Feast of Pentecost - St Thomas Aquinas

Source: District of Asia

(The matter which follows is of supreme importance in order to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul.)

A: The gift of fortitude

1. Overcomes obstacles to action:

The human will is hindered in two ways from following the rectitude of reason. First through being drawn by some object of pleasure to something other than what the rectitude of reason requires; and this obstacle is removed by the virtue of temperance. Secondly through the will being disinclined to follow that which is in accordance with reason, on account of some difficulty that presents itself. In order to remove this obstacle fortitude of the mind is requisite, whereby to resist the aforesaid difficulty, even as a man, by fortitude of body, overcomes and removes bodily obstacles (2-2. q. 123. I).

2. It is a condition of every virtue:

The term fortitude may be taken in two ways. First, as simply denoting a certain firmness of mind, and in this sense it is a general virtue, or rather, a condition of every virtue, since as the Philosopher states, it is requisite for every virtue to act firmly and immovably (ibid. a. 2. c).

3. It is also a special virtue:

Secondly, fortitude may be taken to denote firmness only in bearing and withstanding those things wherein it is most difficult to be firm, namely, in certain grave dangers. Therefore Tully says that fortitude is deliberate facing of dangers and bearing of toils. In this sense fortitude is reckoned a special virtue, because it has special matter (ibid.).

4. The object of fortitude—fear and daring:

It belongs to the virtue of fortitude to remove any obstacle that withdraws the will from following the reason. Now, to be withdrawn from something difficult belongs to the notion of fear, which denotes the withdrawal from an evil that entails difficulty. . . . Hence fortitude is chiefly about fear of difficult things, which can withdraw the will from following reason. And it behooves one not merely to bear firmly the assaults of these difficulties by restraining fear, but also moderately to withstand them, when, to wit, it is necessary to dispel them altogether in order to free oneself therefrom for the future, which seems to come under the notion of daring. Therefore fortitude is about fear and daring, as curbing fear and moderating daring (ibid. a. 3. c).

5. Principally about the dangers of death:

It belongs to the notion of virtue that it should regard something extreme: and the most fearful of all bodily evils is death, since it does away with all bodily goods. Wherefore Augustine says that the soul is shaken by its fellow body, with fear of toil and pain, lest the body be stricken and harassed with fear of death lest it be done away and destroyed. Therefore the virtue of fortitude is about the fears and danger of death (ibid. a. 4. c).

6. Endurance is its chief act:

Fortitude is more concerned to allay fear than to moderate daring. For it is more difficult to allay fear than to moderate daring, since the danger which is the object of daring and fear tends, by its very nature, to check daring, but to increase fear. Now, to attack belongs to fortitude in so far as the latter moderates daring, whereas to endure follows the repression of fear. Therefore the principal act of fortitude is endurance, that is to stand immovable in the midst of dangers rather than to attack them (ibid. a. 6. c).

7. Fortitude in the fight against our enemies:

The spirit gives evidence of fortitude to some extent by resisting that concupiscence of the flesh which is opposed to it; yet a greater fortitude of spirit is shown, if by its strength the flesh is thoroughly overcome, so as to be incapable of lusting against the spirit. And hence this belongs to Christ, whose spirit reached the highest degree of fortitude (3 P. q. 15. a. 2. ad 3ium).

8. The gift and the virtue:

The gift of fortitude regards the virtue of fortitude, not only because it consists in enduring dangers, but also inasmuch as it consists in accomplishing any difficult work. Wherefore the gift of fortitude is directed by the gift of counsel, which seems to be concerned chiefly with the greater goods (2-2. q. 139. a. 1. ad 3ium).

9. The fourth beatitude corresponds to the gift of fortitude:

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill (cf. ibid. a. 2. c).

B: Confirmation:

1. Fortifies the spiritual life:

Confirmation is the sacrament of the fulness of grace, wherefore there could be nothing corresponding to it in the Old Law, since the Law brought nothing to perfection (Heb. 7. 19) (3 P. q. 72. a. I. ad 2um). So, therefore, does a man receive spiritual life in baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration; while in confirmation man arrives at the perfect age, as it were, of the spiritual life (ibid. c). In this sacrament the fulness of the Holy Ghost is given for the spiritual strength which belongs to the perfect age (a. 2. c).

2. Chrism signifies the effect of confirmation:

Now the grace of the Holy Ghost is signified by oil: hence Christ is said to be anointed with the oil of gladness (Ps. 44. 8) by reason of his being gifted with the fulness of the Holy Ghost. Consequently, oil is a suitable matter of this sacrament. And balm is mixed with the oil, by reason of its fragrant odour, which spreads about: hence the apostle says: We are the good odor of Christ . . . (2 Cor. 2. ii).

3. The form, a symbol of spiritual vigour:

. . . a sacramental form should contain whatever belongs to the species of the sacrament. Now here as is evident from what has already been said, the Holy Ghost is given for strength in the spiritual combat. Wherefore in this sacrament three things are necessary: and they are contained in the above form. The first of these is the cause conferring fulness of spiritual strength, which cause is the Blessed Trinity: and this is expressed in the words In the name of the Father etc. . . . The second is the spiritual strength