Friday, January 7, 2011

Christ, the sender of the Spirit

Notes on chapter four of Orthodox Spirituality: An Outline of the Orthodox Ascetical and Mystical Tradition, "Christ, the sender of the Spirit".

  1. The grace of Pentecost. "The grace of Pentecost follows and completes on the grace of Baptism." Water and Spirit are linked numerous times in Scripture. Chrisma (the Eastern equivalent of Confirmation) is the "external expression of the mystery of our participation in the Holy Spirit", though, as with baptism, the Spirit cannot be "exclusively identified" with Chrisma (i.e., others are given the Spirit apart from it). "The Holy Ghost does not replace Christ and does not serve as His substitute, but He prepares us for Christ and achieves in us the Parousia, the eternal coming and Presence of Jesus the Lord."
  2. The Anointing. "Our Chrismation is an extension of, and a sharing in, the unction of our Lord [Christos, the Anointed] with the Holy Ghost, accomplished by the Father." "The sacramental link between the Spirit and the oil or balsam of Chrisma or Confirmation was sometimes conceived by the Fathers as being parallel to the link between Christ and the Eucharistic elements", though the Orthodox church proposes no theory about the relationship.
  3. The seal. The Holy Ghost is spoken of in the Scriptures as a seal, but as a seal with reference to Christ. "The sealing by the Holy Ghost means therefore that the Spirit imprints on us the Father's likeness, that is, the Lord Jesus Himself." "In the Orthodox Church, the priest anoints the Christian's organs of sense, saying at each anointing: 'The seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.'" This sealing is both ascetical and mystical. Ascetical in that we dedicate our senses to God, shutting out from them anything opposed to God. The mystical aspect is discussed next.
  4. The new spiritual senses. This gift of grace is the "opening of our senses to realities until then unperceived, untasted." This is not merely symbolic. The lives of the saints provide evidence of the physical senses opened up to spiritual realities, e.g., visions, voices.
  5. Charismatic life. The gifts of the Spirit are given to the Church for all times. The Orthodox church does not have a rigid enumeration of these gifts. Their purpose is "the sanctification of the man who holds it and ... the edification of other people." Though these gifts are normally manifested in saints, there is also a communication of Pentecostal grace in the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons, i.e., they are not mere administrators. The reason these gifts are seen as exceptional today is our lack of faith. The Eastern church is much more open to asking for the demonstration of these gifts than the Western church, though she agrees that the gifts are not the aim of the Christian life. The gifts and miracles of the Spirit are "a return to the primitive, free state of creation, i.e., a world entirely transparent to the glory of God." The saints and charismatics "are the liberators of the world."
  6. Pentecost and Illumination. "If Baptismal grace mainly corresponds to what has been called the way or life of purification, Pentecostal grace corresponds, rather, to the illuminative life. At this stage, spiritual life becomes less subjective. Our doubts, difficulties, and emotional flights cease to be foremost." The experience of the divine darkness is the beginning of the illuminative life in which the Holy Ghost works directly upon the soul. [Comments: This is perhaps at odds with (what I believe is) the Lutheran view that God only works through means, not directly. But, then, Lutheran theology is uncomfortable with mystical experience while Orthodoxy clearly is not.] "Under the touch of the Spirit, the soul acquires an acute penetration, an inner and experimental knowledge, of divine things." The soul is given the discernment of spirits, knowledge of hidden things, understanding of Scripture, and habitual guidance in daily life. We recognize the true voice of the Lord in these experiences by determining whether it produces the fruits of the Spirit and by discussing it with our spiritual father, who consults the wisdom and tradition of the Church.
  7. Praying to the Holy Ghost and Praying in the Holy Ghost. The Orthodox Church has few prayers directly addressed to the Holy Ghost. It does practice prayer in the Holy Ghost, in which "the words and the intentions are not our own, but are given by the Spirit, or a praying silence in which the soul unites herself to the unknown and continuous prayer of the Spirit."
  8. The Christ of the Spirit. This section is discussed here.

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I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.