10 June 2012
What the Church Teaches?
On the day of Pentecost when the 7 weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance. (Cf. Acts 2:33-36)
On that day, the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit) is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last day’, the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated.
We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.
(Byzantine Liturgy, Pentecost Vespers, Troparion, repeated after communion.)
The Holy Spirit – God’s gift
‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16) and love is his first gift, containing others. ‘God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has given to us.’ (Romans 5:5)
Because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin.
He, then, gives us the ‘pledge’ or ‘first fruits’ of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as ‘God has loved us’. (1 John 4:11-12; cf. Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 1:21). This love (the ‘love’ of 1 Corinthians 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received ‘power’ from the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Corinthians 13).
By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us on to the vine will make us bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’. (Galatians 5:22-23). ‘We live by the Spirit’, the more we renounce ourselves, and the more we ‘walk by the Spirit’. (Galatians 5:25; cf. Matthew 16:24-26).
Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven and adopted as children, given confidence to call God ‘Father’ and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.
(Saint Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 15, 36: PG 32, 132).
The Holy Spirit and the Church
The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church; which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his death and Resurrection.
He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may ‘bear much fruit’. (John 15:8, 16).
Thus the Church’s mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament; in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity:
All of us who have received one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense blended together with one another and with God. For if Christ, together with the Father’s and his own Spirit, comes to dwell in each of us, then though we are many, in the Spirit are one and undivided. He binds together the spirits of each and every one of us, … and makes all appear as one in him. For just as the power of Christ’s sacred flesh unites those in whom it dwells into one body, I think that in the same way the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in all, leads all into spiritual unity. (Saint Cyril of Alexandra, In Jo. ev. II, II: PG 74, 561.)
Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual function, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church’s sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body.
These ‘mighty works of God’, offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit.
‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit, the artisan of God’s works, is the master of prayer.
‘Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”’ (Galatians 4:6).
From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit; their mission is conjoined and inseparable.
In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparation for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel, ‘God-with-us’ (Matthew 1:23).
The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Psalm 2:6-7).
By his death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constitute in the glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church.
The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men.
The Holy Spirit will remain forever with the Church and her members to teach us, to remind us the words of Christ, to inspire us, to build us up and to renew us ...
Jesus told us that He would not leave us as orphans, but He would give the Holy Spirit to be with us forever and He would also live in us—Extracted from John, Chapter 14:
Jesus said: ‘...
15 If you love me you will keep my commandments.
16 I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) to be with you for ever,
17 the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.
18 I shall not leave you orphans; I shall come to you.
19 In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see that I live and you also will live.
20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.
21 Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.'
To fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you
- Extracted from the 2nd letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, Chapter 1:1-3,6-12
From Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus in his design to promise life in Christ Jesus; to Timothy, dear child of mine, wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.
Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears. That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News; and I have been named its herald, its apostle and its teacher.
It is only on account of this that I am experiencing fresh hardships here now ; but I have not lost confidence, because I know who it is that I have put my trust in, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to take care of all that I have entrusted to him until that Day.
10 June 2012