Monday, December 31, 2012

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Seven swans a-swimming, moving over the face of the water. In Genesis we are told about the Spirit of God moving over the face of the water before the Creation. This is a strange statement that needs expansion in itself and perhaps I'll come back to that in a future post. Let us, however, concentrate on this seven.

Seven is the Hebrew number of perfection. There are many sevens in Holy Scripture and even in secular society! Seven days a week is certainly something that has an almost global appeal even from ancient times. In the early chapters of the Revelation to St John the Divine, we read of the Seven Spirits of God. One might get confused and believe that there are Seven Holy Spirits, after all the phrase "Spirit of God" occurs in several places to stand for the Holy Ghost, notably at Our Lord's Baptism. This is always in the singular.

This is not what is meant in the Revelation, these are the Seven Spirits given to the Seven Churches. They are not seven separate Holy Ghosts: there is only one Holy Ghost. Our Lord tells us such when He tells us to Baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

St Thomas Aquinas points us to Isaiah xi.2-3:
et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini spiritus sapientiae et intellectus spiritus consilii et fortitudinis spiritus scientiae et pietatis et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini non secundum visionem oculorum iudicabit neque secundum auditum aurium arguet
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge [and piety - this is not found in the KJV, but is present in the Latin Vulgate and in the Septuagint] and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
and identifies:
  1. The Spirit of Wisdom, (sapientia)
  2. The Spirit of Understanding,(intellectus)
  3. The Spirit of Counsel,(consilium)
  4. The Spirit of Might,(fortitudo)
  5. The Spirit of Knowledge,(scientia)
  6. The Spirit of Piety, (pietas)
  7. The Spirit of the Fear of the Lord, (timor Domini)
These are the Seven Spirits which rest upon the Root of Jesse, namely upon Christ and upon his followers. We receive these Spirits at our Baptism and they are strengthened by our Confirmation because they are all gifts from the Holy Ghost. Why then do we seem to be lacking?

The trouble with these gifts is that often we do not take off the wrapping paper and use them, but preserve them in their plastic cellophane and put them on the mantelpiece looking pretty and hoping that they will increase in value. We do need to exercise ourselves in using the spiritual gifts of our Baptism by living an examined and active Christian life. To use wisdom, we need to seek it. To understand, we must wrestle with things that we don't understand. To counsel, we need to understand our experiences in life and learn from those who counsel us. To be strong, we need to endure. To know, we need to question. To be pious, we need to be humble. To fear God, we need to look at how really very small we are and how feeble our efforts are and compare that with a God who loves us despite our smallness and whose love for us can burn with a ferocity enough to vaporise planets and throw galaxies around space.

These seven spirits have been given as gifts to us in addition to the wonders of all Creation which follow the Physical and Moral Laws of God, announced to us in the Gospels in the love of a Trinity who makes a two-fold Covenant with us, sealed and ratified in the Blood of Christ on the Cross. These are seven more gifts given by our True Love.

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