Sunday, May 31, 2015

"The Earth Has Become Heaven Today"

By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

In a famous speech of Saint John Chrysostom, where he speaks of the epidemic of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he says the following:

"The earth has become heaven today, not that the stars have descended from the sky to the earth, but the apostles have been raised to the heavens, because the grace of the Spirit has been poured out."1

From the day of Pentecost the All Holy Spirit, the Comforter, has been with us, "the Spirit of Truth, Who is everywhere present and fills all things, the treaury of good things and giver of life." He is Life and life-giving, Light and light-giving, Goodness and the source of goodness, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of prudence, God and god-maker, Fire and the fire-producer. This is what the hymnographers of the Church chant.

Saint Theodore the Studite will be our teacher on this great and illustrious day of our faith, for he is the poet of the antiphons, which are those hymns we chant every Sunday in the Service of Matins before the Morning Gospel. In one of these which is chanted in the fourth tone he says:

"By the Holy Spirit shall every soul be given life 
and be elevated through purification, 
and be made radiant through the mystery of the Triune Unity."

First, every rational soul with the presence of the Holy Spirit not only receives life by the creative word of God "be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth," but also the good life with the re-creation that takes place through the Mystery of Baptism.

And then, by our participation in the divine-working Mysteries of the Church, we are regenerated, brightened and illuminated, becoming ready to see the face of Christ, acquiring the space in our soul for the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is filled with life, as Christ said: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."2

Concerning this wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of each person and in particular the change it causes, Basil the Great says: "If through faith He receives a publican, he is made an evangelist [meaning Matthew the Evangelist]; if one is born a fisherman, he ends up a theologian [meaning John the Theologian]; if a persecutor finds repentance, he becomes an apostle to the nations [meaning Paul the Apiostle]."3

The Holy Spirit becomes rooted in the soul of every believer through the Holy Mysteries of the Church and spiritually transforms them: "He illumines all towards the understanding of God, the prophets He inspires, the legislators He makes wise, the priests He perfects, ... the righteous He establishes, the prudent He makes modest, He acts through the grace of healing, enlivens the dead, releases the captives, adopts the alienated."4 The Holy Spirit abides in the Church as its guide and inspiration, as the inexhaustible source of divine illumination, as the inexhaustible river of countless graces.

Conversely, when someone loses the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is the true life of the soul, according to the expression of the Holy Fathers, then they are spiritually dead, and they are separated from God. Saint Gregory Palamas calls this the primary death of the soul. The life of the soul is its union with God. The death of the soul is the presence of sin and the absence of God's grace.

It is precisely this truth that Saint John Chrysostom delivers: "When you hear about the death of the soul, do not think the soul dies, for it is immortal. The death of the soul is sin and eternal hell."5

Second, in this fog of sin, which is a disease of the soul, the Holy Spirit comes as a helper and assistance in our illness.

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness,"6 stresses the Apostle Paul. And he adds: "The Spirit Himself intercedes for us through groans that cannot be spoken."7

He helps us pray.

He leads us to repentance.

He gives us the remission of sins.

He is found in all the Mysteries of our Holy Church.

He gives us the air of spiritual freedom and opens to us the doors of salvation.

He even removes the barrier to holiness, since this is the goal of our life, namely theosis: "I have said you are gods and all sons of the Highest"8 and "Be holy for I am holy."9

This is why Saint Gregory the Theologian describes the Holy Spirit as a "temple-maker, god-maker, perfector."10 That is, He makes a person a place for Him to dwell, He perfects them, and He makes them gods by grace.

Third, the Holy Spirit, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite will interpret, according to the anavathmos of Saint Theodore the Studite, gives to us the purification of our nous and its elevation to heaven and illumination.

These energies of the Holy Spirit, the God-seeing Holy Fathers remind us, are not sensible.11 We cannot understand the energies with our reasoning, nor can we interpret them with our minds, because they are higher than our minds. They are sacred and divine. They are secret, and they abide secretly in the space of the soul with the presence of the Holy Spirit and with the participation of those who live in His presence.

Only the saints of the Church can understand what a person has within the heart. Elder Ephraim of Katounakia with the vehicle of prayer understood the state of being the one he was conversing with was in. "The fragrance of Christ," he would say. "His soul is fragrant, it has the grace of purity." Or he would say: "He has on him such a stench," which would come from the presence of impurity and sin.

This is why Basil the Great in his homilies on the Holy Spirit stresses: What cannot be seen by the world, can be seen by the saints through the purity of their hearts.

And yet, the patristic experience will attest, that which is visible to the saints of God, to others, namely the impure, it is invisible.

How can we describe our times today?

We are as a ship without lights at night under the threat of waves. "It is like navigating by night; no light to be seen; Christ asleep in the boat" (St. Gregory the Theologian).

This is because we believe in idols and not the true God.

We worship creation and not the Creator.

We believe in matter and the pleasure of happiness as the outlook of life.

We have used other messiahs and have not opened our hearts to the only Messiah who is Christ.

We have received a foreign way of life than that which is kept by the Church and lived by the Fathers.

This is why we have been miserably deceived and disappointed and we are now naked and humiliated in the eyes of the powerful of the earth.

The medicine? Our return to God and our repentance. It is that which the Apostle Peter stressed on the day of Pentecost: "Repent and be baptized, ... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."12 This is why our request to the Holy Spirit today should be the following:

"Come and dwell in us. 
Come the true light. 
Come eternal life. 
Come the resurrection of the dead. 
Come the Mighty One, Who creates all things and re-creates. 
Come breath and life, the consolation of my humble soul, 
its joy and glory and my perpetual delight."



1. "On Pentecost," Homily One.
2. John 10:10
3. "On Faith," Homily 15.
4. Ibid.
5. "New Ladder."
6. Romans 8:26
7. Ibid.
8. Psalm 81:6
9. 1 Peter 1:16
10. "On the Holy Spirit," Discourse 31.
11. "Interpretation of the Anavathmoi."
12. Acts 2:38

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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