Skip to comments.A Brief Treatise on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit [Ecumenical]
Posted on 01/28/2013 8:10:51 PM PST by Salvation
There was a wonderful excursus on the Church as the Body of Christ in the Sunday readings. Would that we might better appreciate the diversity of gifts in the Church today instead of being fearful or dismissive of gifts that we appreciate less. As a pastor, I have come to appreciate that people find their way to God in many and diverse ways and that when the Church permits diversity we ought respectfully rejoice in even in the ways we do not personally prefer.
I want to comment on the St. Pauls analogy of the Body, but I thought, as a prelude, to reflect on the fruits of the Holy Spirit as a necessary foundation and background to St. Pauls reflection hence this post and another to follow this week on the analogy of the Body.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Catechism and Tradition are drawn largely from St. Pauls letter to the Galatians where he writes:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:22-26)
We can now look at each fruit and ponder its meaning, both ancient and new. Many of these insights are drawn from William Barclay and also from Strongs Concordance and Greek Lexicon:
I. Love - ἀγάπη (agape) to love with a God-like love, unconditionally, and vigorously, not counting the cost, not being based on mere reciprocity. It is wanting only what is good for the other. This sort of love is distinct from other forms of love in Greek such as eros (passionate love), philia (warm love most common in the family or among close friends, brotherly love), and storge (the love of affection usually for family members. Agape love is far above these and is, of necessity, a work of God so as to come to its fullest expression. Hence it is rightly called a fruit of the Holy Spirit. While some scholars argue that agape is a word that pagan Greek knew little of, this is just the point. The Early Christians took this little used or distinguished word from the Greek language and sanctified it with special meaning in the First Century. It has had the special meaning we described ever since.
II. Joy χαρά (Chara) The joy referred to here is more than a passing worldly joy. It is deeper than an emotional experience. It is rooted in God and comes from him. Since it does not have the world for its origin but, rather, comes from God, it is more serene and stable than worldly joy, which is merely emotional and lasts only for a time. For example, note the following uses elsewhere in Scripture and note how it is always connected, not to the world, but to the faith and to God:
III. Peace εἰρήνη (eirene) This is normally used in the Greek Bible to translate the Hebrew word shalom. This sort of peace is more than an absence of conflict. Rather it is the presence in the human person and their relationships of everything that should be there. It is a kind of equilibrium that comes from trusting in God and the experience that everything is alright, that everything is in the hands of God. It is the tranquil state of a soul fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of what so ever sort that is. On account of this experience, the human person does not obsessively seek to control people and things and is more content to allow things to unfold, rather than to control and manipulate the outcomes of life. In this sense, they become more peaceful toward others.
IV. Patience μακροθυμία (makrothumia) Generally the Greek world applied this word to a man who could avenge himself but did not. This word is often used in the Greek Scriptures in reference to God and his attitude to us. In the human person, this fruit of the Spirit causes us to be more willing to suffer the difficulties of life and of other people. We are less needful to avenge wrongs and slights and are more able to endure the imperfections of people and this world. In English we once had the concept of long-tempered as a counterpart to short-tempered, then makrothumia could be called the quality of being long-tempered. . . . which is also a quality of God (Ex 34:6). By this fruit we can forebear the crosses, miseries and difficulties of life in this world.
V. Kindness χρηστότης (Chrestotos) In Greek, old wine was called chrestos which meant that it was mellow or smooth. Christ used this word in referring to his yoke that which was easy (Matt 11:30). That is to say, it did not chafe, it was well fitting and accommodated to the wearer. So kindness here refers to an attitude that goes beyond mere justice or what is required to a something wider and more accommodating. Here is a Spirit-produced goodness which meets the needs of others and avoids harshness.
VI. Generosity - Catholic Catechetical tradition usually adds Generosity here. To be generous is similar to kindness in that it is to give beyond what is required by justice. It is distinct from kindness in that it tends to refer to money and things whereas kindness is a little broader and includes matters of attitude and behavior as well as things.
VII. Goodness ἀγαθωσύνη (agathosune) This word is more difficult to define, in that it rarely occurs in secular Greek. Its biblical use seems to generally mean doing what is right and best for others in every circumstance. This might at times include rebuking or disciplining. At other times it would include encouraging or reassuring. The key point in the word seems to be what is good or best for the person. Here are some other instances where the word is used in the New Testament and one will notice that it places goodness in the context of instruction, truth and faith. Hence, goodness here can have different applications than just being a nice guy.As Scripture says,
Rom 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Eph 5:9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
2 Thess 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.
VIII. Fidelity πίστις (pistis) This is the common Greek word for being trustworthy, being faithful and reliable. In the Bible the word is more commonly used in a nominative form simply to mean faith, that is, the act of believing in God. By extension it can mean the quality of being faithful. The connection between the two concepts can include the fact that if one believes in God they will tend to be more trustworthy and reliable since their faith imbues them with a sense that God is watching and they are accountable. Further, they are trustworthy because true faith makes them more inclined to respect others and the commitments they make to them. As fruit of the Spirit fidelity comes as a result of the Spirits promptings that we live up to our commitments.
IX. Gentleness πραΰτης (praotes) There are different ways that this word is used in the New Testament. Basically, it means to be submissive to God and to be humble enough to be taught by God. Toward others, it means to be considerate. Another common way of translating this word in English is meekness. Aristotle defined meekness (πραΰτης ) as the mean between being too angry and not being angry enough. There is a place and a need for anger. Not all anger is sinful. It is right to be angry over injustice, for example. The meek person has authority over their anger. They are able to summon its energy but control its extremes. The Greek word here was also used to describe an animal that had been tamed. Hence meekness refers to us having tamed our anger.
X. Self control ἐγκράτεια (egkrateia) This fruit or virtue was understood in Greek of one who had mastered their love and desire of pleasure. There is a place in life for pleasures and desires. Without them we would perish. Since the fall of man however, our desires are often inordinate and excessive. There is need for the virtue of self mastery that moderates and regulates them.
Regarding Self-control, Catholic catechetical tradition elaborates it into three distinct areas:
Thus, altogether we have 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit in Catholic Tradition. As we can see many of them speak to zeal, while others in a way that seeks to set forth a virtue rooted in moderateness.
One of the great gifts the Spirit seeks to give us is not a rejection of passion or other human gifts, but a moderation and proper appropriation of them. For God the Holy Spirit has given all the gifts of the World, including beauty, and human passions for a reason and for a good end. But the Fruits of the Spirit are gifts to both to inspire zeal and to regulate and appreciate what God has given for a reason and a purpose. By these gifts we steer a middle ground between rejection and indulgence, excess and defect, enjoyment and hedonism. Modus omnibus in rebus (All things in moderation (including moderation)). The Sequence Hymn for Pentecost says of the Holy Spirit:
And thus we see both zeal and moderation in these gifts and in all things a ruling over anything that deviates. Come Holy Holy Spirit, rule our hearts and inflame them with your love.
Come Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
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Thanks for this article and post..
Some posters here don’t realize all the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Since I’ve added Msgr. Pope’s blog to my Favorites Bar, it’s one of the first things I read each morning.
Good read, thank you. I was just teaching my religious-ed class this past Sunday on the Holy Spirit (1st grade). It is so hard to explain to children that age the three persons/one God, though they were able to visualize a picture I had of the Holy Spirit as a dove. Of course, the first question was, “God is a bird?”