On the Grace of the Holy Spirit
Content: Introduction. The Martyr Nikiphor. A Force not of this World. Real gifts and their surrogates. The Holy Scriptures on the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Conclusion.
Addendum: On the Holy Spirit. The Spiritual world (two articles of Photios Konstoglou).
Introduction.The Martyr Nikiphor
In the days of the Roman emperor Valerian (253-259 A.D.), there lived in Antioch two inseparable friends, Nikiphor and the priest Sapricius. They loved each other to such an extent that people considered them brothers by blood. But the enemy of humanity, the devil, managed to have them quarrel, so that they began to hate each other.
Several years after their falling out, there broke out an overall persecution of Christians, and the priest Sapricius, as a servant of the Church, was one of the first to be arrested. The executioners tried using tortures to make the priest renounce Christ, but he courageously endured all torments.
Upon hearing that his former friend had been arrested and would soon be put to death, Nikiphor felt sorry for having quarreled with him. He rushed to the place of punishment, in order to make amends with the future martyr in Christ. But the priest Sapricius ignored all pleas for forgiveness. In distress, Nikiphor fell on his knees. He began to beg Father Sapricius to forgive him, even if only in Christ's name. Instead of answering, the priest haughtily turned away from him. Even the executioners were surprised at his stubbornness, and advised Nikiphor to stop demeaning himself before the proud man.
Sapricius was led to the block with the sword raised above his head, when something unexpected occurred: he was overcome by panic and fear, and, leaping up, began to wave his arms and cry: "Do not kill me! I will bring an offering to the gods immediately!"
The executioners were stunned into immobility. Nikiphor, seeing his former friend, a priest, so basely renounce his faith, cried out for all to hear: "I am a Christian and I scorn your loathsome gods!" The commander who was overseeing the proceedings ordered the priest to be released, and Nikiphor to be put to death in his place.
Thus the crown of martyrdom, prepared for Sapricius, passed to the head of Nikiphor, whose memory is celebrated by the Church on February 9/22.
How can one explain the sudden fear of Sapricius, who had courageously suffered all torments up to that moment? - Very simply: the Lord Himself had fortified the priest. But when Sapricius willfully plunged into the darkness of malice and hatred, God removed His Grace from him. As most people before the face of forcible death, Sapricius was found to be helpless and pitiful.
In this work, we will discuss that spiritual force, the like of which cannot be found in Nature, which is the Grace of God. We will try to unfold its meaning in the life of a Christian and the methods of its actions, so as to mark the ways to obtain it.
A Force Not of This World
The Grace of God is that mysterious, spiritual strength or energy, emanating from God, which brings to life, strengthens, and enlightens all rationally moral beings.
It is not necessary to prove to the modern person the necessity of normal physical energy. Let us hypothetically cease, say, the source of oil. Everything stops - all forms of transportation and production (such as factories), various means of communication. Cities and towns are left without electricity and there is no water in the faucets. Food begins to decay in refrigerators - in a word, catastrophe strikes. And what would happen to us, if, let us say, the sun suddenly stopped shining? The earth would be completely dark and begin to freeze. The process of photosynthesis would cease; all living things would begin to die from cold and hunger. In a short while, our marvelous planet, overflowing with life, would become a vast cemetery!
Truly, the Grace of God enlightens the thoughts of people so that they see the truth and begin to love it. It heals spiritual illnesses by cleansing the conscience and releasing people from the tyranny of the passions. It changes feelings of grief and anger to feelings of happiness and peace. It stills fleeting thoughts, so that a person sees the aim of his earthly sojourn. It enables a person to see for himself the triviality and waste of earthly pleasures, and the great value of heavenly life. It makes flighty and thoughtless people serious and wise; the fearful, courageous; the stingy, generous; the spiteful, peace-loving. It encourages a person to love God and others, even his enemies, and instills in him the strength and thirst to live for good. In a word, the Grace of God extends to all parts of the internal life of a person and appears as the source of powerful spiritual-moral forces.
From Biblical and church history we can see to what extent the Grace of God works in the rebirth of a soul. Although the Laws of God were known to people before the coming of the Saviour (through the voice of conscience and through the Holy Writings), people were unable to grow morally and come to perfection because "that which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). According to the witness of a whole line of writers in the pre-Christian epoch, the heathen world was becoming more and more depraved morally, immersing itself further and further in materialism and vice, while "grace," even among the best representatives of the chosen people of God, mainly came down to the scrupulous observance of religious rituals. Observing this pathetic state of society, the Old Testament prophets bitterly compared it to a waterless desert unable to grow anything except short bitter grasses.
Notwithstanding, with their spiritual vision, the prophets penetrated into that bright future when God would show mercy to sinful humanity and send it His spiritual strength: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them," exclaimed the prophet Isaiah, "and the desert shall rejoice even with joy and singing... Then (in the times of the Messiah) the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water" (Is. 35:1-7).
The moral rebirth of people - their reception of the Holy Spirit - yet awaited the remission of their sins, as explained by the evangelist John the Theologian: "For the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John. 7:39).
And so the merciful Lord, the embodied Son of God, brought the great expiatory sacrifice for the sins of the human race on the Cross. Then, on the 50th day after His glorious Resurrection, the long-awaited Comforter Spirit descended upon the apostles. This miracle manifested itself in the voice of the stormy wind and in tongues of flame. Descending on the heads of the apostles, He vested them with power from on high (Luke 24:49) and lit spiritual fire in their hearts (Luke 12:49). Then was fulfilled that which God promised through the prophet Joel, saying: "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2).
The Holy Spirit, descending upon the disciples of Christ, immediately expressed His Divine power through the significant inner changes which He produced in them, and those who in turn were converted by the words of the Apostles (Acts 2). The Apostles, as we know, were people of plain heritage - unlearned, entirely unable to speak, shy. When the Holy Spirit enriched their spiritual strengths, they were so filled with wisdom and the gift of inspirational speech, that they began successfully to convert to the faith thousands, tens of thousands of people - not only simple people, but those of noble descent, as well as the scholarly. The Apostle Paul (although he had received a multi-faceted education and spoke extremely well) assigned his success not to his eloquence, but namely to the action of the Holy Spirit, which kindled the faith of people: "And my speech and my preaching," the apostle writes, "was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:4).
The description of the life of the first Christian community in Jerusalem shows how powerful the spiritual changes produced by the Grace of the Holy Spirit were. "And they that believed," witnesses the Apostle Luke, "were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people...And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common...Neither was there any among them that lacked" (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35).
It is wondrous that this inspired, burning love of the first Christians for God and man could be extinguished neither by persecution, confinement, nor death. Instead of becoming discouraged or mean, faithful Judeans were glad to suffer for Christ (Heb. 10:34. About spiritual happiness produced by the Holy Spirit, see also Is. 12:3; Eze. 36:26-27; Matt. 11:28; John 8:36; John 16:22; Rom. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 1:4-5; Phil. 4:7; 1 Thes. 1:6; Col. 1:13.)
Besides the bright feelings of faith and happiness, the other distinguishing mark of the Grace of the Holy Spirit is the decisiveness and courage which He bestows upon the faithful (2 Tim. 1:7). The Apostle Peter, for example, feared the servant who accused him at the arrest of the Saviour and with an oath denounced Christ. But he became so courageous after receiving the Holy Spirit that, at the meeting of the Sanhedrin, he accused the Jewish leaders of killing the Messiah to their face, and bravely declared that, no matter what the danger, he would spread the Christian faith everywhere (Acts 4:1-22). It is noteworthy that many years later, when the Apostle Peter was sentenced to hang on the Cross in the Roman Coliseum, he was not afraid of the prospect of dying a torturous death before a gleeful mob. Rather, his concern was that he was unworthy to die as the Saviour of the world had died. For this reason he asked that he be crucified head down, which was accomplished.
For several centuries, an enormous number of Christian martyrs died in that Roman Coliseum. According to witnesses living at that time, many of them received death with happiness and hymns of praise on their lips. Here is the strength of the Grace of God, raising people over their usual weaknesses!
Particular blessed gifts
Besides the gifts of the Holy Spirit called the general gifts, with which He enriches every believer for his moral rebirth, there exist also those gifts called the extraordinary gifts. These He grants to some so that they may serve the Church. We read about these extraordinary gifts in an epistle of the Apostle Paul: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for profit for all. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will...And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues..." (1 Cor. 12:7-11, 12:28)
With time there has been less need for several extraordinary gifts (for example, the gift of tongues and prophecies). Since the times of the apostles, extraordinary gifts began to be given, for the most part, during the sacrament of ordination, when the servants of the Church - bishops, priests and deacons - are allotted blessed gifts and responsibilities corresponding to their service. Without doubt, every one wishing to work for the general good receives what help and guidance from God is necessary. And here the abundance of grace in one or another person depends not only on the Giver, "for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (John 3:34), but by the purity of heart and "receptivity" of the receiver.
Extraordinary gifts are listed most completely by the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied about the coming Messiah: "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Is. 11:2). In total, there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which, according to the fathers of Church, comprise the fullness of spiritual gifts. Christ, as the God-person, combining in Himself the threefold service of prophesy, high priesthood and regality, has the complete fullness of grace. The rest of the servants of God, doing what is in their power to help Him in His work of creating the Kingdom of God among people, are also given the gifts of the Holy Spirit - according to their service. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed by the prophet are arranged in the order of the greatest to the most fundamental:
Real Gifts and Their Surrogates
Among modern Christian groups, much is said about the necessity to revive and reveal in oneself the different gifts of the Spirit. Such groups have even developed a distinctive "method" for gaining extraordinary gifts. In all this the sense of dissatisfaction with the dryness of merely learning biblical texts, and the spiritlessness of sectarian prayer meetings is clear. The absence of spirituality in Protestantism results mainly from the fact that it thoughtlessly rejected all the guides of the grace of God established by God - the apostolic succession, the priesthood, the blessed sacraments of the Church and the treasury of the centuries of spiritual life. All was sacrificed to the slogans of a free learning of the Bible and the sufficiency of the justification of faith.
Efforts to revive this lost grace were poured into the practice of the now-popular "charismatic" movement, which arose in the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the Pentecostalists. While in the ancient Church, the grace of God was perceived as a spiritually-enlivening force, necessary for moral growth, the modern charismatics see in the "gifts of the Spirit" a source of acute sensations and visible signs. At their meetings it has become routine for Pentecostalists and charismatics like them, to interrupt each other, shout incomprehensible sounds, and mutter senselessly, while others lose consciousness, go into a frenzy or trance, or begin to laugh uncontrollably. In this chaos some kinds of healing occur, some kinds of prophecies are uttered - of a very suspect content. Defenders of this movement declare that these are "proofs" that the Holy Spirit is acting among them, and which "verify" their movement. In fact, all these heathen and medium-like exercises are a terrible slander of the Holy Spirit!
Let us take for example the gift of tongues. We know that on the day of Pentecost the apostles received from God the ability to preach in real human tongues, which they previously did not know. They gave an informative sermon, which taught and brought to the faith people who did not understand the Hebrew tongue. The sounds which are blurted out by the sectarians cannot teach anything; they are, in sum, senseless and impossible to interpret. The experience is the result of pathological nervous overstimulation, which is long familiar to mediums and shamans. This "gift of tongues" can be achieved by any person through well-known exercises - regardless of whatever "god" he may be praying to.
One charismatic "miracle-worker" shared his experience in a private conversation: "Convincing one person of a miracle eye-to-eye - is very difficult, even impossible. Convincing a crowd - is very easy!" In other words, what is performed in meetings of the charismatics is mass hypnosis and hysteria - conditions favorable for the fallen spirit!
The Holy Scriptures on the Grace of the Holy Spirit
Considering the sorrowful example of the charismatic movement, a son of the Orthodox Church of Christ must be wary of any artificial methods of receiving extraordinary states and acute sensations as he would be of the most potent poison.
The New Testament writings teach quite in depth what particular gifts should be asked of God. In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22). As we see, all these gifts refer to the spiritual-moral category. Like the prophet Isaiah, the Apostle Paul begins by naming the higher gifts, moving gradually to name those which serve as the ground for the others. It should be noted that the gifts of the Holy Spirit presented here are parallel to the virtues which the Saviour names in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5). It is therefore instructive to compare the one to the other. Following the order of the Apostle Paul, "the fruit of the Spirit is:.."
Besides these, the Holy Scriptures mentions other blessed gifts, which contribute to the spiritual growth of a person. We will mention some of them.
The first effect of the Holy Spirit is to lead people to Christ, instilling faith in Him and in the truth of everything which He taught (John 6:44; Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 2:8; Neh. 9:20-30; Ez. 36:26-27; John 16:13; 1 John 2:20-27; 1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Cor. 3:3; Eph. 2:18). The gift of faith, in turn, opens up the attainability of the rest of the blessed gifts (Rom. 5:2). Although the Holy Spirit may influence a person to believe in Christ, he does not force anyone's will. Therefore a person is free to accept or reject what the Holy Spirit would instill in him. Nevertheless, he is responsible for his decision before God (John 12:48; Acts 7:51).
Implanting in a person the seeds of faith, the Holy Spirit inclines a person to repentance and correction, softening his hardened heart (Zac. 12:10-13:1; John 19:37; Acts 2:37; Rom. 2:4). He assists prayer (Rom. 8:26) and purifies the conscience of the penitent (1 John 1:7; Heb. 9:9. Acts 2:22-41).
In Baptism, the Holy Spirit engenders a person for a spiritual form of life. He completely regenerates him, changing within him the gradation of values. The Scriptures compare this inner re-birth to the resurrection from the dead, in which the faithful become the new creation of God (John 3:3-6, 8:34; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Col. 2:13; Eph. 2:15).
Upon awakening in a person his spiritual abilities, the Holy Spirit leads him to a spiritual form of life and achievement (Luke 4:1; Gal. 2:20; Tit. 2:11-14). The result of these efforts of repentance and feats of temperance are that the "outer person" (body) "decays," but the "inner person" is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
The Holy Spirit gives a warm feeling of filiality and nearness to God to people living for spiritual interests (1 John 3:1-2; Rom. 8:13-16, 23; Gal. 4:6). He kindles in them a spiritual burning and inclination toward God (Luke 12:49; Phil. 2:13). Along with this He gives them strength, vigor, fortitude and indefatigability (Is. 40:29-31; 1 Cor 15:10; Eph. 6:10; Phillip. 4:13; Eph. 3:20; Rom. 8:26, 37; Gal. 2:20).
The Holy Spirit literally directs every step of the believer's life on Earth to salvation and good (Ps. 143:10; Is. 63:10-14; John 4:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:5), giving him everything necessary for life and piety. (James 1:17; 2 Pet. 1:3-5; 2 Cor. 3:5, 2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Thus, throughout the entire life of a person the Holy Spirit transfigures him, adorns him with moral perfections and likens him to Christ. He sanctifies believers, making them living churches of God (Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Thes. 5:23).
Despite all the power and effectiveness of the blessed gifts, the actual processes of moral rebirth occur gradually, often unnoticed by the person himself (as the Saviour explained in His parable of the unseen growth of the seed, Mark 4:26-29; 2 Pet. 3:18). More than that, the Lord even hides the perceptible side of the gifts which He gives, in order to protect the soul from conceit and weakening.
Yet, though the Grace of God is invisible, it is more necessary than oxygen. Without it a person is barren, morally weak, and empty. He is incapable of any truly worthy act (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 3:5). No matter how talented, bright and charming he may seem, in the spiritual plane he is a dried and shapeless log!
We know that everyday physical energy can be dynamic, i.e., performing work, or that it can be merely potential, as, for example, water collected in a man-made lake. Like an unused lake filled by the streams flowing into it, a person with the sacraments and services of the Church can receive the abundant Grace of God, without, however, doing any good works. When, however, one opens the sluices of an inactive lake, powerful streams of water break out, turbines spin and generators produce electric energy. Just so, each of us may overcome our inertia and begin to live a full-fledged spiritual life. Then, by the words of the Saviour, "out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
Help us, O Lord!
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On The Holy Spirit
By Photios Kontoglou
Translated by Constantine Cavarnos
By the Holy Spirit, every soul is given life, is exalted through purification, and is made to shine through the Threefold oneness in a hidden manner. By the Holy Spirit the streams of grace flow, watering all of creation and granting it life.
The Holy Spirit is called Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, and Life-Creating. These names basically reveal the same thing. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth because it leads us into the truth. As Christ said to his disciples: "When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, He will testify on my behalf" (John 15:26); and, "When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will lead you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
Whosoever, then, is illumined by the Holy Spirit is mystically assured that Christ is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. And being assured and finding rest in this, he is filled with a great and fiery joy, henceforth becoming invincible to evil and established in the truth uncovered for him. For the Holy Spirit reveals all the secrets which are unknown to other people: "This is the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him" (John 14:17). Further on, Christ says: "But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).
This meant that whatever things Christ had spoken of to His disciples earlier, that they could now be assured of these same things, mystically revealed through the descent of the Holy Spirit; it also meant that their hearts would be strengthened. This joyful assurance about God's compassion and power allowed the Apostles to overcome suffering, ridicule, persecution, the sword, travails, hunger, nakedness, and every form of spite, and thus to run towards death, as a thirsty deer runs toward water.
Even when the Apostles still had Christ with them in the flesh, they became afraid, abandoned Him, and ran away; nevertheless, after His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, they were all willing to die for His sake. This is why Christ told them to wait until they had received strength from the Holy Spirit, as happened on the day of Pentecost: "But stay in the city of Jerusalem until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
All the martyrs of the faith also showed this same untamable spirit at the time of their suffering, being strengthened by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Spirit is called the Paraclete, which means "comforter," because whoever receives the Holy Spirit passes through a kind of fire which renders him untouchable by human beings and demons alike. All things appear to this person as calm and peaceful, and he finds rest and silence through such a blessed joy.
For this person even jail is no longer frightening, nor do beatings feel harsh, nor are stabbings and other forms of suffering so terrible. Everything is sweetened by the mystical comfort of the Holy Spirit. So the world marveled at how the martyrs did not feel any pain, but instead accepted their suffering with joy and "with burning spirit." People saw women, who used to be frightened by a single loud cry, now standing fearlessly before their executors, who were about to slay their virgin bodies. The grace of the Paraclete tamed even the wild countenance of these hard-hearted men and their cruel weapons.
This sweetness of the Paraclete, that calms everything in the eyes of a Christian and instills in his heart an immortal blessedness, is the treasure that is found in every aspect of our sanctified Orthodox faith. It is found in the behaviour of pious Christians, the venerable clergy and ascetics; in their modest words and dress; in the holy churches; and in the holy icons of Christ, the Theotokos, the angels and saints; in hymns and chants; and in prayers.
If Orthodoxy has experienced sorrow and pain, it nonetheless knows that through this sorrow comes a spiritual joy, according to the words of our Lord: "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). They will be consoled, and they will receive the Paraclete.
Everything in Orthodoxy is covered by a compunction that is filled with peace; all is calm, all is simple, all is humble, because we have the hope of the Gospel and the comfort of the Paraclete. This is why Paul writes to the Galatians: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Gal. 5:22-3). And to the Romans, the Saint writes: "May the God of hope fill you with all Joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13).
The consoling joy of the Holy Spirit is also revealed in the words of the prophet Isaiah, uttered by the lips of Christ himself. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor He has sent me to heal all those who have a broken heart, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18).
The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of wisdom, Spirit of sobriety, and Spirit of godly fear. The apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians: "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of His great power" (Eph. 1:17-19).
All these profound and saving mysteries are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. And then we may become entirely filled with light, and fear nothing, because we have the peace and certainty of immortality. I pray that we as sinners also become worthy of these things according to the degree of our humility. Amen.
The Spiritual World
By Photios Kontoglou
Translated by Constantine Cavarnos
Contemporary man has altogether forgotten the world that is within himself and has occupied himself only with the world that is outside himself, the material world. He investigates by means of science, "the outside of the cup and of the platter" (Matt. 23:25).
One world is material, the other, spiritual. One is for the transitory life; the other for the eternal. One is in space and time, while the other is beyond space and time.
Today's man lives materialistically, busying himself with spiritually false things. Only matter interests him, the rather coarse, more tangible aspect of the universe. He cannot experience spiritual reality by means of his bodily senses and does not concern himself with it. He who projects machines made of aluminum into space, he whose brain is full of numbers, screws, springs, and other such things, cannot understand what is hidden behind the material world perceived by means of his physical senses. How can he taste the fruit that is hidden inside the husk of the universe? He can only nourish himself with a husk, for it is the husk that his materialistic science is constantly studying. How can he understand the words of Christ, who says, "The kingdom of God is with us"? Or those of the Apostle Paul, who says: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). How can this barbaric and hardhearted people, who are attached to the mud of matter, understand the words of the divinely inspired Paul, who says that carnal men, "worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator?" (Rom. 1:25).
For those who are engrossed with the knowledge of material things, "the mystical gate is closed," and they are not given even a small way into the concept "the holy of holies." Their materialistic minds do not experience any other life besides that of the flesh. They have placed all their hopes in it and are incapable of hearkening to the words of Paul, who says: "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19). That is, if we believe only in this life, we are the most miserable of all human beings. And elsewhere he calls such materialistic individuals those "who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13).
Indeed, we see that such people are full of anguish, fear, and agitation, because "the wages of sin is death." "For whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, for he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:7-8). And elsewhere it is written that "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8:6). In saying "peace," Saint Paul means true peace, whereas only a false peace is found in the external, material world in which the materialists believe.
"What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" asks Christ (Matt. 16:26). But who listens to Him? All of us are striving to gain this unreal world. We do not want to understand those words which used to be sung by a beggar with the wisdom that is possessed by simple men:
I entered into the world naked
And will go out of it naked.
The world is alien,
It belongs to no one.
Therefore, listen again my brother to what Saint Paul says, and try to understand something of the hidden world of mystery that is behind the external world. We investigate with the aid of machines, believing in our learned ignorance that we possess knowledge of the roots of the totality of things.
St. Paul says: "The creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption" (Rom. 8:21). The "bondage of corruption" is the slavery of those who live and labor for the corruptible world of matter; those whose thoughts are bad and foolish. Those who are without faith and without love are full of death, since they are preoccupied with the world of corruption which has no hope, but is full of darkness and despair. These individuals are the faithful followers of Satan, who serve him obediently without knowing why.
On the other hand, the faithful ones of God, "the children of God," possess freedom, true freedom, which consists in knowledge of the Truth, that is, of Christ.
Only through this knowledge do the nuptial doors open, from which the soul beholds the wondrous light of the incorruptible essence of the cosmos. The thoughts of these children of God are good, peaceful, and gladdening. "Become peaceful within yourself," says a certain saint, "and heaven and earth will become peaceful. Enter into the chamber that is within you, and from there you will behold the palace of heaven."
Christ has revealed the things that exist in incorruptible heaven. The true things which the soul looks at from the mystical chamber are inside us. They are blessed, peaceful isles in the ocean that extends beyond every material constellation, and are outside the slavery of space and time.
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Missionary Leaflet # E71
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran