First Point.—Dispositions required to receive the Holy Spirit. The first is recollection. The Holy Spirit Himself tells us that He leads into solitude the soul with whom He wishes to speak. God cannot communicate Himself to a disturbed or agitated soul. The apostles were in retreat when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. And hence we conclude that everything which disturbs the soul preoccupies the heart, and consequently is an obstacle to the communications of the Holy Spirit and to the support and strength of the Christian life. The reading of romances, the frequentation of worldly assemblies, a love for plays are, therefore, incompatible with a spirit of piety. And it is for this reason that Jesus in His Gospel condemns all these diversions. The world is astounded at this reprobation, and accuses the Gospel of too great severity. Perhaps you yourself have thought and spoken as the world of this matter; but think of the levity and injustice of this language, in comparing the disturbance produced by romances, balls, and spectacles with the recollection required for the holy and sweet communications of the Divine Spirit.
Vigilance is the second disposition required to receive the Holy Spirit. When the days of Pentecost were accomplished, says the Sacred Text, "a sound from heaven was heard, as of a mighty wind coming." It is in a sudden and unlooked-for way that grace knocks at the door of our heart, and that the Holy Spirit communicates Himself to a soul. He does not consult our time, but we should await His time of coming. St. Paul was suddenly stricken to the earth while on his way to Damascus. It was suddenly that the mysterious star appeared to the Wise Men. We should, therefore, be attentive to the
movements of the Holy Spirit; want of vigilance would cause us to lose a multitude of graces which would sanctify us. It is this want of vigilance in studying the secret movements of grace that each day permits us to miss a thousand happy occasions of performing acts of virtue; our resolutions remain sterile, and our most sacred promises are never realized. But do we not make them in good faith? Unquestionably our desire is sincere, but it is inefficacious because we forget them at the moment when we should keep them. If we are exposed to humiliation, this would be an occasion for us to make an act of humility. If an injury be done us, this would offer an opportunity for making an act of love. Perhaps we may meet with a disappointment, some opposition, or some suffering; this should be the moment for making an act of patience. Unfortunately, natural impressions precede reflection, and we become unfaithful when, with greater vigilance, we should have acquired a new merit for heaven.
The third condition for receiving the Holy Spirit is to ask it by fervent prayer. "He will give the good spirit to them that ask Him." Grace comes from heaven; therefore we should seek it there, since it is from there we must expect it. Attract the Holy Spirit to you by the profound conviction of your misery and your weakness, by the earnestness of your desires, and by the knowledge which you have of the need of His gifts. Let your soul be before Him as the parched earth, which, by its very dryness, seems to implore the dews of heaven. The apostles were engaged in prayer when they received the Holy Spirit. Then imitate them, pray with fervor, and in asking for the Holy Spirit you ask for the source of all gifts.
Second Point.—The effects of the Holy Spirit. The principal effects of the Holy Spirit are indicated in the Epistle of today. He comes like a mighty wind. As the wind drives before it straw and dust and renews the corrupted air, so the Holy Spirit drives away all carnal -affections, earthly desires, worldly thoughts, and every evil from the heart. He overthrows all idols and breaks every bond; He purifies the atmosphere of the soul and expels the miasms of sin. He filled the whole house. He filled the cenacle in which the apostles were assembled. These expressions should make us understand with what abundance the Holy Spirit communicates His gifts. He fills the Church with them, and enriches her with every virtue and every grace. He showers His gifts on the faithful soul and with as great a liberality as He finds perfect dispositions. Therefore open to Him all the avenues of your soul, widen and extend all her faculties, that He may enrich her with all His gifts.
The Holy Spirit rested on the apostles in the form of tongues of fire. This circumstance reveals to you two principal effects of the Holy Spirit, viz. : He enlightens and gives warmth at the same time. What is more worthy of admiration than the lights which He caused to shine on the intelligence of the apostles? What knowledge of the Holy Scriptures? What intelligence concerning the highest mysteries Jesus had said to them: "I have much more to communicate to you, but you are not capable of understanding now; but when the Spirit of truth shall come, He shall reveal everything to you. " His words were verified to the letter. Men so slow to believe and so densely ignorant have hardly received the Holy Spirit, than they astonish the most learned by their profound science; at length they understand what another Teacher had said to them when they could not comprehend His teachings:
"Blessed are they that mourn, blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice." These truths, which are so opposed to all the sentiments of nature and to all the prejudices of the world, are now believed and accepted, from the first day, by three thousand persons.
Oh how great is the power of the Holy Spirit He whom the Holy Scriptures call the most beautiful among the children of men, He "who went about doing good," in spite of His virtues and benefits could only win to Himself a small number of disciples; but at the first preaching of St. Peter three thousand men became Christians! This is what the Holy Spirit has done for the world. And while He enlightens the intelligence, the Holy Spirit warms and inflames the heart. He is the Spirit of love as well as the Spirit of truth. Of all the sentiments which agitate the human heart, love is the most powerful. Read the lives of the saints. What self-abnegation we see in their lives! What zeal for the glory of their heavenly Father! What charity for their brethren! With what energy did they repress temptations, and with what contempt did they trample under foot all the seductions of the world! What devotion in the apostles, what patience in the martyrs, and what purity in the virgins! Where shall we look for the principle of all these wonders? We shall find it in the divine love with which the Holy Spirit filled their hearts. But you, oh, how weak you are, and how cowardly ! And whence comes it? Either you do not love at all or you do not love enough. Conjure the Holy Spirit, therefore, to come into your heart and to bless you ask of Him to plant His grace deeply in your heart, that He may make known to you all those titles which God has for your gratitude, and may that gratitude lead you to love.
Source: Short Instructions on the Feasts of the Year, Imprimatur 1897