Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed
The second stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit.
5 – Charismatic Life (contd.)
(Life with the Gifts of the Spirit)
In fact, what makes contemporary Christians consider that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are only exceptional is their lack of faith. If these talents are exceptional, it is because of a lack of faith that is similar to the shortfall in the faith which hindered the Lord Jesus to make miracles in Nazareth as the Bible says: "Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Mat. 13:58). The power of the Holy Spirit is still as alive today as was in the days of the Book of Acts (of the Apostles). The mighty works, which were done in the name of the Lord Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, can be accomplished now if we really have faith. As the Bible says, "these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; … they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:17, 18). As the Lord promised: "most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do ..." (John 14:12, 13).
Although “ordinary” physical causes and consequences of phenomena may be tools used by the Spirit, we should not be reluctant to acknowledge direct divine interventions, which break the so-called natural laws. For the network of physical laws and the determinism that it seems to involve (such as what happens in catastrophes, diseases and others) manifests a distortion of the system of the original creation, which resulted from the original (or grandfather’s) sin; this is the bondage of corruption under which "the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" (Rom. 8:22).
Saints and the Spirit bearers (charismatics) are the liberators of the world. “Miracles” are a return of the first and free state of the creation, i.e. a world entirely transparent to the glory of God; they reflect the lofty and natural condition of creation before the fall, and still more after Pentecost.
The Eastern Church, on the one hand, is very much upon its guard against what it calls "illusions" and "seductions," but on the other hand, the Eastern hermits, especially those who engage in the life of worship in solitude, do not hesitate to expect and demand extraordinary graces from God.
The Orthodox Church tends to regard the charisms as the natural goal of the spiritual life, which began with the Chrismation. The Orthodox Church listens in a realistic manner to the advice of the Apostle Paul "desire the best gifts (charisms)" (1Cor. 12:31), and she repeats the disciples’ prayer "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30). But at the same time, the Orthodox Church refuses to regard the spiritual gifts as an aim in itself. They are, as St. John Chrysostom said, "helps". Beyond the charisms, there is the "still more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:31), which the Apostle Paul announces before he starts his hymn about love (at ch.13). Beyond all of the gifts, there is the Spirit, whose proper name is "the Gift".
6 - Pentecost and enlightenment (part 1)
It was mentioned earlier, when talking about the grace of baptism which the first stage of the spiritual life, that the grace associated with baptism corresponds to what has been called the way or life of purification. We talked about this first phase in detail under the heading “The Baptizing Christ” or “Christ the Forgiving, the Healer, the Savior, and the Purifier”.
The second phase, the grace of Pentecost, that we are talking about now under the heading “Christ the Spirit Sender”, corresponds to the so-called life of enlightenment, the illumination of the soul by the Holy Spirit, and it is linked to the Mystery of Chrismation or “Anointment” as mentioned before.
At this stage, spiritual life becomes less subjective than in the first stage. Thus, our doubts, difficulties and emotional flights cease to be foremost in our spiritual life. So the anxious loving quest - “Have you seen the one I love?” (Song 3:3) – gives place to a feeling of quiet possession: "I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go “(Song 3:4).
At this stage, we open our souls to the objective "word of God," and to a process of enlightening by “the Light” within (see John 1:9). We become more like Mary, who sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his Word (Luke 10:39). Just as the grace of baptism has already incorporated us in Christ by water, the grace of Pentecost incorporates us in Him now by light and fire.
Under the touch of the Holy Spirit, the soul acquires an acute penetration, an inner and experiential knowledge, of divine things. This inner knowledge is "Wisdom". This is opposite to the animalistic stupidity that results chiefly from impurity. The soul becomes one "that knows theology". This profound expression “theologian-soul”, theologos psyche, was coined by Diadochos of Photiki for whom theologia meant divine enlightenment - not human discourse about God, but the word of God within us.
Discernment of spirits:
The discernment of spirits, or knowledge of the hidden things (or knowledge of the heart), is next granted. St. Anthony and John Cassian give to this discernment or “discretion” pre-eminence over all virtues.
The Holy Spirit and Understanding the Bible:
During this season of Penticostal grace, the Holy Spirit opens our minds to the understanding of the Scriptures. Difficulties cease to be difficulties. It matters little if Babylonian myths be found in Genesis, or if the Song of Songs is a nuptial or love poem, but what matters is what the Holy Spirit guided the church to read into the sacred text, and the interpretation that He gives of it in our hearts. A new, a quite personal and vital, relationship is established between the Bible and ourselves. Under the letter which rightly engrosses the historians and philologists, the Holy Spirit reveals to us a hidden text, like the watermark in paper, telling us of the beloved Son. This is what the Lord Jesus did with the two disciples of Emmaus when “He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24: 27). The same experience may be our lot; to us also it may be given to say: "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).
(To be contd.)
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By the Holy Spirit We Are Joined to God
It is through the Spirit that we are all said to be partakers of God. For it says: “Know you not that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1Cor 3:16-17). If the Holy Spirit were a creature, we should have no participation of God in Him. If indeed we were joined to a creature, we should be strangers to the divine nature inasmuch as we did not partake therein. But, as it is, the fact of our being called partakers of Christ and partakers of God shows that the unction and seal that is in us belongs, not to the nature of things originate, but to the nature of the Son who, through the Spirit who is in Him, joins us to the Father. This John taught ... us when he wrote: “Hereby know we that we abide in God and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1John 4:13). But if, by participation in the Spirit, we are made “sharers in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), we should be mad to say that the Spirit has a created nature and not the nature of God. For it is on this account that those in whom He is are made divine. If He makes men divine, it is not to be doubted that His nature is of God.
Letter I to Serapion, 24.