Gifts of the Holy Spirit Explained in Thai

Since the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent dispositions (habitus in Latin), open to be deepened or made more shallow, that render us docile to the direct action or inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explaining the Gifts of the Holy Spirit always passes by using the word inspiration. In English, this has connotations of an external force seizing the intellect or will, and planting in it ideas above (or below) the power of reason (in this case, above).

In Thai, the word is แรงดลใจ or แรงบันดาลใจ. Etymologically, the impressions are a strong happening in the heart; a strong influence on the heart above the normal run of nature; a strong causation in the heart. One of the syllables is for strong (like a strong wind), another for heart, and the middle part of the word connotes happening, causation, or above natural. We might be justified in thinking of an interior happening above our own powers in both strength and nature.

And isn’t that just the right word to give a second angle on what the inspirations of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are? They are strength. They rest on causation from outside the natural order. They “happen”, as if the source is not in the subject who then acts (us). The source is elsewhere; the source is strength; the source is above the normal run of nature. If we relied only on the English word inspiration we might have impressions primarily about an idea popping into mind and then acted on: an painter getting a flash of inspiration and then meticulously realizing it. On the contrary, in Thai we have connotations of the strength, almost an irresistibility or brute happening which is not reflected on, only accepted or not interrupted. And that’s legitimate. Although we can say no to divine inspirations, they are strong; they are not mere flashes of ideas which will then be translated into something more human and humanly calculated. No, not at all. They have vitality and strength of themselves. The primary agent of the whole action is “above nature”. We are docile (increasingly so) to this strength. We must banish any idea of an independent, humanly calculated action coming after the flash of inspiration.

The “elsewhere-ness” and “brute happening” is truly emphasized in explaining inspiration (แรงดลใจ or แรงบันดาลใจ) in Thai. Of course, the virtues, which are much more human in their way of action, remain as we live the dispositions and activity of the Gifts. They don’t disappear. But to delve deeper and deeper into a regime of living under the inspiration of the Spirit’s Gifts is a way of living that is certainly progress in childlike simplicity before God, which is to say, progress in living the Gospel.


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