Hilary of Poitiers, commenting on Psalm 65, describes new Christians feeling inundated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit as by a mighty river when they received the sacraments of initiation: baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist . . . a sense of joy and the release of the 7 gifts and charisms of the Spirit, including prophecy and healing. Such experience appears to have been normal and expected in the Church 4th century Gaul (now France).
The river of God is brimming with water. You have provided their food, for this is your way of preparing them [Ps. 65: 9b].
Holy Spirit – River of Living Water
There can be no doubt about the river referred to, for the prophet says: There is a river whose streams gladden the city of God Ps. 46:4]; and in the gospel, the Lord himself says: Streams of living water welling up to eternal life will flow from the heart of anyone who drinks the water I shall give him [Jn. 7:38].
He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. The river of God is brimming with water; that is to say, we are inundated by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and from that fountain of life the river of God pours into us in full flood.
Food – Communion with His Body
We also have food prepared for us. And who is this food? It is he in whom we are prepared for life with God, for by receiving his holy body we receive a place in the communion of his holy body. This is what is meant by the words of the psalm: You have provided their food [Ps. 104:14], for this is your way of preparing them. For as well as refreshing us now, that food also prepares us for the life to come.
Joy through his Gifts & Charisms
We who have been reborn through the sacrament of baptism experience intense joy when we feel within us the first stirrings of the Holy Spirit. We begin to have an insight into the mysteries of faith, we are able to prophesy and to speak with wisdom. We become steadfast in hope and receive the gift of healing. Demons are made subject to our authority. These gifts enter us like a gentle rain, and once having done so, little by little, they bring forth fruit in abundance.
For more resources on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit, see the PENTECOST section of the Crossroads Initiative Library.
This post is an excerpt from the discourse on the Psalms by St. Hilary of Poitiers (Ps. 64, 14-15: CSEL 22, 245-256). It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for Saturday of the 25th week in ordinary time. The accompanying biblical reading is Ezekiel 47:1-12, the prophet’s vision of a river of water flowing from the Temple.