macfarlane Researching with integrity: the ethics of academic enquiry 2008-p36 "The theoretical, intellectual virtues consist of philosophical wisdom (sophia), scientific or empirical knowledge (episteme), and intuitive understanding (nous). In addition to these three is the virtue of practical wisdom or prudence (phronesis) and the productive virtues of art, skill, , and craft knowledge (techne)."
- ^ Aquinas's Moral Theory: Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann - Page 49 Scott MacDonald, Eleonore Stump - 2007 "Wisdom in Its Context Besides the five intellectual virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Aquinas recognizes four other groups of ethical characteristics which are important for his discussion of wisdom.
- ^ The Feast of Corpus Christi - Page 451 Barbara R. Walters, Vincent Justus Corrigan, Peter T. Ricketts - 2006 10. set grasces: these are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which, in the Middle Ages, were probably codified by Thomas ... Isaias 11: 2–3: “spiritus sapientiae et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, s
- ^ Isaiah 11:2-3
- ^ Raniero Cantalamessa Come, Creator Spirit: meditations on the Veni Creator 2003 Page 175 "The text from which it takes its rise is Isaiah 1 1:1,3. In the Hebrew six gifts are listed, and the last, fear, is mentioned twice; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and fear of the Lord."
- ^  http://sepd.biblos.com/isaiah/11.htm.
- ^ Anglo-Saxon England Martin Biddle, Julian Brown, Peter Clemoes, René Derolez, Helmut Gneuss, Stanley Greenfield p110
- ^ David Lyle Jeffrey English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif 1988 Page 174 "The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit This is one of numerous works in medieval devotional literature which follow a septenary schema. Others include the petitions of the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, the seven last words from the cross,"
- ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3 Section 1 Chapter 1 Article 7
- ^ a b "Summa Theologia: Secunda Secundae Partis", NewAdvent.org, 2010, webpage: NA3.
- ^ Summa Theologica, s.3008, webpage: S3008.
- ^ Shanley, Brian. Review of Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas by John I. Jenkins. The Thomist 63 (1999), p. 318.