In a previous blog I listed the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, know- ledge, piety and fear of the Lord. But, aside from the catechism, where do we find these gifts recorded? How do we know that they are truly the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Where does this teaching come from?
In Isaias, chapter 11, verse 2, the prophet says, “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. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” This is the first ever cataloguing of these gifts.
We people in modern culture tend to skip over the difficult words and collections of words. We remember only the first in a list and don’t bother with the rest of it. Well, the first in this grouping is only the start and is hardly more important than the rest. Let’s discuss these gifts in detail.
Wisdom is the first and foremost of these gifts. Without wisdom, the other gifts do not hold. It is also said that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Solomon says “Wisdom is better than strength”, in his book dedicated to wisdom, its power and its properties. God is the guide of wisdom and if we look for wisdom we are also looking for God.
The term “wisdom” is seen as feminine. Solomon refers to it as “she”. The Greek term for wisdom is “Sophia”, a relatively common female name. This is not to mean that women are any wiser than men. But it could mean that wisdom is a feminine characteristic we women should cherish.
But what, exactly, is wisdom? According to Solomon, it is partly self-discipline. We cannot access wisdom without taking the time to focus on it. Yes, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. But He does not knock on our door and hand it to us wrapped in ribbons. Job asked where to find wisdom. But then he answered his own question: it is hidden. We can take it at any moment only by focusing on it, but that takes discipline.
Wisdom is what gives us the ability to understand the seasons’ passing, knowing that each will return. It gives us the ability to understand nature, whether it is animals, virtues of plants and roots, or how men reason. Those with wisdom, according to Solomon, are gentle and kind, and secure in their minds. They seem able to coordinate the many things that come their way with a calm demeanor. Other properties of this gift include: eloquence, activity, sureness, sweetness, loving what is good, beneficence, intelligence. Those people who have wisdom can easily handle or use the other gifts, like knowledge and fortitude.
This sounds like the ideal person. Doesn’t it? Well, in a way, it is. If God is the guide of wisdom, would we expect anything less of Him than to design an ideal person? But we are not such great people, any of us. How can we achieve His goal for us? This endowment from the Holy Spirit is not one to stand alone. It needs constant reinforcement. And that comes in the form of Christ’s gift of the sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Confession. So, accepting, with humility and submission to the Will of the Father, our gift, and using our aids, we begin our journey to being His ideal wise person.