Sunday, May 27, 2012

St. Bernard on the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit

We noted that the second reading of the Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost allows the homilist to address either the "gifts" of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:3-13) or the "fruit" of the Spirit (Gal 5).  The following is insight from St. Bernard of Clairvaux on this two-fold endowment from the Spirit.  St. Bernard is actually meditating on Song of Songs 1:2:
"Your name is oil poured out."  Of what truth of our interior life does the Holy Spirit wish to assure us by means of this text?  He refers to the experience of a twofold operation , one by which he inwardly strengthens the virtues that lead us to salvation, the other by which he outwardly endows us with serviceable gifts.  The former is of benefit to ourselves, the latter to our neighbors.  For example, faith, hope, and charity are given to us for our own sake, without them we cannot be saved.  But the gift of wise and learned speech, the power to heal, to prophesy, and endowments of this kind without which we can fully achieve our own salvation, are undoubtedly meant to be used for our neighbor's salvation.  And these operations of the Holy Spirit, that we take note of either in ourselves or in others, are named from their method of functioning: we call them infusion and effusion.  To which of them may we suitably apply the words: "Your name is oil poured out"?  Is it not to effusion? If he had meant infusion, he would have said "poured in." ... Any man who perceives that he is endowed with an exterior grace enabling him to influence others, can also say to the Lord: "Your name is oil poured out."

—St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 18 on the Song of Songs


De Maria said...

I had never heard of "effusion". I'd heard of infusion and imputing. Effusion sounds as though "our cup runneth over". The grace which is infused in us, effuses out when we act upon it. Is that what it means?

John Bergsma said...

"Effusion" just means "a flow outward." So the exercise of the gifts of the spirit involves an effusion of God's grace to others.

De Maria said...

So the gifts are examples of effusion:

1 Corinthians 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Because the gifts are exercised upon another, "he is endowed with an exterior grace enabling him to influence others,"

and the fruits are infusion? Because they are received by the believer and evidenced by the believer.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

But actually, both the gifts and the fruits must be infused by the Spirit that they will be effused (if that's a word) by the believer in order for them to be efficacious/meritorious?

Because that which is given to us is not just for us but for all (Luke 16:1-8).

John Bergsma said...

Sounds right to me ...