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The Mission of the Holy Spirit


The Mission of the Holy Spirit


The Mission of the Holy Spirit

ORTHODOX CATECHISM TOPICS

The Mission of the Holy Spirit

By: Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos
PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy

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The Holy Spirit was not revealed in the same manner in which the Son was revealed; He remains unapproachable to man. He is however recognized in His divine energies, through the gifts which He bestows upon the faithful. He is "the treasury of good things and the bestower of life", according to the prayer of the Church.

Many texts in our liturgical books ascribe the work of our salvation to the Holy Spirit:

"The Holy Spirit hath ever been and is,
and shall be, neither beginning nor ending;
but He is ever ranked and numbered
together with the Father and the Son.
He is Life, and life-creating;
Light and light-bestowing;
by nature good, and the source of goodness;
through Him the Father is known,
and the Son is glorified;
and thereby all men acknowledge
a single sovereignty, single covenant, one adoration
of the Holy Trinity."

The Orthodox Church rejects the false doctrine of heretics who maintain that the Holy Spirit is an imper­sonal power or "state" within us. The Holy Spirit has self-awareness (Acts 10,19-20. 13,2), will (Jn 16,8. Acts 2,4. I Cor. 12,11) and acts as a person; He is the third person of the Holy Trinity (Mtth. 28,19. Jn 15,26. II Cor. 13,13) and is distinguished from the power of God (II Cor. 6,6-7. Rm. 15,13. I Cor.1,5).

The Holy Spirit participated in the creation of the world (Gen. 1,2) which was accomplished from the Father, through the Son and "in the Holy Spirit". Then, when man was created the "first putting-on of the Spirit" (πνευματοφορία) took place (Gen. 1,26-27. 7,7). During the new creation, the Holy Spirit was restored to man. A beautiful hymn of the Church states:

"In the Holy Spirit
is all creation renewed,
and doth return to ils pristine state,
for He is of equal power
with the Father and the Word".

In the restoration and recreation of man, the Holy Spirit is "the active principle": From the Holy Spirit, through the Son to the Father; this is the road to salva­tion. There is no other; "no one can say Lord Jesus except in the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12,3), no one can recognize Christ as Lord, i.e. to enroll in the Church under one Head, Christ, save "in the Holy Spirit" alone; and "no one cometh unto the Father, save through me" (Jn 14,6). No one comes unto the Father save through Jesus Christ!

In order to reach the Father through the Son, we must be "in the Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to each and every believer personally and individ­ually (Jn 15,25-26. 16,13-14). He "plants" him through the Holy Spirit into Christ's body, and man regains that from which he fell, a unity in the one human nature, i.e. to be "one in Christ" this is man's rebirth (Jn 3,5. Titus 3,5. Gal. 3,26-28). Through Baptism and Holy Commu­nion the believer becomes "one in body" {σύσσωμος) and "one in blood" (σύναιμος) with Christ and the relationship which exists between Jesus Christ and God the Father is conveyed and given to him through the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Holy Spirit is also called "The Spirit of Christ" and "the Spirit of Adoption" (Rom.8,10. 15-16).

Christ kept His promise: during Pentecost He "sent" the Holy Spirit to the disciples in a personal manner:

The Spirit "rested upon each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2,3-4).

Language is a means of communication. At the Tower of Babel, as the result of man's apostasy from God and his autonomy, language became a means of non-communion and non-communication. And now during Pentecost, the restoration of unity, the gathering of the scattered children of God "into one" (Jn 11,52) was declared to those outside the circle of the disciples through a sermon preached in the tongue of the Holy Spirit which was comprehensible to all and is an instru­ment of man's unity (Acts 2,4).

This unity and return of man to the "one nature", to the "one man", i.e. to "one in Christ" does not do away with the special personality of each believer. The Holy Spirit offers His charismata (gifts) to every believer.

"The Holy Spirit provideth all things;
He gusheth forth prophecy;
He perfecteth the priesthood;
He hath taught wisdom to the illiterate.
He hath shown forth the fishermen as theologians.
He holdeth together
the whole institution of the Church.
Wherefore, Ο Comforter, one in essence and throne
with the Father and the Son, glory to Thee".

Within the unity of the one Body, each believer continues to be the concrete person that he is; he is not absorbed by the whole. This is why both in divine worship and in the sacramental life each individual is commemorated by name. He received from the Holy Spirit his own gift, and he is called to use it not egotisti­cally, but for the edification of the other members and for the growth of the overall body, together with his own growth "in Christ". The Apostle St. Paul states: " To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To me is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowl­edge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are advocated by one and the same Spirit, who allows to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members are the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...You are the body of Christ and individually members of it ( I Cor. 12,7-27).

"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing. Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?", St Paul asks with emphasis (I Cor. 12, 29-30) and shows that the mystery of the human personality is not abrogated through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but that it is broadened, for as a member of the overall body he becomes a partaker of the great mystery of the unity "in Christ".

The Holy Spirit does not act independently of the personality and body of Christ, which is the Church. Concerning the Holy Spirit, Christ assured us that" He [the Paraclete-Comforter] will glorify me because He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16,14-15). No one can possess the charismata of the Holy Spirit apart from the unity with Jesus Christ, i.e. outside the Church.

Furthermore, the gifts of the Holy Spirit do not constrain; they are offered on the basis of the divine will (John 3,8. I Cor. 12,12. Heb. 2,4) and not by human methods. If these gifts were the result of human efforts, they would belong to the "created order" and would not constitute true communion with God. This helps us to understand why the Orthodox Church gives special significance to the teaching concerning "uncreated grace" while at the same time discerning divine grace from the divine essence.

If grace were created, then it could not lead us to salvation since communion with something which is created cannot lead man to overcome his created reality and to union with the uncreated God. If again, there is no difference between the essence and the grace of God, then communion with the Divine essence would do away with man's personality. There is then a distinction between God's essence and His grace which is uncre­ated. (It [grace] does not have its source outside of the divine essence), for this reason in the Orthodox Church both are preserved: both the true communion with God and the human person.

Divine Grace however is not offered without man's active participation. The holy Mysteries of the Church are not magical acts; they presuppose the participation of each individual believer. The Angel of the Lord announced to the Virgin Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you". But she, however, had to say, "Let it be!" (Lk. 1,35-38).

The believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, "the panoply of God" and he is strengthened to begin his spiritual struggle and to victoriously resist "the wiles of the Devil" (Eph. 116,10-20). Man must, however, want to carry on this struggle. The believer has the feeling that he is not struggling alone, but that he is being "strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His power!".

http://www.egolpion.net/Mission_Holy_Spirit%20%20.en.aspx

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Its Faith, Worship and Life
Rev. Antonios Alevisopoulos, Th.D., Ph.D
Translated by Rev. Stephen Avramides
ATHENS 2001


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