Encountering the Holy Spirit
Jesus’ Farewell Discourse
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth. … You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
1 Cor. 6:19
John’s Gospel records a lengthy speech (13:31-17:26) that Jesus delivers to his apostles after supper on the night he is arrested. In the three major sections of this discourse first Jesus instructs them on the Father, the Spirit and himself. Then he describes how they should live as his disciples. Finally, he prays for them while predicting the events of the passion that are soon to play out.
We read this pericope (John 13:31-18:1) as the first of the twelve Passion Gospels at matins on Good Friday morning. The Passion story begins with this teaching on the nature of God and the community of disciples. The events of this holy weekend are important only because they are the means of connecting us with God in the Trinity. This passage is the first and longest Gospel pericope of the twelve we read during Passion Matins to underscore this point. Knowing his arrest is imminent, Jesus promises the coming of Pentecost.
Promise of the Holy Spirit
During the first section of this discourse Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit will be the Advocate for the faithful and abide in them.
“If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
Jesus opens with the foundation of our faith, love of God. But the love of Jesus demands following in his way. Love is not some abstract feeling, but a demonstrated love in the action of keeping his commandments.
Jesus will then ask the Father to send “another Advocate.” While Jesus is with his disciples, he is their protection and advocate before the Father. Until Jesus comes again another Advocate will be with us here on earth. The image of Advocate is a rich one. We can all imagine standing before the court of the living God giving account for our lives and actions. Those who love Christ, demonstrating that love by following his commandments, have an Advocate on their behalf.
This courtroom image has foundations in the Old Testament. The High Priest Joshua stands before the court of God at the close of the Babylonian exile. The exile was God’s punishment for an Israel that could not keep his commandments. But as the exile comes to a close we see a reversal of God’s judgment.
Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and the Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you Oh Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.”
Here we meet Satan for the first time in scripture. The name means adversary or accuser. Satan is a minion of God’s court. As the prince of evil he is well suited to seeing the evil in others and accusing them before the court of the Lord. Here the High Priest Joshua is guilty, as are all the people. He is clothed in the filthy garments of his sin. But the Lord himself forgives and purifies Joshua. He dismisses the Accuser and restores Joshua.
This image of the heavenly court is where we will stand one day. Instead of the angel of the Lord to defend us before the tribunal of the Father, we have the Holy
Spirit of God himself as our Advocate. Those who love Christ by keeping his commandments have this powerful Advocate before the Father.
In the book of Job we see Satan appearing before the court of God to report after roaming the earth and patrolling it. Satan tries to accuse people before God, but before he speak God brings up his most upright servant Job. This leads to a Satan striving to turn Job against God without success.
Spirit of Truth
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth that the world rejects. The Spirit is both the teacher of truth to the disciples and the source of truth itself. The world cannot accept this truth of the Spirit because they reject Christ and thus the Father. The Spirit can only teach those who accept and are open to Christ and his message. The world has hardened their hearts and cannot receive the Spirit and fullness of truth.
Jesus underscores the worlds’ inability to accept the truth in a few short hours as he stand before Pilate on trial (John 18:33-40). Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king. Jesus tells Pilate that is kingdom is not of this world and he has come to call all people to the truth. Pilate does not recognize the truth in Jesus, nor even what truth is by asking “What is truth?” The search for truth has been part of the goal for the ancient Greek philosophers for centuries before these events. But God has a better plan, a plan where Jesus reveals truth to us and the Spirit of Truth comes and dwells within us.
Come Dwell Within Us
The final promise in this short section of Jesus’ discourse is the promise that the Spirit will abide with us and in us. During the Pentecost event the Holy Spirit comes into the world in a special way as our Advocate and Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth will guide us in living the right way, keeping that love of Christ secure by keeping his commandments. The role of Advocate protects us from the accusations of Satan before the throne of God for those times when we fail.
The Holy Spirit will mark our progress and assist us in a wide range of transitions during this life through the Mysteries celebrated in the Church. Each of these moments strengthens our ties to the living God. With this gift of the Spirit abiding within us, we can continuously grow closer to God in the process of Theosis throughout our lives. Theosis means to become one with God over our lives. The Holy Spirit is our guide towards this end.
The community of the faithful is our help and experience of the Trinity here on earth. God is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is one God but a community at the same time. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (1 Cor 6:19-20), and the community here on earth, we can have a taste of this coming union now.
But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you (myself).
When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of Truth who comes forth from the Father and whom I shall send to you from the Father, he will bear witness on my behalf.
Our lectionary cycle ties John’s gospel to the Paschal period beginning with 1:1 on Pascha itself. The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit is firmly embedded in the events of the passion in John’s Gospel. In the account we read on Great Friday as part of Passion Matins. This coming Spirit is described in many ways, but the uniquely Johannine description is “Paraclete.” John alone in the New Testament uses this term and he applies it to both Jesus and the coming Holy Spirit.
Paraclete is a transliteration of the Greek term used in the text. Paraclete has a fairly wide semantic range in Greek. Various translations use advocate, intercessor, comforter or helper for paraclete, often changing the translation based on the context of the verse.
The relevant passages are 1 John 2:1 where Jesus is a paraclete. And John 14:15-17; 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11; and 16:12-14 which describe the Holy Spirit as the paraclete.
Paraclete in the passive form, as in John 15:26, has a sense of advocate. The image of the heavenly court of judgement is a powerful and common one in the Jewish tradition. Satan is derived from the Hebrew word for accuser and serves as the heavenly prosecutor in the court of the Lord (Zech 3:1-4). The Paraclete is the defender before the court, our advocate. Even in this life John 15:26 promises that the Paraclete will testify about Jesus and help the disciples testify as well.
Paraclete in the active sense, as 1 John 2:1, has the sense of intercede or appeal on behalf of someone. Being the mediator or spokesman for another cause. Some translate this sense as “helper” or “friend.” The 1 John 2:1 passage is the application of paraclete to Jesus rather than the Holy Spirit. Here we see Jesus as an intercessor before the Father in heaven.
We have an Intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2
This is similar to the concept of Jesus the high priest in the heavenly temple advanced by the letter to the Hebrews. After describing the sacrifice made by Christ in the heavenly temple of the Father, Hebrews notes:
For this reason He (Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15
The Holy Spirit is “another paraclete” according to John 14:16. Jesus is our paraclete in heaven and the Holy Spirit is our paraclete on earth.
Paraclete is semantically related to the verbal form parakalein meaning to comfort. Thus “Comforter” appears as a title in our liturgical prayers. The word consoler is also used in translations, a preference of Luther for example. This aspect of comforter for the Holy Spirit finds strong resonance in the liturgical life of the Byzantine Church. This is the second title for the Holy Spirit in the Pentecost hymn that is part of the standard opening prayers to every liturgical service.
Heavenly king, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, You are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain and save our souls, o Gracious Lord.
Paraclete is related to the noun paraklis meaning encouragement or exhortation. We find this usage in relation to the Holy Spirit in Acts of the Apostles.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria experienced peace and thus was strengthened. Living in fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Acts 9:31
The Paraclete provides the encouragement to stay the course and keep the commandments of Christ. We see this same encouragement in liturgy. The Paraklis service for the Blessed Mother served during the Dormition fast is named from the same word. In this service during times of trial the Paraklis reminds of God’s might in history and asks that Mary become an intercessor for us with Christ her son. The beauty of the language is that both encouragement and intercessor are encompassed by the same word. This double meaning occurs while we pray, which is always done in the Holy Spirit as well.
Role of the Paraclete
From this collection of passages in John, we see a well rounded picture of the role of the paraclete. John tells us that the Paraclete can only come from the Father after Jesus departs. The Father sends this Paraclete at the request of Jesus and in the name of Jesus.
John tells us that the Paraclete is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. This is another Paraclete besides Jesus who is one too. The disciples will recognize the Paraclete and he will dwell within us. The Paraclete will teach the disciples and guide us to the truth. What belongs to Jesus now belongs to the disciples through this Paraclete. We will glorify Jesus and bear witness on his behalf. The Paraclete will remind us of what Jesus taught.
The world will reject the Paraclete. This rejection will take the form of persecution and hatred of the disciples. But the Paraclete will prove the world wrong about sin, justice and judgement.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost makes this Paraclete available to the faithful through the Mysteries of the Church. At baptism we become the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Paraclete dwells within us.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 1 Cor. 6:19
This indwelling Paraclete becomes our teacher and Spirit of Truth. When we live by the commandments of Christ in the community the Spirit becomes strong and manifests itself in the fruits of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23
The faithful who know Christ and live his commandments can be recognized by their fruit. We prepare a dwelling place for the Paraclete and accept the guidance provided once enthroned in our hearts bearing fruit for all the world to see.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Holy Spirit
Before his passion Christ promised us the Holy Spirit would come as the Paraclete to dwell in us. We receive this Holy Spirit in the Mysteries of the Church pouring forth from our Pentecost experience. During this Paschal celebration for seven weeks from Pascha to Pentecost we read from Acts of the Apostles. This is the story of the Holy Spirit coming down at Pentecost and spreading the word of Christ out from Jerusalem. We each receive this Holy Spirit in Baptism.
Deeds of the Flesh or Fruit of the Spirit
St. Paul in the letter to the Galatians sets side by side for us in the quotations on the cover the “deeds of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” If we allow the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and inform our understanding of Christ’s commandments, we will bear fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is evident to the world. These are the marks of the Christian community.
Paul lists these as distinct counter points to what we can see in the rest of the world. When we examine the actions in our own life, which list do we most resemble? What follows are some brief thoughts on love, joy and peace as fruit of the Holy Spirit.
God is revealed to us as the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but is still one God. The central mystery of faith is the three in one. God is a community in unity. We are to unite ourselves with this community of God in all eternity. Here on earth the community of the faithful is where we “practice” how we will live forever.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
1 John 4:11-13
Love is the pinnacle of virtues and the most important of the fruits of the Spirit that is promised us. The Spirit can give many gifts to individuals in the community. We hear about those who can speak in tongues or those who prophesied by the power of the Spirit or the great philanthropists who support the needs of the Church. They are highly respected in the community and looked up to. But if they don’t bear the fruit of love, Paul dismisses the great gift they have received as nothing.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
1 Cor. 13:1-3
In a sense, love is the very basis of the community of God and thus the community of believers. Not that these other actions are unimportant, but that without love they lack the foundation to truly unite this person to the community of God in the Church.
The in Holy Spirit bears the fruit of joy, not a sombre face in keeping the commandments. The love we have for Christ that we demonstrate in the community for each other, is practiced with joy. These commandments are not burdens to carry or endure, but a joyful consequence of our unity. With the power of the Holy Spirit we become an example of Christ for others.
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
1 Thess 1:5-7
We exhibit joy in tribulation because of our fellowship with the Holy Spirit, Christ and the community. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to be imitators of Christ. The world is the source of the tribulation, not the commands of God, but in the face of that tribulation the Holy Spirit gives us the joy of fellowship with each other and the joy of worship with God.
When facing the tribulation of the world we also have the gift of peace. The Holy Spirit can still the restless nature of our flesh in the face of the world. We find joy in each other and peace in the face of the force of the world. Through the grace of our ministers and the Mysteries of the Church we receive the good from God giving us this peace.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
We are called to share in this priestly ministry by becoming filled with knowledge and goodness. These are the tools that allow us to admonish each other in joy and peace. Not the “I told you so” angry admonishments of the flesh, but the joyful and peaceful admonishment of the Spirit. The admonishment that builds up the person, not tearing them down.
Patience is the fruit of the Spirit that helps us continue in the love for one another. The Gospel we accepted from Christ includes his commandments, chief of these is to love one another. The gift of the Holy Spirit will bear fruit that support us in this goal. These nine fruits are interlocking and support of each other and the community. Paul writes to encourage the Colossians:
Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
Being patient with one another will increase our knowledge of God’s will. Patience feeds and strengthens the love we show one another. By bearing with each other in patience we draw closer to unity with God in the Trinity. Patience is the fruit that does not allow the mistake of our fellow to become our own downfall. Sin has this pernicious effect, breaking down the sinner and touching the lives of those around them. Patience is our shield to prevent that sin of another from becoming our own by reacting badly.
Anger is a “deed of the flesh” with kindness being the opposite fruit of the Spirit. Anger in malice tears the community apart, kindness builds us up. Christ is our model for this behavior, as Paul points out to the Ephesians:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
The Holy Spirit is our guide for following the commandments. We are one with the Spirit in our bodies. When we react with anger towards one another, we grieve that Holy Spirit and we tear down that body of Christ, which is the community. Jesus did not react with anger to the public sinners he encountered in his ministry. He treated them with kindness and thus drew them back to the fold.
Paul also speaks of the contrast between the Christian community and the world using the metaphor of light and darkness. The “deeds of the flesh” are the “deeds of darkness.” The Holy Spirit is our source of light, the “Joyful light” that we remember each day in the hymn during vespers. Light is the symbol of goodness even outside the Christian tradition. Light brings the hope of a new day, while darkness hides the deeds of the wicked.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
Goodness in the believer will be demonstrated in righteous action and truth in all things. Our behavior should be so full of goodness that the sight of our actions will build up others. The “deeds of darkness” are disgraceful when seen. Not so with Christians, we behave as if all of our actions are in seen by the public in full light of day. The goodness of these actions then becomes a light for all around us.
Holding to our faith in the world is perhaps the central difficulty for Christians. Being faithful to God in Christ puts us on a track against the flow of the times. We believe that Jesus is God’s son and have faith that he overcomes the power of the world and even death for our sake. He gives us the commandments to help us live and grow as a community.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
1 John 5:3-6
The Holy Spirit helps us see the truth of this faith in the face of the doubt cast by the world. The world sees a condemned and executed man. The Holy Spirit allows us to see God’s son who accepts death to destroy the power of death over us. A growth in faith is the natural outcome of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. The world can point to a hundred details in the scriptures and whisper doubts from a dozen rational angles. But the Spirit allows us to bear the fruit of faithfulness. We see scripture, not with the eyes of the world, but with the eyes of faith.
Gentleness helps to temper our patience with the progress of others in the community. The Holy Spirit growing in us will bear the fruit of gentleness to build up where another is tearing down. We exercise patience with the faults of others. We do this in part, because we recognize our own faults that others must be patient with us. Gentleness in the face of these irritations makes us an example for the community. Gentleness increases the bond of love in the face of the irritation we feel.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Our fallen human nature responds in kind to the treatment we receive from others. The world would respond in kind to the irritation of another. The Holy Spirit helps us respond with gentleness in their presence. Over time this gentleness can then elicit the response in kind from others. But this is not always the case. Jesus was gentle as a lamb led to the slaughter during his passion. We must be prepared to follow that same example of gentleness in the world. But within the community, the Holy Spirit is working in everyone to bear the same fruit of gentleness. By responding with gentleness, we give the Holy Spirit in our neighbor the chance to work in return.
The fruit of the Spirit does have the effect of building up the community. But this is not a mechanical, automatic or instantaneous process. The effect of our bearing fruit on others is like the waves of the sea on the beach, slowly over time. And ultimately we have no control over the effect on others. Self-control is the fruit we can cultivate and see immediate results, because we have free will to control our own actions.
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:4-8
The Holy Spirit is building us up to become “partakers of the divine nature.” Self-control is a key to that fulfillment. The world teaches us to place yourself at the center of existence. You are then taught to try to control others for your own happiness. The Holy Spirit teaches us that God is the center of the universe and we are called to become one with the Trinity. Self-control is the key to becoming one with God. The first step to that unity is becoming one with the community.
Living the Gifts of the Spirit
With the power of the Holy Spirit from the descent at Pentecost the Apostles preached to the communities around Jerusalem. The gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism was shared with all who come to believe that Jesus is Lord and Christ.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
We are partakers in that same baptismal mystery. Accepting Jesus means to follow his commandments. We repent of our former “deeds of the flesh” and turn to the Holy Spirit for help to follow the commandments of Christ. At our Baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. As we turn more and more of our lives over to the guidance of the Spirit we will bear fruit. The fruits of the Spirit are evident to the everyone who sees us.
The Holy Spirit gives us this fruit for the building up of the community and ourselves. As fruit, they are visible to anyone who encounters us in our daily lives. The fruit is a visible sign of who is working in us. The Holy Spirit produces these fruits of the Spirit, the evil one produces the deeds of the flesh. Bearing fruit means more than paying lip service to following Christ’s commandments. We don’t just say we follow Christ, we demonstrate our following of Christ by bearing fruit.
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Christ knows even before his passion that some will confess with their lips but not with their hands. Bearing fruit is a requirement in following the commandments of Christ. The Holy Spirit dwelling and growing within us gives us the discernment and power to bear fruit. As we allow the Holy Spirit to grow within us, we bear more good fruit. In doing so, we become a source for building up the community.
When we receive the Holy Spirit we bear the fruit of the Spirit. Acting with love, joy and peace the Spirit works through us to unite us to each other and the very life of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit becomes manifest in the community through each individual believer. The result is what Paul asks us to pursue in his letter to the Philippians.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men.
The fellowship of the Spirit makes us live for the benefit of the community. We begin to see others as more important than ourselves. We reject those “deeds of the flesh” and become just like Christ, who showed us true humanity in likeness to God.
Come and Dwell Within Us
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Cor 12:13
In our Baptism the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us and we become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Virtually every prayer service of the Church includes a standard set of opening prayers that includes this one to the Holy Spirit as a constant reminder of our status.
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of Blessings, and giver of Life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.
We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and we can grow and cooperate with that Spirit to improve our lives. When we do, we are blessed with the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These help to build us up in the Lord, and not only us, but the entire community of believers with whom we are joined into one body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit Joins Us to the Lord
Our Baptism joins us to the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the head and we are members of Christ’s body. This intimate union with God comes with a responsibility to remain worthy of this gift. The acts we perform are not a mere bad reflection on Christ, but an actual involvement of his body in these actions.
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Cor 6:17-20
When we accept baptism into the body of Christ we no longer stand alone in the world. We are one with the community in the body and one with Christ as the head. The Holy Spirit lives within our body as a temple. The life we live is not our own. We are no longer individuals adrift in the world, but a part of the larger community. Any immorality we undertake is not our personal affair, but affects the whole body in the community and Christ himself as the head. When we engage in sin we are not making a personal choice, but are dragging the community and the Holy Spirit along for the ride.
The Holy Spirit Calls Us to Righteousness
Fortunately we are not alone. With our Baptism into the community, we no longer stand alone against the sin and temptation of the world. We stand in union with a body of believers who assist in our growth towards God. We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism that gives us the fruits to strengthen our resolve and build up the community. Even in times of trail, rather, especially in times of trial, the Holy Spirit provides the tools to endure and grow through the experience.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul spoke these words from prison. He was arrested and put on trail for following the way of Christ rather than keeping to the glory of the world. His union with the body of believers and the Spirit calls him to this witness. The realization that we are not alone, that our actions reflect on the community and ultimately on God himself, is our call to righteousness.
The Holy Spirit Strengthens Us
The challenge of righteousness in the world is not a burden simply dumped on our shoulders. The same Spirit that calls us to this righteousness is available to give the strength to persevere in the task. The unity of the body gives us access to the community for strength. The fruits of the Spirit that we bear build up the body. But at the same time, the rest of the community is bearing fruit on our behalf as well. While giving fruit to others we are receiving from everyone else at the same time. Thus in giving we receive back ten or even a hundredfold. In supporting the community, we are supported by them.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:26-28
In addition to the help from the body of believers, the Holy Spirit works within us. Being the temple of the Holy Spirit is not the burden of a command to be righteous. The indwelling Spirit supplies what is lacking. When we cannot find the words to pray, the Spirit takes our prayer to God. When we are burdened by the world, the Spirit carries us.
The Holy Spirit Sanctifies Us
Our baptism into Christ joins us to the community and Christ in the Holy Spirit. At our Baptism the community watches us renounce the world and accept Christ. We stand in the midst of the assembly holding the lit candle and promise to be part of that light of Christ for everyone present. We become adopted children of God and thus brothers and sisters to each other. The distinctions of the world are wiped away and the single body of Christ appears.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We sing this verse from scripture in place of “Holy God” during the baptism. We cloth ourselves in Christ and are no longer an individual, but a member of Christ. God has revealed himself as a Trinity, one God in three Persons. We don’t stand alone, we stand in union with all Christians. Not just our local Church, but everywhere and at all times, past, present and future.
The Holy Spirit blesses and sanctifies all that it touches. When the Spirit comes and dwells within us we are sanctified by the experience. An awareness of the Spirits presence in us can serve as a warning to us to avoid evil thoughts and deeds. A cooperation with the Spirit in us will give us strength in time of need to resist the temptations of the world.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
1 Thess 5:21-24
St. Paul’s admonition and prayer is for all of us at all times. Let’s adopt this prayer as our cry to God in the Spirit. Thus we will be found without blame when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again to call us to our eternal reward.
Charism of the Holy Spirit
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
1 Cor. 12:4-11
Charism is a free gift of grace of a special ability servicing the Christian community. The Holy Spirit is the source of this spiritual gift. The term comes to English from Greek. The NT uses this Greek word meaning a generous gift freely given to describe the action of the Holy Spirit in Christian ministry. This is often translated as gift or spiritual gift. Paul provides us a description of Charism and the list of gifts:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 1 Cor. 12:4-11
The Holy Spirit provides individuals in the community with the charism to build up the community in faith. One of the primary ways we still see this active in the Christian community today is in the leadership of bishops and priests. In advising the newly ordained Timothy, Paul reminds him of his charism and encourages him to grow and use this new found power.
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. 1 Tim 4:13-16
We see that the charism is a true gift that requires free will to exercise. Timothy has this power but can choose to neglect his charism, Paul encourages him. Timothy’s preaching and teaching flow from this spiritual gift. In this case the charism is supplied during the explicit laying on of hands during ordination, just as we do today. But the charism is not the exclusive property of the ordained. These freely bestowed spiritual gifts come to other Christian offices, like the prophets who singled Timothy out for ordination in this passage.
Many Members One Body
The Christian community is the body with Christ as the head. There is a diversity of function in different members of the body, but one Holy Spirit provides the charism to fuel these various offices. Only a small portion are called forth to ordination in ministry, but many others receive these gifts to build up the body of Christ.
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
The charism from the Holy Spirit also come to teachers, healers, prophets and others in the service of the community. We all receive the Holy Spirit and our bodies become the temple of this Spirit in baptism. As the need arises and we grow in this Spirit, we will receive the charism as needed to serve the community. A small number will receive this publicly by the laying on of hands but many more receive these spiritual gifts and quietly serve the people of God with this talent.
Love seals the Charism
Those who receive these special gifts from the Holy Spirit have free will in the use of the gift for their own growth. Paul follows his description and list of the charism with the encouragement to continue to grow in love, the summit of virtues. One must guard against the charism becoming a source of pride in our own ability. We may have this special gift that not everyone possesses, but we are still part of the same body and one with the community.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Cor. 13:2-13
Love tempers all that we do. Our growth in love and into the life of the Trinity must be continuous. The charism provided to an individual can be a source of that growth for both them and the community, if it is exercised with love.
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11
As we all grow in the spiritual life, let us make Paul’s prayer ours for the community.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 1:3-8
We ask for the Holy Spirit to provide what is lacking in the community. Give us the charisms needed for our communities on going journey to unity with the Trinity. Strengthen the resolve of those who receive this gift to use it in the building up of the community. Draw us together to increase our love for each other in Christ. Provide the grace to persevere in all tasks till the second coming of Christ, so that we too will be found blameless on that great day.
The Lifegiving Spirit of Pentecost
A Favorite in the Carpathian Highlands
Come, all you nations of the world, let us adore God in three holy persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–three in one. From all eternity, the Father begets the Son, egual to Him in eternity and majesty, egual also to the Holy Spirit, glorified with the Son in the Father, three persons, and yet a single power and essence and Godhead.
Vespers of Pentecost
The feast day hymns at vespers and matins concentrate on the actual descent of the Spirit and the revelation of the Trinity. They offer reflections on these theological topics for the feast. Our people in the Carpathians well understood these theological implications for the feast of Pentecost. Prominent in all our prayer books is the festal hymn of Pentecost “Hosts of angels on high.” This nine verse signature hymn of the feast is in all of our little prayer books and still a one of our most popular communion hymns. The refrain of the hymn explicitly calls each person of the trinity God and the nine verses sketch in brief liturgical poetry the heavenly praise of the Trinity.
The Trinity is revealed slowly over time. In the Old Testament God reveals himself as one God as opposed to a pantheon of gods. With the coming of Christ we see the second person of the Trinity in human flesh. God dwells among us here on earth and shares our experience. With the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the third person of the Trinity comes to every believer. In baptism the Holy Spirit dwells within us and we become temples of that same Spirit.
On Palm Sunday we accept Christ as king entering Jerusalem. We acknowledge his lordship over us in an event we connect to Pentecost by liturgical practice. We hold the branches and flowers and in some of our parishes we even wear the same green vestments. This kingship does not work out in the way of the world as we might expect, but the events of Holy Week demonstrate that kingship nonetheless on Pascha.
But there is another aspect of the Holy Spirit that captures the popular imagination and practice of the feast for us. On Pentecost Sunday we reintroduce this hymn to the Holy Spirit to the standard opening prayers for all our services.
“Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of Blessings, and giver of Life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.”
Vespers of Pentecost
From Pascha to Ascension the tropar Christ is Risen, is sung in the place of this hymn. From Ascension to Pentecost we simply skip from the opening blessing to the thrice holy hymn. This hymn is often used as a single opening prayer to sing before any meal, meeting or gathering throughout the year.
This hymn gives the various titles of the Holy Spirit and describes the actions of the Spirit in different ways. Each one of these titles and actions is a rich source of meditation and prayer in and of itself.
Holy Spirit: Giver of Life
While we understand the Trinitarian theology and main point of the feast, but the title that became the favorite in association with the feast of Pentecost in the Carpathians, “Giver of life.” This one small title in the opening prayer becomes larger than life in the liturgical actions of Pentecost, even if the theology of the Trinity is the focus of the liturgical texts.
Part of this emphasis is surely a carry over from our Jewish predecessors in this feast. For Jews the feast also has both a heavy theological theme and a life giving activity. Pentecost marks the reception of the law on mount Sinai and the first fruits of the barley harvest. Our matins make passing reference to these events on Pentecost morning. The feast of the law is every bit as important a theological theme for the Jewish faith as the descent of the Holy Spirit is for us. The first fruits festival is essentially identical to the Carpathian feast of Rusalia celebrated at this same time of year prior to the arrival of Christianity to our people. So there is a sound history for us to powerfully link the life giving aspect of God to this divine revelation of Trinity.
In the Carpathian mountains many of the Rusalia festival practices are adopted for this celebration of the life-giving Spirit. This association is only natural as the central figure of Rusalia are the water nymphs from the rivers and streams that give life to the fields. These are the same waters where some of our ancestors no doubt received the Holy Spirit in Baptism. That they already knew the Holy Spirit by another name in these same waters made the Pentecost transition that much easier for our people.
We emphasis the life giving aspect of the Spirit by decorating virtually everything with green and hanging green branches all around. The young maidens of the village would make wreaths out of vines and fresh flowers to wear on their heads. The wreath is a universal symbol of life from both the circular shape and the living plants.
Remembrance of the Dead
This celebration of life even extends to those who have already fallen asleep in the Lord. On the Saturday before Pentecost we commemorate everyone since the founding of our parish who has fallen asleep in the Lord. We visit the graves of our family on this day and decorate them with the greenery of life. The roll of the names is read and all are prayed for individually. In this liturgical act we affirm that they have been received into everlasting life in the Lord. We know from our experience on Pascha that death has no more power over us. We remember those of our family and friends that give us the good example. We await the day that we can join them in everlasting life.
On the Sunday after Pentecost, we broaden our horizon. We commemorate all the saints that have fallen asleep in the Lord throughout the whole world. We recognize that our local community is not alone, but part of a larger worldwide community of faith. The life-giving Spirit not only binds us to those who we know that have gone to their eternal reward, but also to the entire worldwide community.
The theology of our feasts is important to learn and understand. But our church also knows that theology is not a study in the abstract. Theology is rooted in our prayer and experience of God in our life and the life of the community.
“If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly you are a theologian.”
St. Evagrios 153 Texts On Prayer
We are all called to be theologians. We all pray truly to the one God in Three persons who sends us the life-giving Spirit. Our theology is not studied in the abstract, but lived out in the concrete of life. As we grow in understanding the practical effects of that growth will be evident in our lives. Our liturgical experience of the feasts in church is designed to make this transformation a reality.
Originally Posted March 21, 2009
Last Revised on August 15, 2010