Apr 15 2017

Part31: The Second Stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit P.6, 6- Pentecost and enlightenment (part 2), 7- The Holy Spirit and Prayer (part 1)

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed

Part Thirty One

CHAPTER 5

The second stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit.

(Part 6)

6 – Pentecost and enlightenment (part 2)

     The Holy Spirit and Understanding the Bible:

During this season of Pentecostal grace, the Holy Spirit opens our minds to the understanding of the Scriptures.  Difficulties cease to be difficulties.  It matters little if Babylonian myths be found in Genesis, or if the Song of Songs is a nuptial or love poem, but what matters is what the Holy Spirit guided the church to read into the sacred text, and the interpretation that He gives of it in our hearts.  A new, a quite personal and vital, relationship is established between the Bible and ourselves.  Under the letter which rightly engrosses the historians and philologists, the Holy Spirit reveals to us a hidden text, like the watermark in paper, telling us of the beloved Son.  This is what the Lord Jesus did with the two disciples of Emmaus when “He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24: 27).  The same experience may be our lot; to us also it may be given to say: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

As the soul becomes enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, she lives under a more or less habitual guidance of the Spirit.  And consequently, she is helped in her daily practical decisions.  She converses with her Lord: “while He talked with us on the road …” (Luke 24:32).  And she says with Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:9).  To the illumined soul the prophets’ words come true: “After those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; … No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord …” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).  And also: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you …” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We may ask here how to avoid the danger of being misled by the thoughts that dwell in our subconscious, presuming they are from the Lord?  The crucial answer here is that the tree is known by its fruits, as the Lord said, “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (see Mat. 7:16-18).  Either the fruit of selfishness and bitterness, or the fruit of love and joy, and these types of fruits reveal their source.  In addition, anyone who has had a genuine experience of talking with God knows our Lord Jesus when He speaks, has, if one may say so, a style of His own, which cannot be confused with any other.  Finally, we can, and often should, and must resort to getting some competent spiritual advice, and confront our “guidance” with the mind and tradition of the church.  This tradition is a sacred treasure in the eyes of the Orthodox Church.  We should not confuse the authentic tradition with legend or with routine.  The tradition is a continuous line of thought and prayer, and it is the way of the Apostles and the Saints, a way from which we cannot deviate without danger.  The tradition does not constitute an external law with which we have to mechanically comply, it is rather a living heritage which has to be freely received, consumed, digested and assimilated to build our lives, and also to be communicated honestly and sincerely to others.  Tradition and personal “guidance” complement each other.  St. Paul the Apostle expresses this in such an exquisite manner when he said: “that good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Tim. 1:14).  The tradition is the touchstone for the guidance we get within us, and the tradition helps us to interpret these tests correctly and properly.  On the other hand, each experience of guidance, no matter how it sounds simple, enriches and deepens the tradition of the Church and makes it more accurate in both understanding and application.

     Enlightenment and the Spiritual Father:

During the stage of enlightenment, the direction of a Christian person’s conscience exercised by a prudent and wise spiritual father may be a great benefit.  The mission of the father should remain to direct the soul to Christ and to associate her closely with Christ.  The soul must go beyond all human helpers, directly to the Light and Master within.  She must not depend on the spiritual father totally, in the spirit of passiveness and laziness, but should also struggle in prayers to find the inner guidance from the Lord Himself.  Listening to the voice of Christ within oneself and engaging in a dialogue with Him frequently, is of utmost importance.  A time should come when the soul can repeat the words of the Samaritans in the city of Sychar: “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him” (John 4:42).

7 – The Holy Spirit and Prayer

     Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Few prayers are directed to the Holy Spirit. In the prayers of liturgies (holy masses) used since the early centuries in all the churches, we find that prayers are directed either to God the Father in most of the masses, or to the Son, our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, in some of them, but we do not find among the ancient masses, as far as we know, any mass directed to the Holy Spirit. The main expression of Orthodox piety toward the Holy Spirit is found in the prayers of the feast of Pentecost in both parts: a Sunday mass in the daytime; the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and the evening prayers of the three kneelings in the afternoon of Pentecost.

But there is a small prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit in the third hour prayer (9:00 am): [O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who is present in all places and fills all, the treasury of good things and the Life‑Giver, graciously come, and dwell in us and purify us from all defilement, O Good One, and save our souls.].  This prayer we say on the occasion of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the third hour, on the Church meeting in the Upper Room, waiting for the promise of Christ to the disciples to send them the Holy Spirit.

We also use this small prayer to address the Holy Spirit in Midnight prayer.  We implore the Holy Spirit, Heavenly King, Comforter, and Spirit of truth, to dwell in us and cleanse us from all iniquities and deliver our souls.  We repeat this supplication to the Holy Spirit in the three services of the Midnight prayer.  The same prayer, addressed to the Holy Spirit, is used by the Greek Orthodox Church to open most liturgical prayers in the church and not only in hourly prayers.

There is another prayer, not directed to the Holy Spirit, but in it we ask our beloved Savior and God Jesus Christ to renew the Holy Spirit inside us.  We also say this prayer in the third hour of the day (9:00am), and the church prays it at the Pentecost.  The priest (or the person who is praying from The Book of Hours) says: [Your Holy Spirit, O Lord Whom You sent forth upon Your holy disciples and honored apostles in the third hour, do not take away from us, O Good One, but renew Him within us. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me].

This link between the Holy Spirit and praying alerts us to the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox spirituality.                                                                                    (To be contd.)

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To see all previous parts of this study of

Orthodox Spirituality

Go to: http://smofarchives.org/toc3.html or

http://smofonline.org/category/spiritual-books/orthodox-spirituality

 

   

Christ has risen from the dead.

By death He trampled death.

And to those who were in tombs He granted life.

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