Consider first, that on the feast of Pentecost, when the disciples were all assembled together, 'suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.' - Acts ii. 2,3,4. Thus they received the promised Comforter, with all his gifts and graces. Thus were they quite changed into other men. Weak and cowardly as they were before, they are now on a sudden courageous and perfect. They begin boldly to preach and to publish the faith and law of their crucified Lord, and bring thousands to embrace it. O heavenly Spirit, how wonderful are thy operations! O when wilt thou work the like change in my soul! Christians, praise and bless your God for sending down in this manner his Holy Spirit upon his church, and for all the wonders he wrought in the first establishment of it. The Israelites observed the solemnity of Pentecost as one of the three principal feasts of the year, because on that day the old law was published from Mount Sinai in thunder and lightning. How much more ought Christians religiously to observe this solemnity, because on this day the new law of grace and love was published on mount Sion, by the coming down of the Holy Ghost in tongues of fire.
Consider 2ndly, that the Holy Ghost came down upon the apostles in the shape of tongues, to signify that he came to make them fit preachers of his word, and to endow them with the gift of tongues, accompanied with the heavenly wisdom and understanding of the mysteries of God and all the gospel truths, to the end that the might be enabled to teach and publish, throughout the whole world, the faith and law of Christ! And these tongues were of fire, to signify how his divine Spirit sets those souls on fire in which he abides, inflaming them with divine love, consuming the dross of their earthly affections, putting them in a continual motion of earnest desires and endeavours to go forward from virtue to virtue as fire is always in motion, and carrying them upwards towards the God of gods in his heavenly Sion, as the flame is always ascending upwards towards its element. O blessed fire, when shall I partake of thy sacred names? O come and take possession of my heart, consume all these bonds that tie it to the earth, and carry it up with thee towards the heavenly furnace from whence thou comest. Sweet Jesus, thou hast said, Luke xii. 'I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled.' O cast this fire into my soul, that it may be kindled there!
Consider 3rdly, that the coming of the Holy Ghost was not promised only to the apostles, or to the first Christians, nor confined to the primitive ages, but was designed for a blessing to be entailed on the people of God throughout all ages. ‘I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, (or Comforter,) that be may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of truth,’ St. John xiv. 16, 17. He was promised to be be ever with the pastors of God’s church, to guide them into all truth in teaching God’s people, and to be for ever with the sheep of Christ, to guide them into all truth in their belief and life, and to be the source of all grace to their souls. Wherefore, though we are not now to look for his visible coining down any more in tongues of fire, we are nevertheless entitled if we sincerely seek and sue to him, to expect a share in his invisible graces and communications, and to aspire to the honour and happiness of being made his temples. Christians, what a happiness indeed to have the Spirit of God in us! This we must all aim at with our whole power; this is the great devotion of this holy time; this we must pray for at all times.
Conclude with this humble address of the church to the divine Spirit: 'Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of thy love;' or that other of the sacred hymn: 'Come, O Spirit, our Creator, visit these souls of thine, and fill with thy heavenly grace the breasts which thou hast made for thyself.’ Frequently repeat these or the like invitations, and trust in the infinite goodness of him who delights to be with the children of men, that he will come to thee and be thy guest.
Consider first, how happy a guest the soul entertains when she has in her the Holy Ghost. He is called in Scripture the Paraclete, (a name that signifies both comforter and solicitor,) from the consolations and graces he imparts to the soul, to sweeten all her crosses and labours in her mortal pilgrimage, and to help her to overcome all difficulties and oppositions; and from his soliciting for her by the spirit of prayer, which he inspires, teaching her to pray, and as it were praying with her, and in her. He is called by excellence the gift of the Most High, as being the greatest gift that God can give; for what can he give greater than himself? A gift comprising all other gifts. He is called the living fountain, or the fountain of living water, springing up to everlasting life, refreshing the inward man, assuaging the heat of concupiscence, extinguishing all thirst after the things of this world, and watering the soul with a never-failing stream. of grace. He is called a fire, from the bright flames of love with which he inflames the soul. And he is called the unction of the soul, from sweetly diffusing himself through all the soul, and giving strength and vigour to it. O what can be wanting to a soul that entertains such a guest as this! Does she not, in some measure, anticipate the joy’s of heaven, having within her the king of heaven with all his graces.
Consider 2ndly, the happy fruits which the presence of the Holy Ghost produces in the soul, as they are reckoned up by St. Paul, Gal. v. 22, 23. 1. Charity, or the love of God for his own infinite goodness’ sake, and the love of every neighbour in God and for God; a fruit so remarkable in the first Christians upon their receiving the Holy Ghost, that through their love of God they had all ‘but one heart and one soul,’ Acts iv. 32. 2. Joy, from the testimony of a good conscience, and from the sense of the presence of this divine guest, and the experience of his sweetness. 3. Peace with God and with our neighbours, and with ourselves; a peace not granted to the wicked. 4. Patience in supporting crosses and adversities, which this heavenly Spirit makes light and easy. 6. Benignity or kindness, in relieving the distressed. 6. Goodness or a willingness to impart all that is good to every neighbour. 7. Longanimity, or long-suffering and perseverance, without being wearied out with labour, in overcoming evil with good. 8. Mildness in restraining wrath, and bearing injuries. 9. Faith, or fidelity to all our engagements, both to God and our neighbours. 10. Modesty, or moderation in all things, regulating every motion both of soul and body. 11. Continency, or temperance in restraining all irregular inclinations; and, 12. Chastity, or purity in keeping both soul and body from the defilements of lust. O what happy fruits are these! O how happy is that soul in which the spirit of God produces all these fruits! O my soul, bring in this heavenly Spirit into thy inward house, and entertain him there, and all these fruits will be thine.
Consider 3rdly, that as nothing can he more happy than to have the Holy Ghost in thy soul, so nothing can be more miserable than to be without this heavenly guest. Where the Spirit of God is not, there Satan is. Alas! can there be a greater misery than to be possessed by Satan? ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ,’ says the apostle, Rom. viii. 9, ‘he is none of his.’ If he be none of his, whose then must he be? or what share can he have in Christ or his kingdom? Oh! how true is that which the church sings at this time, in her address to this divine spirit, sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium. That without this deity there is nothing in man, there is nothing that is innocent. O dread then the misery of being without him, and flee from all those evils that may draw him away from thee.
Conclude to neglect nothing that is in thy power, by which thou mayest procure to thy soul the happiness of being the living temple of the living God; and of having the Holy Ghost there, not as a visitor only, but as taking up his abode in thee both for time and eternity.
Consider first, what precious gifts the Spirit of God brings with him wherever he comes, and what treasures he imparts to the soul in which he takes up his abode. The prophet reckons up seven most admirable gifts of this Holy Spirit, Isaia xi. 2,3, when he styles him the 'Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and the spirit of the fear of the Lord.’ O how precious indeed, how admirable, are these gifts! O how rich is that soul, which by the coming of the Holy Ghost, is put its possession of these treasures! But what is this wisdom that the Holy Ghost imparts? Not the wisdom of this world, which is downright folly in the sight of God, because it looks no farther than earthly toys and contriving for the transitory enjoyments of this world, whilst it forgets God and eternity. Not the wisdom of the philosophers who busy themselves in studying the course of the stars, and the secrets of nature, and neglect to seek truth in its fountain; because they do not seriously apply themselves to know God and their own interior. But that wisdom, which alone deserves this glorious name, which consists in the knowledge and love of God, which tends continually to him, and which seeks and finds him in all things.
Consider 2ndly, how precious also are those other gifts, which the Spirit of God communicates to the soul. The gift of understanding, which opens the eyes of the soul to the light of God, and sets the truths of God in their proper light; which clearly discovers to the soul the shortness and vanity of all temporal honours, riches, and pleasures, and convinceth her that nothing is truly great or worthy of her affection but that which is eternal. By the help of this light, the end of our creation, the dignity of an immortal soul, the nature of our mortal pilgrimage, the four last things, and other Christian truths, sink deep into the soul, and have a wonderful influence upon the whole conduct of our lives. But then, as we are strangers and travellers here below, and are obliged to make the best of our way towards our true country, through the midst of difficulties and dangers, and with infinite opposition from strong and subtile enemies, the Spirit of God comes in to our assistance, with two other admirable gifts, viz., the gift of counsel, to show us our way, to discover to us the snares and artifices of our enemies, and to guide us safe through all dangers; and the gift of fortitude, or heavenly courage and strength, to animate us to encounter all opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to help us to come off with victory in all our conflicts. O how happy is that traveller who has such a guide, such a counsellor, such a powerful helper and protector!
Consider 3rdly, the rest of the gifts which the Holy Ghost imparts to that soul in which he dwells viz., the gift of knowledge, to instruct her in every virtue and every duty, and in every step she is to take in order to see God and a happy eternity. Then the gift of godliness or piety, which makes the soul quite in earnest and perfectly fervent in the service of God; so that she runs on with vigour and alacrity in the ways of all his divine commandments. And lastly, the gift of the fear of the Lord, which the Scripture calls the beginning of wisdom; which restrains the soul from all that may offend God, and makes her fear his displeasure more than any other evil whatsoever. Can any treasures upon earth be comparable to these?
Conclude to set a high value upon these heavenly gifts, the least of which is worth more than all the world can give. How rich then is that soul which enjoys them all, by enjoying the Spirit of God, who is the source of all good, and who alone can impart such excellent gifts
Consider first, that the soul which has been favoured with a visit from the Holy Ghost, if she desires a continuance of that happiness, must take care to entertain him in a proper manner. For if she takes little or no notice of this heavenly guest if she quickly turns her back upon him, to attend to every idle and impertinent amusement that offers itself; if she does not frequently go in to wait upon him, in her inward house; if she loves not to converse with him there, she will quickly lose him, she will drive him away from her. He delights to be with them that delight to be with him. He expects a correspondence and return of love, and therefore withdraws himself from such souls as take no care to entertain him by recollection and love, but choose to give themselves up to dissipation of thought, and to squander away that precious time, which they should spend in his company, in following empty phantoms and roving imaginations. O my soul, is not this too often thy case? Amongst the many thoughts which successively occupy thy mind all the day long, how few are there that are anything to the purpose; how few that are fit to appear in presence of the Holy Ghost? How then canst thou expect he will stay with thee, if thou introducest such company as this into his lodging?
Consider 2ndly, that as the Spirit of God will not dwell in a soul that does not attend on him by recollection of thought, so neither will he dwell in a soul that does not serve him with purity of heart and affection. He will be sole master of the heart in which he resides; he will allow of no partner there. He is a jealous lover that will bear no rival. A heart divided in its affections between the Creator and the creature, excludes the Holy Ghost: he will suffer no division; he claims the whole heart; he will have all or none. Christians, if then you pretend to the happiness of being temples of the Holy Ghost, you must not admit of any idols in your souls. Now all disorderly affections are idols, inasmuch as by them you prefer the creature before the Creator; and all such affections are disorderly as captivate your hearts and take them off from God. Let the object of your love be ever so innocent in itself; it is no longer innocent when it is loved without a due subordination to the love of God. It becomes then impure; it defiles the heart, it chases away the Spirit of God, who will not dwell but in a clean heart.
Consider, 3rdly, that in order to keep the Holy Ghost in the soul, so that he may choose to dwell there as in his temple, we trust not only keep this temple clean and undefiled, ‘for if any man violate the temple of God, him will God destroy,' 1 Cor. iii. 17, but we must also take care that it be made a house of prayer, as the house of God should be. We must frequently go into this temple, there to worship this Spirit of truth, in spirit and truth. We must apply and employ all the three powers of the soul, the will, the memory, and the understanding, in frequently attending there upon their God in the way of mental prayer. In a word, the worship of God should be ever going forward in this temple of his. This is the true way to engage him to stay with us, and to make our souls the place of his rest for ever and ever.
Conclude to make use of all these means to entertain this sovereign guest, and to fix him in your souls. Give him full possession of your memory and understanding, by recollection of thought and attention to his presence, and make him the absolute master of our will by simplicity of intention and purity of heart and affection, and he will be yours for ever.
Consider first, that the surest way to make a judgment whether the Holy Ghost abides in the soul or not, is by his fruits. The Spirit of God never lies idle: he is a fire that is always active, always in motion, always tending upwards. If we find nothing of this in our soul we have reason to fear he is not there. His fruits are charity, joy, peace, patience, &c. If we have none of these fruits, he is not with us. My son, what is thy faith? Is it firm? Is it lively? Or is it not rather dull and dead? Does it show itself in the practice of thy life? Dost thou live by faith? What is thy hope? What is thy sense of the things of eternity? What is thy esteem of spiritual things? What is thy devotion? What is thy love for God and thy neighbour? What is thy desire of making a daily progress in the way of God? By examining thyself upon these heads, it will be easy to judge whether the Holy Ghost be with thee or nor. But especially there is no surer mark of this divine spirit abiding in the soul, than a constant and fervent desire of loving God daily more and more, and of ever knowing and doing his holy will in all things. Dost thou find in thyself this earnest desire of loving and pleasing God? If so, the Spirit of God cannot be far from thee.
Consider 2ndly, that as there is an infinite opposition between the spirit of God and wilful sin, so one of the surest marks of the Holy Ghost’s residing in the soul, is a settled constant abhorrence of wilful sin, with a fixed determination of the soul never to admit for the future any such sin, upon any consideration whatsoever. My soul, what is thy disposition in this regard? Art thou fully determined to be ever faithful and loyal to thy God, both in life and death? Dost thou resolutely renounce Satan and all his works, both for the present time and for ever? Is it thy constant and settled resolution never to transgress the holy law and commandments of God for any worldly honour, interest, or pleasure, for any respect of person, for any fear or love, for anything that the world can give or take away, or for any other consideration? If this be thy sincere disposition and determination, the Holy Ghost is with thee; but if thou art not thus determined, there is no room for him in thy soul, because Satan is there.
Consider 3rdly, that where the Holy Ghost comes he 'convinces the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment,' John xvi. 8. He convinces the soul of sin, inasmuch as he gives to the soul which he enlightens with his presence, a sense of the enormity of sin, and of the multitude and greatness of her own sins in particular, a horror for that hellish monster, and a desire of abolishing it by penance. He discovers also many stains where the soul before perceived none, and humbles her exceedingly by the conviction of her manifold guilt. My soul, dost thou experience in thyself this conviction of sin? The Holy Ghost by his coming convinces also the soul of the justice of Christ and of his heavenly law, of the beauty of virtue and holiness, and of the pleasure and happiness that is found in serving God in earnest. Art thou, my soul, practically convinced of all this? Dost thou practically prefer this manna of heaven before the flesh-pots of Egypt? Again, the Holy Ghost, by his coming, convinces the soul of the wrong judgment she has hitherto made, in following the world and the prince of this world, who is already judged and condemned, and of the right judgment she ought to make of all things, in order to escape that judgment which God will otherwise one day make of her. Dost thou, my soul, find in thee this conviction of judgment? Is thy judgment rectified by the Holy Ghost in regard to truth and falsehood, verity and vanity, time and eternity? Dost thou not still follow, by a perverse judgment, the prince of this world, rather than Jesus Christ; the maxims of worldlings, who are liars in their balances, rather than the practice of the saints, who weigh all things in the scales of the sanctuary? Will thy way of judging be able to stand the test of the last great trial.
Conclude to examine well by such marks as these whether the Spirit of God be with thee or not. If thou seem to find in thyself these marks of his presence, return him humble thanks; but be not too secure, lest the artifices of thy self-love should deceive thee, or thy pride should drive him away from thee. But if thou discoverest not in thyself these marks of his being with thee, bewail thy misery, and give thyself no rest till by penitential tears and fervent prayer, and all the other means by which the Holy Ghost is to be invited into the soul, thou hast grounds to hope that he has returned to thee.
Consider first, that confirmation is a sacrament by which the faithful, if duly disposed, receive the Holy Ghost together with all his gifts and graces, in order to make them strong and perfect Christians. The apostles were confirmed in a wonderful manner by the Holy Ghost’s coming down visible upon them on Whitsunday; but the rest of the faithful were to be confirmed by their ministry, and by that of their successors, the bishops of God’s church; 'receiving the Holy Ghost by the imposition of their hands and prayer,’ Acts viii. 16, 17, 18, and chap. xix. 6. Give thanks to our Lord for this sacred institution, by means of which he perpetuates in his church the mission of his Holy Spirit, and the communication of his graces. What a dignity, what a happiness to receive the Holy Ghost, the Lord of heaven and earth, and the inexhaustible source of all grace! Wheresoever he comes he brings with him all his treasures, and he is infinitely liberal in imparting them. How much then are they their own enemies, who either neglect this great means of receiving the Holy Ghost or else come to it without due dispositions, and so lose the benefit of it; and even pervert it to their own damnation.
Consider 2ndly, that the proper and peculiar grace of the sacrament of confirmation is a heavenly fortitude; that is to say, a spiritual strength, valour, and courage, in order to maintain the cause of God in our souls against the visible and invisible enemies of our faith. By this sacrament we are made soldiers of Christ; here we give in our names to be listed in the service of this great king; we put ourselves under his banner, we receive the sacred mark of his cross on our foreheads - his cross, which is the royal standard of all his troops: here we engage ourselves to fight his battles against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and we are equipped with proper arms for this warfare. O how glorious is this title of a soldier of Christ! How happy this service! What have we to apprehend, following Christ for our captain, and having his holy spirit with us to guide, strengthen, encourage, and defend us? But O, the noble pay which this great king gives to his soldiers! For he gives them nothing less than himself; and that for eternity. 'Be thou faithful until death,’ saith he, 'and I will give thee the crown of life.’ Apoc. ii. 10.
Consider 3rdly, that in the sacrament of confirmation the soul is in a particular manner dedicated and consecrated to God by the unction of his Holy Spirit, at the same time as the forehead is anointed with the holy chrism. This chrism is a compound of oil and balm, or balsam, solemnly consecrated by the bishops of God’s church on Maundy Thursday, kept in the church with the utmost reverence, and only used in the consecration of such things as are most solemnly dedicated to God or more nearly deputed to his divine service. So that the using of this holy oil in confirmation is to give us to understand that by this sacrament we also are solemnly dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to God to be the temples of his Spirit; inasmuch as this visible unction and consecrations of the body is the outward sign of the invisible unction and consecration of the soul by the Spirit of God, as all the sacraments are outward signs of inward grace. Christians, what are your thoughts of this consecration which your souls have received? Have you hitherto considered yourselves as a people particularly dedicated to God and sanctified by the unction of his Spirit? Have you reflected that you have been sanctified with the like consecration to that which the altars and temples of God are solemnly dedicated to his service? Remember this at least for the future, and let your lives show forth that you are indeed the living temples of the living God.
Conclude to set a high value upon the grace of your confirmation, and to live up to the glorious character you there received. See you behave in every respect as becomes strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Christ. Beware of receiving so great a grace in vain.
Consider first, that confirmation is one of those three sacraments which imprint a character or spiritual mark on the soul. The nature of this character of confirmation is such as to carry with it a certain dedication of the soul to the service of God in the quality of his soldiers - as the character of baptism marks us out for the people of God, and the character of Holy Orders for the ministers of God. Hence it is that these three sacraments, after they have been once received, cannot be received any more, because the character which they leave in the soul, which is the mark of the consecration of the soul to God, can never be lost, and therefore can never be repeated. But then these three sacraments carry also with them a strict obligation of living up to this character and to this consecration, which they impart to the soul; and thus this sacrament of confirmation in particular obliges us to observe the whole discipline of the soldiers of Jesus Christ - to stand to our colours; to fight manfully the battles of our Lord; and rather to die than change sides or to go over to the enemy by any wilful sin. This is the allegiance we owe to Christ in quality of his soldiers; this we oblige ourselves to when we receive the character of confirmation.
Consider 2ndly, that the soldiers of this world profess a strict regard to all the laws of their calling and to the orders of their officers. They expose themselves to all kinds of labours and dangers in marches, in sieges, and in battles. They endure heats and colds, and all the inclemency of the weather and the seasons; they suffer hunger and thirst, watchings, and all other hardships to which their station of life exposes them; and all this for the trifling consideration of a small pay. What lessons are here for Christians, who, by the sacrament of confirmation, have enlisted themselves soldiers of Christ! How much more ought they to embrace with courage all the labours and sufferings to which their spiritual warfare exposes them, especially as they fight under the banner of so great a King, in his presence and company, and for so great a reward. But, alas! the soldiers of this world will, I fear, one day rise up in judgment, and condemn us for having done and suffered so little in the warfare of Christ, in comparison with what they have done and suffered in the warfare of the world.
Consider 3rdly, that whatsoever is once dedicated and consecrated to God ought to continue for ever dedicated and consecrated to his divine service. And it is no less a crime than sacrilege to pervert any thing dedicated to him to profane uses. Therefore, the soul which, by the sacrament of confirmation, has been dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to God, and which always carries about with her the mark of this consecration, is strictly obliged thereby to be ever his; to be ever faithful, and to be ever holy, as a thing dedicated to his divine service, both in quality of his soldier and of his temple. O remember, Christians, that the character which the soul receives in this sacrament can never be effaced, neither in this world nor in the world to come; that if we live up to the obligations of it it will shine most brightly in our souls to eternity, and be no small addition to our everlasting glory and happiness; but if we should defile and profane this sacred mark of Christ by a sinful life, and, after these solemn engagements and the consecration of our souls to him, should become rebels and deserters, this same mark would appear in judgment against us; it would continue with us at the bar of divine justice, it would continue with us for ever as a mark of disgrace, a perpetual reproach among the damned, and an additional torture and gripe to the soul, for having once been dedicated to God, and having been so mad, so wretched, so wicked as to apostatize from him.
Conclude to bear always in mind the sacred character of thy confirmation, as well as that of thy baptism, that thou mayest live up to the obligations of them both. Be not terrified at the prospect of the conflicts thou must sustain or the crosses and hardships thou wilt have to go through in this warfare; 'the grace of God and his peace, which surpasseth all understanding,’ Phil. iv. 7, 'will support thee, and never suffer thee to be tempted above thy strength,’ 1 Cor. 13, 'but bring thee oft with comfort and victory.’ In token of which, the bishop, when he confirmed thee, gave thee a blow on the cheek, as a declaration of the adversities thou wast to sustain, but, at the same time, gave thee God’s peace, that thou mightest understand that God would be with thee in them all, and never leave thee.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
Liturgia Latina Index