Monday, June 13, 2011

The Holy Spirit shows us the face of Christ

"Descent of the Holy Spirit", Giorgio Vasari,
Santa Croce Church, Florence, Italy, 16th century.

Over at the Biblicalia blog there are notes of discussions on the Holy Spirit led by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at Building the Body of Christ: A Weekend of Spiritual Enlightenment, hosted by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascenscion in Oakland, California in February 2008. All the notes are well worth reading. Here are some of the things Kallistos Ware said in the second session about the Holy Spirit:

My grandmother long ago once wondered, "Why is the Holy Spirit never mentioned in sermons? Hearing of Him is liking hearing news of an old friend one hasn't heard of in a long time."

We will hear of news of this old friend today. St Symeon the New Theologian wrote this invocation to the Holy Spirit:

Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly your create,
refashion and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved,
yet at every instant you are wholly in movement;
you draw near to us who lie in hell,
yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips;
yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.

Notice three things that St Symeon says regarding the Holy Spirit:

1.) Symeon speaks of the Spirit as light, joy, glory, endless delight, rejoicing without end, and so on. Saint Seraphim of Sarov said that the Holy Spirit fills with joy whatever he touches.

2.) The Spirit is also full of hope, for he looks forward to the age to come.

3.) There is also the nearness yet otherness of the Spirit. He is "everywhere present" [from the prayer, O Heavenly King] yet mysterious and elusive. Symeon calls him "my breath and my life," "hidden mystery," "beyond all words," "beyond all understanding." We know him, but we do not see his face, for he always shows us the face of Christ. Like the air around us, which enables us to see and be seen, he is transparent and enables us to see and hear Christ. He is not to be classified, baffling our computers and filing cabinets. As the Lord said, "The wind blows where it wills, snd you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes" [Jn 3.8]. As C. S. Lewis wrote in the first of his Narnia Chronicles books, Aslan "is not a tame lion." The Holy Spirit is not a tame spirit, either. The Spirit makes Christ close to us, establishing that relationship.

There are two fundamental things about the Holy Spirit:

1.) He is understood in Scripture and Tradition as a Person, not just an impersonal force. Christ is obviously a Person. It is not as obvious with the Holy Spirit, but he is a Person in the experience of the Church. Note Ephesians 4.30: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Impersonal forces do not feel grief, do not feel love. You may love your computer, but your computer does not love you. Our sins, selfishness, and lack of love cause the Holy Spirit grief. He weeps over it.

2.) The Holy Spirit is equal to the other two Persons of the Trinity. From the Creed: "worshipped and glorified together with the Father and the Son." Together, not below. Also, "Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," all on the same level.

Gregory of Nyssa said, "Never think of Christ without the Holy Spirit." We could reverse that too: never think of the Holy Spirit without Christ.

Irenaeus described the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father, who always uses both hands together. To better understand the Holy Spirit's work, look at the cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Son.

In the Creed: "incarnate by the Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary." In the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit sends Christ into the world.

The Troparion for Theophany: "When you, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness unto you, calling you the beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed His word as sure and true." The Spirit descends from the Father and rests on the Son, the same relationship as in the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit sends the Son into public ministry.

In the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ as a cloud of light, as understood by the Fathers.

In the Resurrection, Christ is raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans [1.4] calls Christ "the Son of God in power according to the Spirit."

In the Incarnation and Baptism, the Holy Spirit sends Christ into the world. In Pentecost, Christ sends the Holy Spirit to his disciples, and thence into the world. In the First Gospel reading on Holy Thursday evening [Jn 13.31-38; 14.1-31; 15.1-27; 16.1-33; 17.1-26; 18.1] we hear "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. He will bear witness to me. He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you [Jn 14.26; 15.26; 16.13-14]. The Holy Spirit testifies not to himself but to Christ, in a natural diakonia.

Christology and Pneumatology are inseparable. The Holy Spirit, the go-between God, establishes the relationship between us and Christ. He shows us not his own face, but the face of Christ.


Post a Comment