The Eighth Day Word: On the Holy Spirit

Feast Day of the Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra

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WHO IS the Holy Spirit? What do we believe about the Holy Spirit? Where do we get our ideas about this invisible person of the Holy Trinity who is of the same substance as the Father and the Son? According to St Basil the Great (329 – 379 A.D.), we gather them from the Scriptures and we receive them from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. Here are just a few examples from Basil’s famous work On the Holy Spirit: “He waters those living in virtue with His life-giving breath and helps them reach their proper fulfillment. He perfects all other things, and Himself lacks nothing; He gives life to all things, and is never depleted. . . . He is the source of sanctification, spiritual light, who gives illumination to everyone using His powers to search for the truth—and the illumination He gives is Himself.” Basil concludes that all things that partake of the Holy Spirit’s grace are filled with joy. St Basil the Great asks: Are you partaking of the Spirit's grace? Read the full passage.

Basil goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit comes to us when we withdraw from evil passions, which alienate us from a close relationship with God. In Basil’s words, “Only when a man has been cleansed from the shame of his evil, and has returned to his natural beauty, and the original form of the Royal Image has been restored in him, is it possible for him to approach the Paraclete.” What happens after being enabled to approach the Holy Spirit through cleansing? Basil says you will be made into into a spiritual person: as a sunbeam makes a transparent substance brilliant and causes it to radiate light, “Spirit-bearing souls, illumined by Him, finally become spiritual themselves, and their grace is sent forth to others.” But that’s not all. Basil continues: “From this comes knowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of hidden things, distribution of wonderful gifts, heavenly citizenship, a place in the choir of angels, endless joy in the presence of God, becoming like God, and, the highest of all desires, becoming God.” St Basil the Great asks: Can you approach the Paraclete? Read the full passage.

Writing around the same time as Basil, St Macarius the Great (300 – 391 A.D) offers a strong echo of Basil. He describes the descent of the Holy Spirit as “a holy power that takes possession of the heart” and makes one “stronger than the enmity opposing him.” Moreover, Macarius goes on to say, the Paraclete not only strengthens one’s soul and heart and body, but also reveals heavenly things to the mind and heart and “establishes boundaries for the heart, that is, those things that make the soul and the other members pure.” St Macarius the Great asks: Has the Paraclete established boundaries for your heart? Read the full passage.

Reflecting on a phrase in the Epistle to the Hebrews that calls God a consuming fire (Heb. 12.29), Origen (185 – 254 A.D.) ponders the nature of this fire and the object of its consumption. Origen’s scriptural mind is immediately taken to the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians where we learn that fire comes to test our works (cf. 1 Cor. 3.12-15). “What is, O Apostle, this fire which tests our works? What is this fire so wise that it guards my ‘gold’ and shows forth my ‘silver’ more brilliantly, that it leaves undamaged that ‘precious stone’ in me and ‘burns up’ only the evil I have done?” Origen asks: What is this consuming fire? Read the full passage.

St Gregory Palamas (1296 – 1359 A.D.), in his homily on Pentecost, places us in liturgical time. Reflecting on the recently celebrated Feast of Christ’s Ascension (ten days before Pentecost on the fortieth day after East), Palamas suggests that we beheld Christ ascending just as clearly as those historically present at the ascension. How so? With the “strong eyes of faith.” And now, through the descended Holy Spirit, we are able to see the full implications of Christ’s incarnation and ascension: “we see . . . to what dignity He carried up the nature He assumed from us.” Having ascended to heaven in his divine humanity, Christ calls to us from the right hand of the Father: “If anyone wants to approach this glory, become a partaker of the kingdom of heaven, be called a son of God and find eternal life, inexpressible honor, pure joy and never-ending riches, let him heed My commandments and imitate as far as he can My own way of life.” St Gregory Palamas asks: Do you hear Him from the heavens? Read the full passage.

St Gregory the Theologian (329 – 390 A.D.), in his oration on Pentecost, begins with what he acknowledges as a digression by focusing on numerology—“we must labor for those who love speeches that we may, as it were, mix in some seasoning with the celebration” (if only more twenty-first century people had this kind of hunger for rhetoric!). St Gregory then notes that as the Pythagoreans honor the number four, the Hebrews honor the number seven, both in days and years. They honor the seventh day because it is the day on which God rested. And they honor the seventh year because it is a year of release (cf. Lev. 25.4). This honoring of the number seven, Gregory continues, brings with it the honor of Pentecost: “For seven multiplied by itself generates fifty minus one day, and this we have taken from the age to come, which is at once the eighth and the first.” The Hebrews, then, not only consecrate to God the first fruits of their harvest and their offspring, but also of their days and years. St Gregory the Theologian asks: Are you consecrating your days and years? Read the full passage.

If you aren't consecrating your days and years, begin today by consecrating this day to the Lord as the eighth day celebration of His resurrection; and consecrate this season of Pentecost to Him as a time to be filled with and illumined by the Holy Spirit. As we traverse through this season of Pentecost, may we walk in the steps of the apostles as wise, Spirit-filled fishers of men through whom Christ our God can continue fishing the universe.

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them Thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to Thee. —Troparion for the Feast of Pentecost


Erin Doom is the founder and director of Eighth Day Institute. He lives in Wichita, KS with his wife Christiane and their four children, Caleb Michael, Hannah Elizabeth, Elijah Blaise, and Esther Ruth.

 

 

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