The Illumined and Perfected Spiritual Gifts and Ministries

Venerable Theophanes of Dochiariou of Mt. Athos

Venerable Theophanes of Dochiariou of Mt. Athos

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior

The Illumined and the Perfected Spiritual Gifts and Ministries
By Father Alexis (Trader), Monastery of Karakallou, Mouth Athos, Greece

"And this also we wish, even your perfection."--2 Corinthians 13:9

With this foundation in place, Saint Paul then note that although there are differences among the various gifts, ministries, and activities in the Church, they all have the same source. "The grace of the Spirit is one and unchanging; but energizes each one of as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:11). When rain falls on the earth, it gives life to the quality inherent in each plant: sweetness to the sweet; astringency to the astringent. Similarly when grace falls upon the hearts of the faithful, it gives to each the energy appropriate to the different virtues without itself changing." Here, we encounter more openly the idea of synergy that Saint Paul already pointed to in speaking about "not being carried away by the dumb idols." Simultaneously, Saint Paul emphasizes the sovereignty of the Spirit "that bloweth where it listeth." At each stage in man's spiritual healing, man offers up his good will and honest effort, but the Spirit effects the change through purifying, illumining, or deifying grace as He sees fit.

Having identified the Source of all true gifts, the Apostle Paul then speaks at length about the spiritual gifts describing their use, purpose, and relative importance in the life of the Church. The gifts themselves point to where the believer is found in the process of the healing of his personality. Among these gifts, Saint Paul numbers the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. The "word of wisdom" means to be wise and be able to make otherwise. This is a gift that the Apostles possessed and is observed in the very epistles of Saint John the Theologian and Saint Paul. The word of knowledge, on the other hand, is the knowledge of and ability to recognize the Truth, but not necessarily the ability to express it. Following these teaching gifts, Saint Paul mentions faith that is able to move mountains, healing, and the working of miracles. Whereas healing refers only to the restoration of health, the working of miracles includes the grace to bind or punish as well. The latter gift Saint Paul employed when he blinded the sorcerer and Saint Peter did so when at his word Ananias collapsed and died. The gift of comprehensibility observed on Pentecost as a type of clairvoyance would seem to be a positive manifestation of the more general category of working miracles. Prophecy, whose source is a direct experience of revelation, the glory of Christ, refers mainly to the ability to express the will of God at every moment and place ("thus saith the Lord"), but also to the ability to interpret the Prophets (having seen the same vision of Christ as they did) and to see the past and future as present. Discerning the spirits refers to the ability to discern who is genuine and who is not, who is a prophet and who is not. Kinds of tongues refers to the ceaseless prayer of the heart in the Holy Spirit, whereas the interpretation of tongues to the translation of that prayer or hymn into audible prayer as expressed by the hymnology of the Church. Father John Romanides further notes that "the difference between those who prophesied and those who interpreted was that the first had direct eyewitness experience of the Truth of Scripture and knew exactly how he reached glorification and so could guide others unerringly in the same experience. Those who interpreted Scripture did so with the guidance of the Holy Spirit praying in the heart and under the guidance of the prophets and apostles.

The list of gifts, however, is not unique in Holy Scripture. Both Saint Gregory Palamas and Peter of Damascus note that the Prophet Isaiah has another such list that includes the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of the fear of God. And these "spirits" known as the "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit" are the energies of the Holy Spirit that act in purified man. These gifts are not seen as "supernatural powers" that the believer can wield when he enters some semi-conscious "mystical state," but quite simply ministries or capabilities (diakonia) with which the believer is entrusted in order to serve and minister unto his neighbor. As Christ came "not to be ministered unto, but to minister," so the Christian who is purified of the passions and illumined by the grace of the Holy Spirit is able to employ the gifts he receives from Christ in like fashion, in a self-offering of love (agape). If the gift received is not used to edify, it in fact will be to the condemnation of they who received it. For this reason, Saint Theognostos advises "do not even ask for spiritual gifts unless they contribute to your salvation and help you to remain humble." If the gifts are not "equal," this is due to the fact that "the vessels of the Spirit are not equal." Saint Macarius of Egypt expresses this insight in this way, "Just as many lamps may be lit from the same oil and from a single light, and yet often do not give out an equal radiance, so the gifts that come from different virtues reflect the Light of the Holy Spirit in different ways.

(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. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--St. John Chrysostom


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

+Father George