On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming.
Christmas is often a time associated with giving and receiving gifts. Today’s reflection on The 12 Days of Christmas centers around God’s gift to us of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are received at Baptism and strengthened with the sacrament of Confirmation. The frequent reception of the Eucharist also fortifies these gifts. For those of you that may have forgotten what you learned in your CCD class on the Holy Spirit, here is the list.
1. Wisdom. Wisdom gives us the ability to see the world as it really is. It allows us to see God’s presence in our lives and in the things that surround us. As the rock group U2 once sang in their song Walk On, wisdom gives us the eyes that allow us to see “a place that has to be believed to be seen.”
2. Understanding. Understanding in this sense is not simply the ability to comprehend worldly things, but the gift of knowing the path to God. This gift allows us to comprehend fully what it means to live as a disciple of Christ without being confused by false prophets who would have us lead lives apart from Christ.
3. Counsel (or Right Judgment). This gift, simply put, is the ability to judge between what is right and what is wrong. In the best sense of the word it is also the gift of choosing what is right.
4. Fortitude (or Courage). This gift allows us to face our fears when we are persecuted for the sake of our faith. It is the gift seen in the lives of the early martyrs of the Church. It is certain that those who profess Christ with both words and deeds will be faced with persecution and temptation. This gift is sent to help us when we are called up to face evil.
5. Knowledge. This gift is not about simple facts that can be found in a book. The gift of knowledge centers upon our relationship with God and coming to know Him more deeply. In the same way we know our family and friends, we are to know God even more so.
6. Piety (or Reverence). Reverence is the gift that allows us to approach God with both confidence and humility. It is the gift that allows us to see that all we have comes from God. It is the gift that allows calls us to worship all that is holy in God.
7. Fear of the Lord (or Wonder and Awe). This gift is often misunderstood to mean we are to fear God’s punishment. A better description of this gift is the acknowledgment that God is God and we are creatures. It is the gift that is meant to keep us from trying to compete with God in the way Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. It is the gift that allows us to see our true happiness lies only in God.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about these seven gifts is that from the time the first disciples received them, they were meant to be used in preaching the Gospel. Like the items packed for a journey, each of them is an essential tool for those of us sent into the world by Christ to announce the good news.