There are many times in Scripture when God is described as being “alone” in some attribute. St. Paul ends the Letter to the Romans by glorifying “God, who alone is wise…” In writing to Timothy (I Timothy 6:16-17), he speaks of God “the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who alone has immortality…” Christ himself even says, after being called a “good teacher,” that “no one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
These are all true statements, but they say more than we think. Yes, God alone is complete Wisdom, Immortality, and Goodness (and many other things besides), but a further significance of this is that all of those who are partially wise or good come to be so by sharing in God’s own Nature. Even partial wisdom exists only by a creaturely participation in God’s perfect Wisdom; the same goes for our partial goodness, and even our existence. God, in creating us, in making us exist, gives us an analogous participation in his own perfect Existence – for it was he who said of himself, “I am who am.” (Exodus 3:14)
This is all the more the case when we consider not only God’s creative act but the even more abundant grace poured out through the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In the Holy Spirit, which makes us not only distant and partial participants of the Divine Nature (by being created in God’s image) but actual members of the mystical Body of Christ, we are all the more united with God’s Life and participate all the more in his Nature and in his mission.
The Gifts of the Spirit
The Basilica Hymn for “Golden Friday,” as it is called, describes this intimate connection between Christ’s work, the Father, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Blessed be Christ who came to suffer and die for us, who righted the fall of our race by the rising of his holy Body. And after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven, to his Sender, sits [seated us] with him, to his right, and made his glory known to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The sequence of events is dramatic but incomplete: Christ came, suffered and died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father (and we in him), and shows us his glory through the working of his Spirit. A wonderful summary of salvation history, but one that is incomplete and open-ended; one that begs the question: what are these gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The tradition of the Church has named seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, taken from Isaiah 11:2: “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.” From this passage, the seven gifts named are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. But they are not simply inert, inactive, purely spiritual realities. They help us to act in a particular way.
Their Voice Was Heard throughout All the Earth
This is why the deeds of the apostles of Christ are so important for us to consider (indeed, this is why they are included in the Scriptures): when we see how they acted through the Holy Spirit, and how he acted through them, we learn more about the Spirit himself, and therefore about God himself. And so the Chaldean Church, on the Friday after Pentecost, celebrates a single but remarkable event in the lives of the two most important apostles: Peter and John. The story is related in chapter 3 of the Acts of the Apostles:
‘Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "Silver and gold I have none, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.’
The name of this Feast, then, is taken from the phrase that Peter said: “Silver and gold I have none,” making a subtle reference to the true treasure given to us by the Holy Spirit, the true power that is able to change the face of the earth and to heal the whole human race.