Friday, June 13, 2014

The Holy Spirit's Presence in the Church

Dear Parish Faithful,

We are drawing near to the close of the (fast-free) Week of Pentecost.  This is something equivalent to Bright Week following Pascha.  The "fast-free" nature of these weeks reveals the bright and festal nature of Pascha and Pentecost, which in turn reveal the Church as Feast; as the "place" where we rejoice in all that our God has done "for us and for our salvation."  As is often the case, it is the Apostle Paul who articulates this truth to us in a passage of deep encouragement and comfort:  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (ROM. 15:13) The Leavetaking of Pentecost is tomorrow, and the Apostle's Fast (Sts. Peter and Paul) begins on Monday.  This is fitting, in that the two great apostles were clearly vessels of the Holy Spirit in their fruitful ministries to both the circumcised and uncircumcised, respectively.  Here, I would simply like to share a fine passage from Fr. John Breck who wrote a summary paragraph of the role and work of the Holy Spirit in the divine economy, and in the life of Christian believers.  This passage gives us a sense of the extraordinarily rich and varied aspects of the Spirit’s presence in the Church which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  I am breaking down Fr. John’s paragraph in a more systematic manner:

The Spirit …

+  Prays within us and on our behalf (ROM. 8:26).

+  He works out our sanctification (ROM. 15:16; I COR. 6:11; II THESS. 2:13; GAL. 5:16-18).

+  He pours out God’s love into the hearts of believers, enabling them to address the Father by the familiar and intimate name, “Abba” (ROM. 5:5; 8:15-16; GAL. 4:6).

+  He confirms out status as “children of God” through His indwelling presence and power (ROM. 8:16; GAL. 4:6).

+  He guides and preserves the faithful in their ascetic struggles against the passions (GAL. 5:16).

+  And He serves as the source and guarantor of our “freedom” from the constraints of the Law, a freedom which enables us to behold the glory of the Lord  (II COR. 3:17-18).

Looking up these passages in the Bible may further prove to be helpful in gaining a sense of the ongoing and endless gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to the Church and to our personal lives.


To add a little bit more to these “fragments,” I would like to include a passage from Veselin Kessich’s book The First Day of the New Creation.  In his discussion about Pentecost, Prof. Kessich offers a good summary of the Orthodox position concerning the issue of the filioque.  As Orthodox Christians, we continue to recite the Nicene Creed in its original form, without the interpolation of the filioque, the Latin term that means “and from the Son,” when proclaiming the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father.  Prof. Kessich summarizes the Orthodox position based upon a careful reading of the Scriptures.  The “filioque controversy” remains to this day a divisive point of contention between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches respectively – and those Western churches that also use the term.  The point to be made is not about remaining entrenched in a polemical position, but to try to come to some understanding as to why the Orthodox have never embraced this later addition to the Nicene Creed.  In the words of Prof. Kessich:

“It is equally true that the Fathers sends the Spirit (JN. 14:16, 26).  The Son sends the Spirit, but the source of the Spirit is the Father, for the Spirit proceeds from the Father (JN. 15:26). The verb “proceed” that is used in JN. 15:26 is ekporeuomai.  When it is said that the Son “comes forth” from the Father the verb is exerchomai.  St. John consistently uses the latter verb whenever he speaks of the Son coming forth from the Father (8:42: 13:3; 16:27f.; 16:30; 17:8).  The Spirit and the Son have the same and only origin.  They are two distinct persons.  Their missions are not identical.  Although the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified (JN. 7:39), yet it is nowhere stated in St. John’s Gospel that the Spirit “proceeds” from the Son as he proceeds from the Father.  Therefore, there is no filioque here.”

Nothing like some good biblical exegesis to make’s one day brighter and more glorious!

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