1 Corinthians 2:10b–16
Psalm 144:8–9, 10–11, 12–13ab, 13cd–14 (r. 17a)
Today’s reading from First Corinthians dovetails beautifully with our monthly Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit,” says Saint Paul, “searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:10). What are these depths of God? The Apostle says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:9–10). The deep things of God are the mysteries of the Kingdom concerning which Jesus said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will” (Lk 10:21).
Only the Holy Spirit gives knowledge of the Father and of the Son; in that knowledge all else is given besides. I speak here, not of the notional knowledge that one can acquire from studying the catechism, but of the sapiential knowledge that is the fruit of God experienced, God tasted, God loved. This knowledge, coming from the Holy Spirit, is a pledge of eternal happiness, a foretaste of the Kingdom, the dim reflection as in a mirror of what, then, we will see face to face (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).
“No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). This is why Saint Seraphim of Sarov makes the acquisition of the Holy Spirit the grand affair of the Christian life and the object of every believer’s yearning. Do you remember his conversation with the layman Motovilov as the two of them sat near his hermitage while all about them fell a gentle snow?
“The Lord has revealed to me,” said the great elder, “that in your childhood you had a great desire to know the aim of our Christian life, and that you have continually asked many great spiritual persons about it.” I must admit, that from the age of twelve this thought had constantly troubled me. In fact, I had approached many clergy about it, however their answers had not satisfied me. This could not have been known to the elder.
“But no one,” continued Saint Seraphim, “has given you a precise answer. They have said to you: ‘Go to church, pray to God, do the commandments of God, do good – that is the aim of the Christian life.’ Some were even indignant with you for being occupied with such profane curiosity and said to you, ‘Do not seek things which are beyond you.’ But they did not speak as they should. Now humble Seraphim will explain to you of what this aim really consists. However prayer, fasting, vigil and all the other Christian practices may be, they do not constitute the aim of our Christian life. Although it is true that they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end, the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.”
The desire to search the things of God, the desire to know God, rises even in the hearts of little children and, if it is not snuffed out by the conventions of a secularized culture and by a surfeit of material things, becomes in them a wonderful capacity for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I think of Nennolina, the little girl buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Rome. I think of Dominic Savio, of the children of Fatima, of “Little Nell of Holy God,” and of countless other Spirit–bearing holy children. Children and those like them, the childlike, offer little resistance to the Holy Spirit’s grace.
Those who seek God should be oriented to a humble, persevering prayer to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the soul to see the Face of Christ shining with “the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Father” (cf. 2 Cor 4:6). It is the Holy Spirit who draws every human heart to the Human Heart of God, the pierced Heart of the Crucified. It is the Holy Spirit who, indwelling the soul, infuses it with the “mind of Christ” by which “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor 2:12) is unmasked and dispelled.
Is there an easy way to acquire the Holy Spirit? In fact, there is. The experience of the saints through the ages attests to it. If you would acquire the Holy Spirit, live in the company of the Virgin Mary. Saint Louis de Montfort says:
When the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul, he hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse. One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work striking wonders in souls is that he fails to find in them a sufficiently close union with his faithful and inseparable spouse.
This Friday we will be celebrating the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On September 12th we will celebrate the Holy Name of Mary and on the 15th her Sorrowful Compassion. Prepare for these feasts. Live them with childlike simplicity. Delight in them. “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14), but the man who, imitating Saint Joseph and Saint John the Beloved Disciple, abides close to the Blessed Virgin will receive the gifts of the Spirit in abundance. By means of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, it will be given him, with all the saints, to “taste and know the sweetness of the Lord” (Ps 33:8).