Today, the program of discussions led by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Building the Body of Christ, continued and concluded. Below are expansions of my notes for the first half of the day, which one should not take to represent precisely His Grace’s addresses to us. As notes usually, are, they pick up the gist of things, so must really only claim to be a set of somewhat interpretive abstracts. If I hear of recordings being made available, or transcripts thereof, I’ll post information on them. As in Part One, the “I” of these notes is Metropolitan Kallistos, not myself. We continue.
Saturday 23 February. Morning session: “Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in our Daily Experience.”
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 (keeping to my archbishop’s advice that every sermon have three points!) 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. The Sistine Chapel image of creation depicts Adam just after his creation, with the finger of God and that of Adam just touching—an accurate depiction of the Holy Spirit who puts us in touch with God and with one another. The writer J. V. Taylor called the Holy Spirit “the go-between God.” The current Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius IV, wrote, “Without the Holy Spirit God is far away. Christ stays in the past. The Gospel is simply an organisation. Authority is a matter of propaganda. The Liturgy is no more than an evocation, Christian loving a slave mentality. But in the Holy Spirit, the cosmos is resurrected and grows with the birth pangs of the kingdom. The Risen Christ is there. The Gospel is the power of life. The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity. Authority is a liberating service. Mission is a Pentecost. The Liturgy is both renewal and anticipation.
Human action is deified.” The Spirit makes what is far to be near, the past present. Christ without the Holy Spirit is merely an historical figure in the distant past. With the Spirit, he is present. Without the Spirit, the Gospel is only words. With the Spirit, they have life-giving power. Without the Spirit, the Church is only an organization. With the Spirit, it is Communion. Without the Spirit, authority is slavish rule-following. With the Spirit, it is sharing in divine life, divinization. Without the Spirit, mission is propaganda. With the Spirit, it is Pentecostal tongues of fire. Without the Spirit, liturgy is merely recollection. With the Spirit, it is present reality. Through the Spirit, clock and calendar time is turned to sacred time: once upon a time becomes today. Note in our services in Holy Week approaching Pascha, how often “today” is used. “Today, I rise in your resurrection.” The devil says “yesterday,” and wants us to feel regret or nostalgia; and “future,” so that we might feel anxiety. But the Spirit says “today.” The Patriarch’s speech can be summed up in one word: zoōpoion—the Life-giver who makes things alive for us.
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. We will discuss the relation of the two hands of God the Father: in baptism (this morning), and in the Eucharist (after lunch).
Is not baptism a neglected sacrament? We tend to regard it as a starting point in our infancy, left behind, without significance for the present moment and our life in Christ. St Gregory of Sinai said, “Prayer is the revelation of baptism.” St Kallistos and St Ignatius Xanthopoulos wrote of “the perfect grace of the Holy and Life-giving Spirit, conferred on us by baptism.” Our aim, then, is to return to the source: in our beginning is our end. Vladimir Lossky wrote, “Baptismal grace, the presence within us of the Holy Spirit—inalienable and personal to each one of us—is the foundation of all Christian life.”
[Metropolitan Kallistos then related an anecdote regarding himself, Philip Sherrard and Gerald Palmer, from the time of their beginning to translate the Philokalia, which, in keeping with its origin with St Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, they commenced on Mount Athos at the Hilandar monastery. After a day of translating work, they would sit on a balcony and enjoy the view of the hills at sunset, with a stream and lake below. The frogs would begin to sing antiphonally, first one side of the lake, then the other, back and forth, with a few deep-voiced soloists in the middle, all glorifying God. He told a story. Once there was an elder praying in a monastery, who was just finishing the midnight office, and about to commence matins, but the frogs were singing very loudly. So the elder asked the frogs to quiet down because he was about to begin matins. The frogs replied, "We have already finished matins and are commencing First Hour. Would you mind keeping quiet?"]
What does the immersion of baptism signify? The cleansing of sins, but also the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a passover, the end of one life, and the beginning of another. Gregory of Nyssa said the baptismal font is both tomb and mother. Paul said in Romans 6[.3-4] that we are baptized into Christ’s death, united with him in a death like his and a resurrection like his. In the earlier Church, baptism was held Holy Saturday night, when the Church was celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord. (This was later liturgically transferred to Holy Saturday morning.) As Paul said in Galatians 3.27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” But in baptism, the Holy Spirit is also involved. Not the prayer over the font before baptism, an invocation of the Holy Spirit: “Therefore, O King who lovest mankind, be present now by the descent of thy Holy Spirit.” We recall the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. As the Spirit descended on Christ, so he descends on us at the font, making the past present. The role of the Spirit is always to present Christ, always to change clock and calendar time into sacred time. Anointing with holy chrism is another example. Baptism and chrismation are really liturgically one, and were not counted as separate sacraments until the 17th century under the influence of Roman Catholic practice. Anointing is very clearly a Pentecostal event: “the seal of the Holy Spirit,” who descended in tongues of fire, descends on the newly baptized in chrismation invisibly, but with equal power, and makes us equally as responsible for the faith. First John 2.20: “You have been anointed by the Holy One.” All the senses are involved in this anointing, as all these are anointed: the forehead, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, breast, hands and feet. All is to be Spirit-filled. In baptism we put on Christ, but the Spirit-filled waters of the font are followed immediately by anointing with the Holy Spirit in the chrism. By virtue of our baptism, we are each of us christophoroi and pneumatophoroi, Christ-bearers and Spirit-bearers. This gift is complete at our baptism. We cannot add them, but only gradually discover them. St Mark the Monk said, “However far we advance in the faith, however great the blessings we attain, we never discover, nor can we ever discover, anything more than what we have already received secretly through baptism. Christ, being perfect God, bestows upon the baptized the perfect grace of the Spirit. We for our part cannot possibly add to that grace, but it is revealed and manifests itself to us increasingly, in proportion to our fulfillment of the commandments. Whatever, then, we offer to him after our regeneration, was already within us and came originally from him.” Become what you are. Mark sees Christian life as a journey, a mystical hidden presence in our life, a journey toward it active with full perception, consciousness and assurance, from unconscious to conscious. The whole of baptized grace can be summed up in the one sentence: Become what you are.
Question One: In the book by Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love, he described the special idea of divine eros. Is this the same idea or is divine eros a response in the human heart to the Holy Spirit.
Answer One: Two Greek terms for love are agapē and eros. The latter is more common in philosophy than the New Testament. Some differentiate them. The Fathers don’t, but understand eros is love of God “in a particularly intense form.” Maximus the Confessor develops the idea of eros as intense love for God, just as physical erotic love is an intense form of that kind of love. Yes, it can be associated with the Holy Spirit. Augustine in De Trinitate described the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, linking it with koinonia. He is a Spirit of communion. Augustine also links amor to the Holy Spirit: the Father is the lover, the Son the beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and Son. There are some disadvantages to this, but there are also some Eastern Fathers who adopt similar imagery, like Gregory Palamas, who applies eros to the Holy Spirit, possibly relying on Augustine (as De Trinitate was translated in the 13th century). Symeon the New Theologian says, “The Spirit is the desire (eros) which is within me.”
Question Two: On the unconsciousness and consciousness of grace within us from baptism, linked with Genesis 1.26, the creation of man.
Answer Two: All human persons are in the image and according to the likeness of God. God is a Trinity, so all of us have a link with Christ and the Holy Spirit. John 1.9: Christ was the true light, who illumines everyone, who comes into the world. The light of Christ shines upon all. The Holy Spirit is poured out upon all creation. The Holy Spirit was present in a special way at Pentecost, but was present before Pentecost, too, as it says of him in the Creed: “who spoke through the prophets.” The Holy Spirit cleanses us. The image of God obscured in us because of the Fall is rendered once more clean and shining. From the unconsciousness, striving actively through free will, we come to the conscious.
Question Three: On baptism as a decisive foundational event.
Answer Three: Lossky called it foundational. Anciently, baptism as an adult was very vivid. There was much fear in those days of the demonic, with the world thought of as in the hand of inimical forces. At baptism, a palpable sense of deliverance from all the dark forces around them was experienced, through their illumination.
Question Four: On the Holy Spirit revealing and inspiring mission. How do we best discern and cooperate with that?
Answer Four: This was mentioned in the Patriarch Ignatius message. A striking fact is that in the early Church there were no missionary societies. Mission was felt to be the responsibility of all Christians. Faith was spread through ordinary Christians, by personal contact. This was also not just by words, but by their lives. Others saw them as possessing some secret to a joyful life. One can thus evangelize through silence as well as word. We should not be afraid of sharing our faith with others, to say, “Come and see.”
Question Five: How can we, as prosperous Christians, share with others?
Answer Five: It is vital to make a distinction in our minds between what we want and what we need. There can be no solution to ecological problems without making this distinction. The Holy Spirit inspires sharing. The earliest Christian community shared all in common, though that didn’t last long. This changed, but should be a model for us.
Question Six: We say “I believe in one baptism.” If one has been baptized more than once, what do we make of that?
Answer Six: It was a strong conviction of the early Christians that baptism should not be repeated. It wasn’t too much of an issue until an inundation of heretics in the third century. Cyprian of Carthage said heretical baptisms were null and void, weren’t real baptisms. Stephen of Rome said schismatics could be received back by confession and chrismation. We follow the rules established by Basil, with his three categories of heretics and schismatics: 1.) Those who don’t believe correctly in the Trinity must be received by baptism. 2.) Those whose doctrine is otherwise false, but correct on the Trinity are received by chrismation. 3.) Schismatics whose faith is correct are received by confession, absolution, and a profession of faith. Modernly, the issue is how to apply these rules.
Question Seven: In the Divine Liturgy, at the invocation of the Holy Spirit, I feel him, but not in my daily life. What to do?
Answer Seven: That is a great blessing to build upon. Build upon your liturgical experience. But it is very important to avoid fantasy and self-deception. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of joy and exaltation, but he is also a spirit of sobriety.