Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost: The Living Water of the Holy Spirit, by St Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 AD)

St Cyril (313-386 AD) was born into a Christian family in Jerusalem. He was ordained to the priesthood and given the special task of teaching those who were preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil. These teachings of Cyril were later collected and passed down to us. They are an important source for understanding the worship and teaching of the 4th century Church. 

In 348 Cyril became Bishop of Jerusalem, and ended up involved in the struggle against Arianism which denied the real divinity of Jesus. For a time the Arians were more successful, and Cyril and other orthodox bishops experienced persecution and exile. Cyril, in fact, was banished three times for refusing to accept Arian teachings. (Also, he was once himself wrongly accused of Arian sympathies!) 

After his third exile, he devoted himself to restoring the Church and the teaching of true doctrine. He participated in the Council of Constantinople in 381, which emphasized Jesus’ divinity and equality with God the Father. St Cyril died in 386, and is regarded as a Doctor of the whole Church. 

"The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life." (John 7:38)  

This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. 

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each person as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous. 

The Spirit makes one person a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one person's self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the need of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good. 

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well. 

As light strikes the eyes of one who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables that person to see clearly things he or she could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the one counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables that person to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.

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From the Taizé Community 

O living God,
come and make our souls temples of thy Spirit.
Sanctify us, O Lord!

Baptize thy whole Church with fire,
that the divisions soon may cease,
and that it may stand before the world
as a pillar and buttress of thy truth.
Sanctify us, O Lord! 

Grant us all the fruits of thy Holy Spirit:
brotherly love, joy, peace, patience,
goodwill and faithfulness.
Sanctify us, O Lord!

May the Holy Spirit speak
by the voice of thy servants,
here and everywhere,
as they preach thy word.
Sanctify us, O Lord!

Send thy Holy Spirit, the comforter,
to all who face adversity,
or who are the victims of men's wickedness.
Sanctify us, O Lord!

Preserve all nations and their leaders
from hatred and war,
and build up a true community among nations,
through the power of thy Spirit.
Sanctify us, O Lord!

Holy Spirit,
Lord and source of life,
giver of the seven gifts,
Sanctify us, O Comforter.

Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
Spirit of counsel and strength,
Sanctify us, O Comforter.

Spirit of knowledge and devotion,
Spirit of obedience to the Lord.
Sanctify us, O Comforter.


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