Today in the second reading from the Office of Readings was from sections 4 and 12 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. It is apropos to the Novena in preparation for Pentecost and provides me with the opportunity to develop ideas I introduced in my last post. There I posited that in the light of the teaching of the postconciliar popes the traditional and charismatic approaches to spirituality should not be considered fundamentally opposed, though much of what goes under the title of both “traditionalism” and “pentecostalism” is problematic.
I believe this is the sense of sections 4 and 12 of Lumen Gentium in which the Council indicates two things: that the Church is equipped and directed by both “hierarchical and charismatic gifts”; that it is “not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, “allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank.”
The second point is remarkable, considering the fact that the charisms are distinguished from the sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit by the very fact that the exercise of the charisms does not have anything to do with personal holiness but with the edification of the faithful, as Bl. John Paul II says:
It should be kept in mind that the primary or principle aim of many charisms is not the personal sanctification of those who receive them, but the service of others and the welfare of the Church. . . in that it concerns the growth of Christ’s Mystical Body.
Nevertheless, the Council teaches that the charisms do contribute to the holiness of those who exercise them, even if indirectly, insofar as through them the faithful cooperate with the Holy Spirit in their use.
And while the Council itself declares that extraordinary gifts should not be sought after, the opposite caution is also given, namely the Spirit ought not to be extinguished. Bl. John Paul II says that the charisms do not always have an “extraordinary or miraculous nature,” and as such belong to the ordinary life of the Church. The sense in which this is true, according to Blessed John Paul is inasmuch as the Spirit speaks to the Church directly in the concrete circumstances of life. Not everything about our faith can be reduced to a rule or “any particular discipline or to a plan of interventions established once and for all.”
Again, the bottom line is discernment, and it is difficult because while the hierarchical gifts (doctrine and sacraments) are always more fundamental “the Spirit blows where he wills; one can never expect to impose rules and conditions on him.” So Bl. John Paul writes:
The Christian community, though, has the right to be informed by its Pastors about the authenticity of charisms and the reliability of those who claim to have received them. The Council recalled the need for prudence in this area, especially when it regards extraordinary charisms.
As I was finishing this post I found that just today Pope Francis said the following:
The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, provoking that “sense of faith” (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen gentium, 12). Let’s ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit, do I pray to him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day. But I would like to ask a question to all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? Eh, a few of you I bet, eh! Well, a few, few, a few, but we realise this wish of Jesus, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus.
He is quoting also from Lumen Gentium 12, perhaps influenced by the second reading from the Office of Readings. What he is talking about is both hierarchical (doctrine and sacraments) and charismatic (illumined and inspired).
Between the extremes of traditionalism and extremes of charismaticism we will need to find a middle way—not a compromise or a dialectic synthesis, but a legitimate balance that reflects the Church’s perennial ability to remain faithful to Her Lord. She must preserve the Tradition entrusted to Her protection and serve the sheep entrusted to Her care.
When the Holy Spirit teaches us all things and reminds us of everything the Lord has said to us (cf. Jn 14:26), it has to do both with the perennial principles that do not change, and with the concrete realities which do. This is why I believe that the Second Vatican Council is prophetic in ways that those, from the left or right, who have used and abused the Council, have never anticipated, because they simply are not open to the work of the Holy Spirit and refuse to hear what He is saying to the Church.