It has been such a hectic week with me returning hastily back ‘home’ due to the sudden deterioration of my Father’s condition! A glorious week too, full of the honouring of the Holy Spirit in so many church services, the climax of the Orthodox liturgical cycle: Pentecost and the Descent of the Holy Spirit!
Giver of life: come, and abide in us
Then Father Seraphim took me very firmly by the shoulders and said “my son, we are both at this moment in the Spirit of God. Why don’t you look at me?”
“I cannot look, Father” I replied – “because your eyes are flashing like lightning – your face has become brighter than the sun, and it hurts my eyes to look at you.”
“Don’t be afraid” he said, “at this very moment you yourself have become as bright as I am. You yourself are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God; otherwise you would not be able to see me as you do.”
Then – bending his head toward me, he whispered softly in my ear: “thank the Lord God for his infinite goodness toward us… But why, my son, do you not look me in the eyes? Just look and do not be afraid; the Lord is with us.” (St Seraphim of Sarov and his encounter with Nicholas Motovilov)
Let us bow mystically to the Comforter and listen attentively to a fascinating testimony by a fascinating ‘convert’: Father Michael Harper. Crystalline Orthodox insights, such as probably only ‘converts’, or at least, they more often than ‘cradle’ Orthodox, may provide.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind (ie. “Kathaper feromenis Viaias [Violent] Pnois”), and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2)
“Kathaper feromenis Viaias Pnois” — Violent is truly the proper translation of the original Greek word, not just ‘mighty’!
“Most will agree that the Church which through the centuries has most fully honoured the Holy Spirit, and brought Him most fully into its worship, life and ministry has been the Orthodox. Let us look briefly at five areas where this is clear:
First, there has been the strong emphasis in the whole life of the Church on the Trinity, which sees the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as co- equal. The Church has also condemned the insertion by the Western Church of the filioque clause into the Nicene-Constantinople Creed, which weakens the co-equalness of the Persons of the Trinity.
Secondly, the Orthodox Church has always emphasised the Incarnation and thus the work of the Holy Spirit in the conception of Christ in the womb of the Theotokos, the God-bearer.
Thirdly, the Orthodox Church has been the only Church to continue the practice of Christian baptism as the three-fold immersion of the candidate in water, followed immediately by chrismation symbolising the reception of the Holy Spirit and followed then by the candidate receiving their first communion. Again the Holy Spirit is active in the whole Baptism process.
Fourthly, in the Orthodox Eucharist (of St John Chrysostom), which is seen by the Orthodox as the heart of the Church, the service is interspersed with many references to the Holy Spirit. It begins, for example, with a prayer to the Holy Spirit which is unique in liturgical practices:
O heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: come, and abide in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O good One.
In the Russian tradition the following words are spoken by the Priest just before the Epiclesis: “O Lord, who at the third hour didst send down upon thine apostles thy Holy Spirit: take not the same from us, O good One, but renew him in us who pray unto Thee.”
Then follows the important epiclesis prayer which the Priest says, “send down thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts spread forth.” Notice it is a prayer for the Holy Spirit to come upon the people as well as the bread and the wine. Earlier in the service, if there is more than one Priest at the service, a dialogue takes place:
Pray for me, brother(s) and concelebrant(s)
May the Holy Spirit descend upon thee and the power of the Most High overshadow thee
May the same Spirit serve with us all the days of our life.
In another place the Priest prays that “the power of the Holy Spirit” will enable him.
Fifthly,… For the rest of the article, go here