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 FRUIT OF PENTECOST: THE HOLY SPIRIT AND HEALING
By Fr. George Morelli (Source: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America)
The Gospels of the Sundays after Pascha in the Eastern Church deal with brokenness, hope and healing, illnesses first appear to be-physical ailments, such as of the paralytic and the blind man, yet Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ when healing always focused on the healing of the soul. Yes, He did cure some who had physical ailments, but His overriding concern was the spiritual infirmity and disease of sin. This is so clearly seen in His message to the paralytic: "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befalls you" (St. John 5:15). The meaning of the great Feast of Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Disciples in the upper room 50 days after Pascha, may give us some insight into our Lord's focus on spiritual healing.
To understand the meaning of Pentecost and healing we have to go back to Saint Luke's recording of the Mystical (Last) Supper, and the Priestly prayer of Jesus at the supper, told to us by Saint John that we read as part of the Twelve Passion Gospels on Holy Thursday evening of Holy Week. This was the Passover meal in which Our Lord, God and Savior would change ordinary bread and wine into His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and which He ordained, that is, commissioned His Apostles, and in turn their successors, to "do this in memory of me" (Him). Remember His Divine words as Saint Luke records (22): "And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."
We learn from the Gospel of Saint John the Evangelist, the Beloved Apostle, that the Apostles had no understanding of the significance of what Jesus had just done. Jesus tells them He will send a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but until the Holy Spirit's coming the Apostles and Disciples would remain blind. Saint John records the words of Jesus: "If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even this Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you." I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all that I have said to you" (St. John 14:15-18, 26).
The account of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is given in the Feast's epistle, as described by Saint Luke in the Acts of the Apostles; "When the day of Pentecost had come, the Disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:1-4). And where did this flame rest? In the heart of those who love Christ. Jesus Himself told us: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (St. Matthew 5:8)...If God comes and indwells in us, He rests in our hearts.
Barrier to the Vision of God From our Heart
"He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'." Sometimes when we hear a word so frequently we take the word for granted. In modern research psychology this process is called habituation. Habituation may be considered a progressive attenuation of a response with repeated stimulus presentation. As a stimulus, "a word" that is repeated becomes in a practical way "less meaningful." One word we hear frequently in the teachings of Our Church Holy Fathers and in various sermons and homilies is "heart." In the secular world "heart" and its companion "love" are probably some of the most frequently used in words in verse and song: they become so common, so trivial. After a while we take such utterances for granted and these words become so meaningless. Consider Our Lord's counsel to the assembled crowd: "And in praying do not heap us empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (St. Matthew 6:7-8). Repetition by itself yields "empty phrases."
Guarding the Heart
This is not so for our holy spiritual fathers. They call heart: the center of the human person" (Saint Symeon the New Theologian), the source of life for the body (St. Nikephoros the Monk), the innermost body within the body and the source of [both] good and evil thoughts (St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia IV), the inner shrine of the heart, (St. John of Karpathos, Philokalia I) Christ dwells in the heart (Saint Hesychios the Priest, Philokalia I), descending into the heart (St. Symeon the New Theologian, Philokalia IV), and the greatest of prayer is prayer of the heart, (St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokolia IV). It is our needs in the heart that the Father knows of before we ask Him. Concerning our needs Jesus Himself said: "And your heavenly Father knows that you need them all" (St. Matthew 6:4).
It might be said that the spiritual Fathers of the Church considered that the heart is healed by guarding its center. Saint Hesychios the priest tells us about what he calls the "circumcision of the heart": "the guarding of the intellect is a watchtower commanding a view over our whole spiritual life." The good Saint also asks us to reflect on the importance of a spiritual watchtower to look out and protect the city of our soul (its heart). Samuel recounts: "Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked..." (2 Samuel 18:24). We have to look, to watch, see and discern what will harm or cure our souls. (Philokalia 1).
These few phrases chosen from myriad teachings of our Holy Fathers contain the essence of our Lord's message: that the guarding of our hearts leads to our theosis or deification or sanctification. Does this happen by itself? Is what it takes to heal the heart and the healing itself a product of mere natural human effort? On Pentecost the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and Disciples, making clear to them the meaning of Our Lord's teachings. How fitting it is on Pentecost Sunday that the Church gives to us a gospel reading dealing with the essence of our salvation: the heart and how it is has to be perceived--not in some superficial human way, but as a focused watchfulness.
(To be continued)
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God