"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 the fear of the Lord."
― Isaiah 11:2, English Standard Version
The Holy Spirit, also called the Holy Ghost, has been mentioned in the Bible 93 times: 90 times in the New Testament and 3 times in the Old Testament. The Holy Ghost has played a crucial part during Christ's ministry on Earth―right from the time when Virgin Mary conceived Jesus through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to the time He breathed His last on the cross. Even post His resurrection, Christ's instructions to His disciples were, as written in the English Standard Version of the Bible in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verse 19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ..."
The Book of Isaiah mentions the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are quintessential for each and every Christian believer, as without these gifts, it would be impossible for us to be the image of Christ. Yes, our aim is to help the others just as Jesus helps us, and this wouldn't be possible if we don't become as wise, understanding, compassionate, courageous, and righteous as He was. It is only because of these virtues that He could look past the complexities of this world that distract our human hearts and minds through temptation, greed, and futile ambitions that are limited to the mortal world. It is these seven gifts that can help us understand the true meaning of being His disciples and get to know Him closely, in His true image.
These Holy gifts are often compared to the seven heavenly virtues, however, the key difference that lies between these two is that unlike the seven virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are prompted by the Holy Spirit. For example, the virtue of Charity―that corresponds with the gift of wisdom―can be done based on human reasoning, but the 'Gift of Wisdom' can only come through the grace of the Holy Ghost, with us humans having no control over it.
The Roman Catholics believe that these gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon Baptism, and further strengthened when the believer receives his/her Confirmation. These sacramental ceremonies are nothing but a public symbolism of one's acceptance of Christ and His teachings in their lives, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are the means through which we can go beyond this acceptance.
We see pain and also love, disappointments and blessings, natural catastrophes and also wonders, death and life, and even though we have "faith" in Him, we fail to have the wisdom to comprehend God's will behind creating a world with such complexities. The gift of wisdom helps us see the bigger picture. When wisdom enters us, we don't just accept for the sake of accepting, we accept because we can now see the meaning behind these events in a wise manner, through the light of the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving this gift, we see beyond the realm of faith, we see this world from God's point of view. Therefore, this gift helps us to respond wisely to the worldly challenges. We focus on nourishing our spiritual self than the material self, and draw closer to God in the process.
We live in a world where mysteries surround us, where one simple thing has many facets to it. How often do we remark, "This situation, as I understand it, ...!" There is always a disclaimer of "As I understand" when we're trying to be as politically correct as we can. However, the gift of understanding that comes from the Holy Spirit needs no disclaimers. Under this Divine guide, we are able to understand the most confusing situations. Don't confuse this gift with wisdom, they may seem more or less the same, but they are very different. Wisdom is more about meditating over the deeds of God, understanding, on the other hand, gives us a chance to comprehend the beliefs that make our faith, that make us one with Christ.
In the world where we live, what once was considered to be a sin, is a common lifestyle today. What once was divided into black and white, now exists in gray. Now, it's become more about choosing from the whitish gray or the blackish gray. The gift of counsel or 'Right Judgment' is when we can take the right decisions in any conflicting situation. The Holy Spirit, through this gift, gives us the wisdom and understanding to eliminate the other options and choose the right one―the white one!
Fortitude is the gift that enables true believers to stand firm in their faith when the world says otherwise. We needn't mention the several instances where Christians have been killed for professing their faith. Fortitude is a blessing of the Holy Spirit to not let the believers renounce their faith in fear, but to be steady in their hearts and mind and be loyal to Christ even in the most challenging situations. Note that to be courageous to defend the Lord doesn't imply to purposefully ask for such trouble. The Holy Spirit is a symbol of peace, therefore, all things must be done with peace. However, if it comes to a point where we must sacrifice ourselves for God's glory, fortitude is an essential virtue.
Knowledge, in this context, is more than getting our facts checked, it is to know the things that constitute our lives, both spiritual and material, and alter the course of our thoughts, words, and deed, accordingly. When our knowledge comes from the Holy Ghost, our lives transcend to the light of righteousness and mercy. Through knowledge comes better understanding and judgment, hence, knowledge eliminates the loopholes that tend to lead us astray from God.
Also known as the gift of 'Reverence', here we serve God purely out of love, trust, and admiration. A bitter truth is that many of us profess our love for God, yet forcefully abide by the Biblical way of living, as if compelled to do so only because we are Christians. However, upon receiving this gift, we include God in everything, in matters big and small. Under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, we don't pray, help, or minister by force, or because it's the law, but because we love God and want everyone to witness His mercy. Pretty much like how a child follows the footsteps of his father, because that is the path that will keep him safe.
The gift of the 'Fear of the Lord' doesn't imply to be fearful in terms of being punished or persecuted by the Lord, in fact, it implies being fearful as to not offend our dear Lord because He is the reason we are. As believers, we have witnessed His help, love, protection, and mercy in our lives numerous times. And, in our hearts we also know that we can't exist without His loving hand on us. Therefore, the Fear of the Lord is a gift, a belief that we will be given the grace and protection in times of trial, so as to not offend our Lord in any manner. We are His children and He is our loving Father. Why would children offend a Father who loves them so much?
Saint Thomas Aquinas divided these seven gifts into two categories: 1) Gifts that direct the intellect; and 2) Gifts that direct the will towards God. The gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel come in the intellectual category, while fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord draw our will towards the Lord. If you observe closely, all these gifts are quite interrelated to each other, and one seems impossible without the other. For instance, without knowledge there cannot be understanding and wisdom. Also, piety, fear of the Lord, and fortitude are closely interlinked.
The key to all to be blessed with these gifts and receive the Holy Spirit, is love. For we will never think of offending the ones we love, or even lay our lives for their honor. To conclude, let us remember the commandment that Jesus gave, as written in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." The seven gifts mentioned above can be received only if you follow this commandment, if you love God with all your heart. May the Lord be with you. Amen.