My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY: THE ACQUISITION OF THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Saint Silouan the Athonite
[Attention please to those members of our Church who, although, baptized and raised in the Orthodox Christian Faith have neither understanding, nor any concept of the tremendous depth of Orthodox Christian spirituality. No other Christian tradition has it!]
The importance of man's free will in the working out of his salvation is paramount in Patristic tradition. A key term used in this context is the Greek word 'proairesis' (προέρεσις), which means 'faculty of free choice' or 'deliberative choice'. This emphasis on man's 'proairesis' appears throughout many writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church. The deification (theosis) of man thus depends on the voluntary submission of man's free will to the will of God. Saint Mark the Ascetic summarizes the Orthodox Christian view concerning the cooperation (synergy) between Divine Grace and man's free choice, "Grace has been given mystically to those who have been baptized into Christ; and it becomes active within them to the extent that they actively observe the Commandments of God. Grace never ceases to help us secretly; but to do good--as far as lies in our power--depends on us." [St. Mark the Ascetic, "On Those Who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works 61", The Philokalia, vol. 1, page 130).
The Experience of Divine Grace and Its Effect on Man
Saint Silouan says much concerning the personal experience of Divine grace. He explicitly refers to the soul's awareness of the tangible presence of grace, "And when the Lord enlightens you, your soul will feel the Lord...And this you will come to know of experience..." The experience of grace is proportional to one's humility. Such an experience is impossible to describe. Yet the soul directly senses its presence.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian emphasizes the necessity of such an experience. In the fifth chapter of the Ethical Treatises he stresses that the believer must sense the presence of Divine Grace within him. Indeed he uses the term 'sense' repeatedly. This particular teaching is directed to those who think that they can have Divine Grace within them without being aware of it. According to Saint Symeon, it is not a question of whether or not the believer 'is able' to have such an experience. He states that if one does not sense the presence of Divine Grace within him, then he must not consider himself 'spiritual.'
The grace of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the soul. The human body also feels its presence. This teaching on Divine grace pervading even man's physical body is already developed by Saint Macarius of Egypt. He clearly states that grace permeates all aspects of the human body, including the heart, the mind and even the thoughts of man. Divine Grace thus affects the dynamic dimension of man's deification (theosis) in Christ. Saint Silouan writes, "...he who feels grace in both soul and body is a perfect man, and if he preserves this grace, his body is sanctified and his bones will make Holy Relics."
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape In Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God,