The All-Holy and Life-Creating Spirit Our God (Part II)

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee. Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, O Treasury of every good and Bestower of life: come and dwell our souls, O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

All-Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, be gracious unto our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy Name's sake.

Lord, have mercy. (3)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, Which art in the Heavens...

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.




Beyond His general ministry in creation, there is also a special ministry of the Holy Spirit to those within the Church. For a description of this, we turn again to various Saints, beginning with Saint Seraphim's with Motovilov:

"But when our Lord Jesus Christ condescended to accomplish the whole work of salvation, after His Resurrection, 'He breathed on the Apostles, restored the breath of life lost by Adam, and gave them the same grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God as Adam had enjoyed.' But that was not all. He also told them that it was expedient for them that He should go to the Father, for if He did not go, the Spirit of God would not come into the world. But if He, the Christ, went to the Father, He would send Him into the world, and He, the Comforter, 'would guide them and all who followed their teaching' into all Truth and would remind them of all that He had said to them when He was still in the world. What was then promised was 'grace upon grace' (St. John 1:16).

On the day of Pentecost He solemnly sent down to them in a tempestuous wind the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire which alighted on each of them and entered within them and filled them with the fiery strength of Divine grace which breathes bedewingly and acts gladdeningly in souls which partake of its power and operations (cf. Acts 2:1-4). And this same fire-infusing grace of the Holy Spirit which is given to all, 'the faithful of Christ, in the Mystery of Holy Baptism, is sealed by the Mystery of Chrismation' on the chief parts of our body as appointed by the Holy Church, 'the eternal keeper of this grace'.

In The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned To It, Saint Theophan the Recluse writes:

Such a disposition of our soul [towards salvation] makes it ready for Divine communion, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, 'which has acted hitherto from the outside by arousing us, establishes itself within', not directly, but through the means of a sacrament [Mystery]. The believer repents, is baptized and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). This is the very action of Divine communion--living and active.

The spiritual classic Unseen Warfare makes a similar statement:

Thus teach the holy Fathers. Saint Diadochos is the most definite among them, when he says that before Holy Baptism Divine Grace moves a man towards good 'from without', while Satan is hidden in the depths of the heart and soul. But after a man has been baptized, the demon hovers outside the heart, 'while grace enters within' (Philokalia, 4.76).

Speaking of the manifestation of God's Grace in the Holy Mysteries, Vladimir Lossky writes:

"As He descended upon the disciples [at Pentecost] in tongues of fire, so the Holy Spirit descends invisibly upon the newly-baptized in the sacrament of Holy Chrism...The Holy Spirit is operative in both sacraments. He recreates our nature by purifying it and uniting it to the body of Christ. He also bestows deity--the common energy of the Holy Trinity which is Divine grace--upon human persons. It is on account of this intimate connection between the two sacraments of Baptism and [Chrismation] that the uncreated and deifying gift, which the descent of the Holy Spirit confers upon the members of the Church, is frequently referred to as 'baptismal grace.'...Baptismal grace, the presence within us of the Holy the foundation of all Christian life. (Mystical Theology).

The term 'baptismal Grace,' also appropriately called 'ecclesial Grace,' helps one to keep in mind an important distinction in the way God relates to those within the Church. Thus, Holy Baptism is the Mystery by which a person is incorporated into Christ, which is His Body, the Church (Eph. 1:22-23). By this Mystery, one is given the Holy Spirit and begins to participate as a new creation and 'human temples' (1 Corinthians 6:19) in the Divine Energies, or Grace, of God. This special impartation of and relation to the Holy Spirit can only be conferred by the Church.

What has been said thus far--especially the distinction between Grace upon and within--helps to provide a theological explanation for the existence of non-Orthodox Christians who undeniably exhibit the workings of Divine Grace in their lives. There are innumerable examples of believers who clearly appear to have had a deep relationship with Christ, as attested by their words and deeds...Of course, Orthodox Christians would readily disagree with many things these people wrote and did. Nevertheless--recognizing in them true feeling, piety, and love for God--we can rightly thank God for their lives and work, not presuming to know how He will judge them. In such people it is obvious that God has found hearts that are open to Him.

But Orthodox Christians should also say that this openness is in reality the reception of the external influence of God's Grace (Divine Energies) upon their lives, which is not the same thing as the internal working of ecclesial Grace given only through Baptism.

However, '[none] of them [found] themselves under the activity of the grace which is present in the Church, and especially the grace which is given in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church. They [were] not nourished by that mystical table which leads up along the steps of moral perfection.' (Father Michael Pomazansky) Outside of the Church one may be able to make some admirable moral and spiritual progress. One cannot, however, participate in the Grace-filled life of the Church--an existence that is immeasurably different than one finds in the 'mere Christianity' outside (Archbishop and Holy New Martyr Hilarion (Troitsky), Christianity or the Church? Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1985)--or, in this life, achieve the ultimate aim of the Christian Faith--deification (theosis).


When endeavoring to understand the Orthodox doctrine of Grace, one must keep in mind not only the unique Orthodox distinction between the Divine Essence and Energies of the Holy Trinity, but also the two ministerial aspects of the Third Person: the general (external) and the special (internal). The general ministry of the Holy Spirit applies to all of creation and involves a variety of salvific activities. Towards mankind His redemptive ministry is of an external nature. His special ministry--involving the internal operation of ecclesial Grace through initially imparted Baptism--is given to the organic members of His Body and continues in the mystical life of the Church, mainly through Holy Communion.

The Trinitarian ministry of the Holy Spirit is available to all. The Spirit of God operates externally upon all of mankind, bringing those who are willing, to the Son--Who is the Head of the Church, His Body; and once incorporated into Christ through Baptism--having been imbued with the Divine Energies of God--the newly illumined person is given access to the Father.

One should conclude from an affirmation that the Divine Energies of God act upon individual persons that the Christian group of which they are a member is therefore a "church" in the truest sense of the word. To affirm such would be to divide the indivisible--for the Church is one as Christ is one--and to allow an admixture of truth with error that denies the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide His Bride into all truth and preserve Her from error. (St. John 14:16, 26; 16:13; cf. also 1 Timothy 3:15; St. Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 2:15).

The Holy Spirit teaches the Church through the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the [Orthodox] catholic Church...The Church is taught by the Life-creating Spirit, but not otherwise than [has been taught] through the Holy Fathers and Teachers...The [Orthodox] catholic Church cannot sin or err or express false-hood in lieu of Truth, for it is the Holy Spirit Who forever works through the Fathers and teachers, Who faithfully ministers and protects Her from error. (Saint Justin of Chelije summarizing the Orthodox position on the infallibility of the Church with an excerpt from a recent Epistle of the Orthodox Patriarchs, in The Struggle for Faith, pp. 134-135.)

(To be continued)


The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

May the Lord God strengthen the Holy and Pure faith of devout Orthodox Christians, and of His Holy Church, this city and Parish, to the endless ages. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George