The Life of the Church in the Holy Spirit (Part I)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
The New Life

The Church is surrounded by the sinful, unenlightened world; however, it itself is a new creation, and it creates a new life. And every member of it is called to receive and to create in himself this new life. This new life should be preceded by a break on the part of the future member of the Church with the life of "the world." However, when one speaks of the break with "the world," this does not mean to go away totally from life on earth, from the midst of the rest of mankind, which is often unbelieving and corrupt; "for them," writes the Apostle Paul, "must ye needs go out of the world" (I Corinthians 5:10). However, in order to enter the Church one must depart from the power of the devil and become in this sinful world "strangers and pilgrims" (I Peter 2:11). One must place a decisive boundary between oneself and "the world," and for this one must openly and straightforwardly renounce the devil; for one cannot serve two masters. One must cleanse in oneself the old leaven, so as to be a new dough (I Cor. 5:7).

Therefore, from the deepest Christian antiquity the moment of entrance into the Church has been preceded by a special "renunciation of the devil," after which there follows further the Baptism with the cleansing away of sinful defilement. Concerning this we read in detail in the Catechetical Lectures of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. In these Homilies to the Catechumens we see that the "Prayers of Exorcism," signify the banishment of the devil, which are in the present Orthodox service of Baptism, and the very "renunciation of Satan" by the person coming for Baptism, are very near in content to the ancient Christian rite. After this there is opened the entrance into the Kingdom of Grace, the birth into a new life "by water and the spirit," concerning which the Savior taught in the conversation with Nicodemus (St. John 3:5-6).

As to how the growth in this new life subsequently occurs, we know this also from the words of the Savior Himself: "So is the Kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (St. Mark 4:26-28). Thus all this new life--if only it is received inwardly, if a man sincerely desires to remain in it, if on his part he applies efforts to preserve it--acts in him with the mystical power of the Holy Spirit, although this invisible process can be almost unfelt by him.

The whole life of the Church is penetrated by the mystical actions of the Holy Spirit. "The cause of all preservation lieth in the Holy Spirit. If He think fit to blow upon a man, He taketh him up above on high" (Sunday Antiphon from Matins, Tone 6). Therefore, every Church prayer, whether public or private, begins with the prayer to the Holy Spirit: "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..." Just as rain and dew, falling upon the earth, vivify and nourish and give growth to every kind of growing thing, so do the powers of the Holy Spirit act in the Church.

In the Apostolic Epistles, the actions of the Holy Spirit are called "excellency of power" (lit., "superabundant power," II Cor. 4:7), "Divine Power" (II Peter 1:3), or "by the Holy Spirit." But most frequently of all they are signified by the word "Grace." Those who enter the Church have entered into the Kingdom of Grace, and they are invited to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16; see also Hebrews Chapters 10-13).

Grace

The word "Grace" is used in Sacred Scripture with various meanings.

Sometimes it signifies in general the mercy of God: God is "the God of all Grace" (I Peter 5:10). In this, its broadest meaning, Grace is God's goodwill to men of worthy life in all ages of humanity, and particularly to the righteous ones of the Old Testament like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, the Prophet Moses, and the later Prophets.

In the more precise meaning, the concept of Grace refers to the New Testament. Here in the New Testament we distinguish two fundamental meanings of this concept. First, by the Grace of God, the Grace of Christ, is to be understood the whole economy of our salvation, performed by the coming of the Son of God to earth, by His earthly life, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection, and His Ascension into heaven: "For by Grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Secondly, Grace is the name applied to the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been sent down and are being sent down to the Church of Christ for the sanctification of its members, for their spiritual growth, and for the attainment by them of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In this second New Testament meaning of the word, Grace is a power sent down from on high, the power of God which is in the Church of Christ, which gives birth, gives life, perfects and brings the believing and virtuous Christian to the appropriation of the salvation which has been brought by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Apostles, therefore, in their writings often used the word "charis," "Grace," as identical in meaning with the word "dynamis," "power." The term "Grace" in the sense of "power" given from above for holy life is found in many places of the Apostolic Epistles (II Peter 1:3; Rom. 5:2; I Peter 5:12; II Peter 3:18; II Tim. 2:1,1; Cor. 16:23; II Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:18;, Eph. 6:24, and other places). The Apostle Paul writes: The Lord "said unto me, My Grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9).

(To be continued)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

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. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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

+Father George