Spirit-Born(e)

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On Being Spirit-Born(e), the Cost of Discipleship  — Grace is free but it is not cheap! — and Two Questions

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Acts of the Apostles 19:1-8

In those days, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

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Some say of Saint Antony that he was “Spirit-borne”, that is, carried along by the Holy Spirit, but he would never speak of this to men. Such men see what is happening in the world, as well as knowing what is going to happen. (Desert Fathers or Gerontikon, Sayings Of Anthony of Egypt, XXX)

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The presence of the All Holy Spirit in and behind the Acts of the Apostles and within the life of the Early Church is all pervasive and an impelling force. It is apparent that Christians in the Apostolic era were Spirit-borne and full of power to heal the sick and preach the Gospel within the living tradition. St. Paul in his missionary travels encounters at Ephesus some disciples of John the Baptist (Chapter 19:2) who had never heard of the Holy Spirit. He asks them directly: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered: “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit!”

Archpriest Michael Harper of blessed memory observes: “Why is that somewhat brusque question Paul’s first remark to them? There can surely be only one answer. They did not look as if they had! (received the Holy Spirit) Something was missing that ought to have been there, something that men were beginning to look for as  a distinctive mark of those who had had the characteristic vitalising experience of becoming Christians.” (Revd. Fr. Jonathan Hemmings, Fountains in the Desert, 85-6)

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Why would St. Anthony never speak of this Spirit-borne quality among men? 

Why today these miraculous gifts seem less evident in the Church?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One comment on “Spirit-Born(e)

  1. monkpatrick says:

    There is a general reluctance of the Fathers to speak of spiritual things to those in the world. This was because these men would be unlikely to accept or respect these matters and so may blaspheme God or the Spirit. It was felt better not to discuss these things until the person was of the right mind to accept them in faith. This was also true for a number of church mysteries such as the Eucharist in which a spiritual reality happens out of plain site or understanding of those focused on material things of the world.

    There are a number of reasons why the gifts are less evident in the Church today. One is a matter of faith and a worldly mindset; there are few saints today of the character of those in the past. Also, due to the cloud of witnesses that have gone before and the solid establishment of the Faith, there is less need of miracles to attract one to faith and blessed is he who believes without having seen.

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