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The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: “Understanding”

“Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” Lk 24:45

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To define a boundary between the gifts of the Holy Spirit is neither simple nor legitimate, since they not only are divine lights but are also all connected with one another, complementing one another. And this is the only thing we can be certain about, given their divine origin. Nevertheless, we could say that while Wisdom is the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that allows us to know, contemplate, and enjoy God and the truths of our faith, understanding, as the second gift of the Holy Spirit, allows us to penetrate these truths, God's mysteries that would otherwise remain uncovered and "unexplored”.

Pope Francis said that the gift of Understanding is not simply a matter of human intelligence, of which we can all be equipped to a certain degree. Rather it is a true grace infused within the Christian by the Holy Spirit to go beyond the appearance of the external aspects of reality and comprehend its meaning, drawing closer to God's thoughts and designs, and certainly not to gain full knowledge of what will be revealed only when we see Him face-to-face.

The term "intus legere", from which “intellect” originates, explains the act of "entering" and penetrating deeply to understand things, and to understand them as God intends and wants us to. It is therefore not a human virtue, but yet another divine gift that concurs with other gifts for our good and our salvation, which is the sole purpose of God's love for His creatures.  

The gift of Understanding is essential for comprehending biblical texts and regulating our relationship with ourselves and with others through the spiritual nourishment that can be drawn from the Scriptures. It is the gift that nurtures a mature Faith and removes every doubt, since those who receive such a gift develop an assuredness that the truths acquired are not the result of human reason - uncertain, unstable, and without foundation - but are manifestations of God in the intimacy of the soul. We could say that it is God who speaks to the soul without intermediaries.

The experience of the disciples of Emmaus is evidence of God's operating on our Understanding, to shed more light by imparting His light, enlightening those minds clouded by sadness and "disappointment". The same will happen later with the Apostles, who are still enshrouded in their disbelief so much so that Jesus does not explain to them all that was already written about Himself in the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms.

Understanding is not something that is non-existent in man, but like so many other qualities it is necessary to remove that "dust cover" under which it is hidden. It is a faculty that the creature has been endowed with from its origin, but that can be activated by divine intervention and assisted by those who have already received this grace. Having received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were able to knowingly give witness and become guides for others. Invoking the Holy Spirit means asking to set this power in motion, following a pattern that starts from above and opens the mind without too much play of words.

In her writings Luisa speaks very clearly of this "intellectual" talk of Jesus, where the soul in its encounter with the Lord does not need words to understand what He means to say, nor does the soul need to speak to be understood, but by means of the gift of Understanding an indissoluble entente takes place between the two. From a light that emanates from Jesus and reaches into her intellect, Luisa feels impressed in her all that He wants to make her understand. This is a lofty, sublime and instantaneous way for the Creator to reveal Himself to His creature: in a mere instant many things of a supernatural nature are learned, but Luisa often confessed that they were difficult to communicate to others.

Even when in obedience to her Confessor Luisa was to write on paper what she understood about Divinity, Faith, and the Virtues, in general, she spoke of intellectual light that like a luminous ray sometimes allowed her to express concepts of a highly theological nature - a clear sign of divine intervention.

As previously stated, Jesus tells her that Understanding does not operate alone, but is supported by Wisdom and Faith, so that even just believing gives light to the mind that clarifies and distinguishes the truth from falsehood; therefore, this must have to do with God. Where this happens Jesus, feeling satisfied, sees impressed in that soul the character of the purpose of His Creation and feels a more intense love to reciprocate, anticipating it a portion of heavenly bliss; in other words, manifesting to the soul’s intellect the knowledge of His Divinity in order to make sure it resembles Him more and more.

In fact, Jesus explains to Luisa that the greatest gift the creature has received from God is that of being created in His image and likeness and endowed with three powers – Understanding, Memory and Will.

It is worth noticing how in Luisa’s writings Jesus seems to never separate Understanding from the other powers. Together with Memory and the Will, Understanding is a noble power in which the divine image - the image of the the most Holy Trinity - is sealed. In Creation, after molding man as the most beautiful statue like no other artisan could ever have, He looked at him and loved him so much that His love, uncontainable as it was, burst forth and infused in him the breath of life. But still not content, the Sacrosanct Trinity, in an excess of love, wanted to equip man with the three divine powers, enriching him with all the attributes of the Divine Being.

How many divine prodigies came together in creating man, in whose soul were infused out of paternal goodness, three suns formed by the Power of the Father, the Wisdom of the Son, and the Love of the Holy Spirit! These three suns established communication between the soul and the Three Divine Persons, and they are precisely Understanding, Memory and the Will. Although they are distinct they hold hands forming only one, as symbol of the most Holy Trinity.

In the human will is reflected the image of the Heavenly Father, Who in the first act communicates His power to the creature and elevates the will by investing it with His holiness. The Son cooperates in the second act, endowing the creature with Understanding and communicating to her His Wisdom and the knowledge of all things, so that by knowing them she can relish and rejoice in goodness. In the Memory, the Holy Spirit communicates to the creature the love through which she was created and then redeemed.

All three powers were needed by the creature to maintain the bonds of communication with the Divine Persons of the Sacrosanct Trinity. They were like the means required to ascend to God, as gates to enter, and as rooms to continually allow the creature to live with God and God with the creature. In creating man, God the Father did not spare creating as many harmonies in the body with eyes, mouth, hands, and feet as in the soul with the Will, Understanding, and Memory - all borne of the bliss and harmony of the Eternal.

As long as Adam remained in the terrestrial Eden and lived in the Kingdom of the Supreme Volition, he possessed all the knowledge possible to a creature. But as soon as he came out of the Will, his Understanding was obscured, he lost the light of his Kingdom and could not find the appropriate words to express the knowledge he had acquired on the Supreme Will.

Now, wanting to establish the Kingdom of His Will in the creature, Jesus came to restore these three powers. The Supreme Will needs to find in the creature the order and harmony which are the attributes of the Three Divine Persons. A Kingdom cannot be divided against itself if it is to remain stable and eternal. The Supreme Will cannot reign in the soul if these three powers do not join hands to return to the purpose for which God has created them.

Jesus explains to Luisa the difficult task He has assigned to her: [she] having been chosen as the secretary of the doctrine of the Divine Will, it was necessary for Him to infuse her with much light so that she could understand everything that was revealed to her. These truths would produce their effects based on the clarity with which they would be made known, even if in themselves they are very clear, because what concerns His Will is light that descends from Heaven, which does not confuse but has the virtue to strengthen and clarify the human intellect in order to be understood and loved.

Jesus also tells her that everything on earth, both in the supernatural and natural order, is all veiled and will be revealed only in Heaven, because there are no veils in the Celestial Fatherland and everything will be seen as it intrinsically is. Hence, the intellect does not have to work to understand, because all things will manifest themselves for what they are. And if there is work to be done in the blessed sojourn – if one can call it work – it is to enjoy and to be happy in the things that are seen.


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