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First Sunday of the Apostles

The First Sunday of the Apostles

Basilica Hymn
The Lord does whatever he wills
Our God is in heaven, and he does whatever he wills
Not in the hands of him who wills, nor in the hands of him who runs, but in the hands of the merciful God, for all is from him, and all is in him, and all is in his hands
The Holy Spirit, by his authority, effects and does all things through his gifts: for he supplies prophecy, perfects priests in his grace, is able to bring wisdom to the simple (for to fishermen did he reveal the Qnome of Divinity), and in his power, he presides over the awesome liturgies of the Church. O Kin of the Glorious Nature! O Kin of the Adorable Inhabitance of the Father and the Only-Begotten Son! O Holy Spirit, glory to you!

The Spiritual Side

The gifts of the Spirit named in the book of Isaiah (11:2) are seven: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Notice that each one of these gifts is described is an interior reality – a virtue in the soul. The same is true of the fruits of the Spirit named in the Letter to the Galatians (5:22): “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Naming the gifts and fruits of the Spirit is the result of spiritual reflection upon the soul that has allowed the grace of the Spirit to work within its heart and change it into a new creature. But as a reflection, it is a later reality; that is, this naming comes after the fact. The Spirit having come and having done his work, we look back and see what he has done within us.

The Physical Side

But in Scripture, the most immediate effect of the Spirit that is mentioned is a visible thing, rather than a spiritual reality or a virtue. The Acts of the Apostles (2:1-4) tell us that: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The initial work of the Spirit, as related in Scripture, is a sound from heaven and an appearance of tongues of fire: a sound and an appearance, and then the apostles speaking in other languages. These are all physical realities, visible expressions of the power of the Spirit, rather than interior perfections of the soul.

This should tell us, among other things, that the work of God is never one-sided. Our sanctification in the grace of Christ is never only a spiritual reality; it has its manifest, physical aspect as well – if it did not, then it would seem to no purpose that “the Word became flesh.” The physical manifestation of the Spirit comes about in our Christian life in many ways: in our moral life, in the social reality of the Church, and most of all in her sacraments.

The Gifts of the Spirit Revisited

The Chaldean tradition is always interested in the concrete expression of the Faith. Because the Word became flesh in order to communicate with us, she examines the “flesh” of the Faith with utmost seriousness. This is true of her deep and serious study of the Scriptures as well as her genius in the Liturgy, the physical expression of the Faith. Therefore, from her part, she might name the gifts of the Spirit from a different, concrete perspective:

The Holy Spirit, by his authority, effects and does all things through his gifts: for he supplies prophecy, perfects priests in his grace, is able to bring wisdom to the simple (for to fishermen did he reveal the Qnome of Divinity), and in his power, he presides over the awesome liturgies of the Church. O Kin of the Glorious Nature! O Kin of the Adorable Inhabitance of the Father and the Only-Begotten Son! O Holy Spirit, glory to you!

The gifts of the Spirit named in this Basilica Hymn of the Second Sunday of the Apostles (the week after Pentecost), are therefore:

– the supplying of prophecy
– the perfection of the priesthood
– the instruction of the simple
– the liturgies of the Church

The prophecy referred to by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 14) for the building up of the Church is somehow intended to be an improvement on the reality of “speaking in tongues,” since he prefers the former to the latter. The Chaldean Church, following his cue, makes the same point.

The priesthood of the New Covenant is also an improvement, since the priesthood of the Old Covenant was limited and ultimately ineffective. The true Priesthood of Christ, which is shared by all the faithful through their baptism (1 Peter 2:9), is the perfection of what was there before, and this is especially the case with the priesthood of the Apostles, which is the theme of the Basilica Hymn of the Third Sunday of the Apostles.

The instruction, or the giving of wisdom, to the simple is meant here very precisely to mean the knowledge of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three Qnome (a Chaldean word corresponding to “Person” in Western Trinitarian theology but best translated perhaps as “Individuality” or not at all) of one Divine Nature. It is remarkable as a work of the Holy Spirit because it allows the most simple of men to surpass the most educated in their knowledge of the highest Good.

Finally, the very rituals of the Church are so powerful to the faithful as to be inexplicable by merely human standards. In other words, there is no way to account for the Liturgy except by attributing its composition and performance somehow to the Holy Spirit himself. This is directly Biblical, of course, since the command to “do this” and to “baptize” was given by Christ himself, who is the one who sent us his Spirit, and without whom we would not have him within us.