Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Gift of Grace

Archpriest Nikolai Deputatov

Only through the action of the Holy Spirit the inner person grows stronger and renews each day, but the outer, physical person, i.e. the human flesh, the sensual, does the opposite. It decays and falls away (2 Cor. 4:16). How can the strengthening by the Holy Spirit of the inner person be observed? By the entering of Christ in the heart, by the establishing of Him in the inner person — preparing the person as a dwelling for Christ. Christians have received the Holy Spirit and have received Christ into their hearts (Heb.1:13). It is not thought or motive, demanded by Christ, which penetrates us, but Christ Himself, like a Living Entity, enters us. How Christ dwells in the human heart, listen to what He Himself says: "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John14:23). Christ enters the heart in the presence of grace found in the Holy Spirit, through faith. And the more our faith grows and strengthens, the more concentrated, more profound, more life-involving our communion with the Lord is. Christians become stronger in their inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is the preparation of the dwelling place for Christ in us. With the unfailing presence of Christ in our hearts, we will be powerful in the foundations and strong in our love, like a plant that has firmly rooted itself in the ground or a building with a sound foundation. These comparisons exemplify the stability, steadfastness and affirmation of Christian love. Christian understandings are supported by a Christian life. The strengthening of the inner person, receiving Christ into our hearts and having love abide in us-these are the necessary prerequisites for Christ’s indwelling. This is not an abstract concept, but a concept based on Christian experience. Having received the power, we become competent to comprehend the truth of Christianity. To comprehend the truth is to master it, to acquire it. It is essential to understand the truth of Christianity in accordance with all the saints. The comprehension of Christianity is acquired not "in some unusual way, set apart from others, but it matures and becomes absolute under the conditions of communion with all other Christians" (Bishop Theophan). An immeasurable element of understanding Christianity is Christ’s love, shown on the Cross, and consequently the love of God, Who sent His Son for the salvation of the world (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8).

Christ’s love surpasses the ordinary mind, the ordinary rational reasoning. But that, which is hidden from the natural human understanding, is revealed to the Christian, not fully though, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the indwelling of Christ, and through a true life in Christ’s love. That which cannot be comprehended in the normal way, is understood by the inner being, through life in the spirit. "Even though Christ’s love is above all human understanding, you will understand it through the indwelling of Christ in you" (St. John Chrysostom).

Perfection is infinite, but its ultimate limit and highest goal for Christians is the fullness of God’s blessings or blessed strengths from God, given to us in Christ. The highest virtue is humility — a modest perception of oneself, admitting one’s weakness, feebleness, poverty of spirit, meekness in thoughts and feelings. Christian humility rests on a most living understanding that everything a Christian has, he received through grace. The humble person recognizes his great Christian, spiritual treasure, but knows that he did not earn it, for it is given to him by the grace of God, because he, on his own, is powerless and weak. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: "Humility is seen when whoever is great, humbles himself; in recognizing his greatness he does not become vain." Humility is bound with wisdom, for whoever admits his own weakness, will then relate to others without anger and annoyance. After humility and meekness comes patience. On the one hand there is firmness, steadfastness and on the other generosity, patience, no harboring of ill feeling and the absence of revenge. Christian patience is not cold and heartless, but is full of love. If you do not have patience with your fellow human beings, how then is God going to show you patience? Where there is love, all can be endured. That is why the Holy Spirit is given, to reconcile people who differ in many ways. Just as there is our spirit within us, working in all parts of the body and is all unifying, so the Holy Spirit is given to us, the children of the Church, binding and forming us into one body, even though we are different in numerous ways. This unity is expressed in one common hope, emanating from the very calling of Christians. All are enlivened with the one hope, to be eternally in Christ’s Kingdom.

Those who have received the one Spirit and drink from the one source should not be divided. God enters and lives in us through the Holy Spirit, but works in us, reconciles and saves us through the Son. Christ the Savior gives to the faithful blessed gifts of the Holy Spirit by His own measure, so that they do not remain infants in faith, inexperienced youth, wavering and capable of digressing into all kinds of non-Christian ways, where Satan’s deceit entices the inexperienced by various means of guile and perfidy. All believers should be permeated by Christ, by His Spirit and be constantly striving towards Him and be enlivened by Him. Christ is the unchangeable goal in growth and maturity of all that is good within us. Everything is directed towards Him, as all emanates from Him and is perfected by Him…

How sweet it is to be with Christ and how unbearable is life without Him. He is our joy and comfort.

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