Inundated by the Gifts of the Spirit – Hilary

Hilary of Poitiers 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. 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; 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.

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.

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, 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.

hilary of poitiers - spirit of truth

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.

This excerpt from the discourse on the Psalms by St. Hilary (Ps. 64, 14-15: CSEL 22, 245-256) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for Saturday of the 25th week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Ezekiel 47:1-12, the prophet’s vision of a river of water flowing from the Temple.

Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary, born in the early 4th century and elected bishop of Potiers, France around the year 353 AD, became the leading and most respected Latin theologian of his age. Seeking to immunize the church against the infection of the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ, he wrote an extensive treatise “On the Trinity” which is perhaps his most famous work. For his trouble, he was exiled by the Emperor, an Arian sympathizer. St. Hilary died in 367 and was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” fifteen centuries later by Pope Pius IX.