The feast in honor of the Holy Spirit, “one of the Trinity of God, one in honor, one in essence and one in glory with the Father and the Son” is celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost. This feast has been established by the Church “for the majesty of the Most Holy and Life-creating Spirit, for He is one of the Holy and Life-originating Trinity”, in reaction to the teaching of the heretics who rejected the divinity of the Holy Spirit and that He is equal-in-honor with God the Father and the God the Son.
“The Holy Spirit”, as it says in the Synaxarion, “is called the Comforter because He can encourage and calm us; we received Him ‘in place of Christ’ and through Christ we have Him; He intercedes before God for us with unspeakable sighs as the Lover of mankind, interceding for us in exactly the same way as Christ, for He is the Comforter. Therefore the Holy Spirit is called the other Comforter; wherefore the Apostle says: ‘we have the Comforter Jesus before God’. He is called according to the unity in essence; wherefore in one sense ‘one and the other’ we understand identical and consubstantial, and the words ‘one and the other’ is about various natures. This Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son in everything; He therefore accomplishes everything with Them, even the future resurrection, and everything that He wants, He creates, sanctifies, divides, renews, sends, makes wise, anoints the prophets, and briefly to say: does everything, being all-powerful, omnipotent, good, correct, and reigning. Through him is granted every wisdom, life, activity, as He is the source of sanctification and all life. In general He has everything that Father and the Son has “except for being unbegotten and begotten”, proceeding only from the Father.* When the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh, then the world was filled with every kind of gift, and through Him all peoples were guided to the knowledge of God, and both any illness and any infirmity are driven out.”**
* St. Athanasius says: “The Holy Spirit is from the Father. He is not made, He is not created, and He is not begotten, but proceeds.” But what the procession of the Holy Spirit from Father consists in is incomprehensible for us, as the birth of the Son is also incomprehensible. “Though we are taught”, says St. John of Damascus, “that there is a distinction between birth and procession, we do not know in what the paradigm of this distinction consists.” Therefore the Orthodox Church never dared to subject this mystery of the Divinity to human deliberation, but has always confessed and confesses what agrees with the teaching of our Savior Jesus Christ (Jn. 15:26).
** The Christian being informed in the mysteries of the church, the Holy Spirit enriches him with many various gifts, from which, according to the teaching of the word of God (Is. 11:1-3), the most important of them: “the Spirit of the fear of God, the spirit of knowledge, the spirit of might, the spirit of counsel, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of the Lord, or the gift of piety” (Orthodox Catechism). The spirit of the fear of God is the gift expressing that attitude of the soul in which the person is frightened by breaking the Law of God and constantly keeps in himself the feeling of awesomeness before God similar to Enoch who “walks before God” (Gen. 5:24). The spirit of knowledge or of leading is the gift to learn the Divine truths necessary for the salvation of the person. The spirit of power or of might is the gift by which the person with spiritual courage eliminates all obstacles and overcomes all difficulties in the ascetic efforts of Christian virtues. The spirit of counsel is the gift of sensible attitude to calling and duty and the ability correctly to reason and resolve the confusion he meets on the way of his own salvation and the salvation of his neighbor. The spirit of understanding is the gift of the deep knowledge of the subjects of faith and Christian life, the gift to deeply understand things and to judge actions not only according to their external attributes, but also intelligently to penetrate the very essence of things and to state a true estimation of all. The spirit of wisdom is the gift of knowledge of the divine truths, to rightly use them for salvation and to go for it in the correct way, not inclining to the erroneous and false road. The spirit of the Lord is the gift of deep piety and beneficial penetration of all the spiritual powers of the person through the inspiring of the Holy Spirit, directing the Christian in the service and ascetical efforts of holy zealousness according to God. “All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, apportioning to each one as is pleasing to Him” (1 Cor. 12:11). Enriching the person with spiritual gifts and growing spiritual fruits in him, the Holy Spirit adorns the person with many various virtues, and makes him, according to Holy Scripture, like the good tree, bearing good fruit (Mt. 7:16). It is also an essential attribute of penetration of the person by the Holy Spirit, where such a person will both think and feel and wish only that which is suitable to God, aspires to the spiritual blessings; but similarly those not having the Spirit of God live only according to the flesh, think only about the carnal, cares about terrestrial and is satisfied only by the terrestrial. Therefore, the life according to the Spirit is also clearly found in the fruits of Spirit. The Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians, listing the carnal deeds of an unworthy Christian, opposes to them the deeds of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, mercy, faith, meekness, abstinence” (Gal. 5:22-23).
Any of us can test ourselves according to these fruits: do we live and act according to the Holy Spirit? Whoever feels that his heart is opened for love for the Grantor of all blessings, for God and neighbor, for the love which is the beginning and root of all virtues, “in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14); by which the soul is filled with joy, nourished with living faith in the Savior and hopefully on the great promises of God; who by faith in Jesus Christ, having reached atonement with God, feels peace with himself, with his own conscience, with his neighbor; who in grief, illness, persecutions and other tests transfers to the account of the Lord without murmur, irritation and complaints; who shows kindness to neighbor, condescending change, brotherly affection with tenderness (Rom. 12:10); who, seeing the needs of the neighbor, sincerely perceives the need to come to him fully ready to aid him according to the measure of his power; who, being himself an open mirror for others in his deeds, speech, thoughts, in all movements of soul, is foreign to suspiciousness for his neighbor and relates to him with childlike trustfulness; whoever covers the infirmity and wrongdoings of his neighbor with condescension, avoids in his relations with them any quarrelsomeness and wrath and whoever, finally, will keep moderation in the satisfaction of carnal needs and using innocent pleasures – in those the Holy Spirit abides through His own grace.
And the Lord does everything that we be spirit-filled: that we rise again in Baptism, that we be signed with Chrism, that we be reconciled from sins in Repentance, and that we seek to unite ourselves with Him in Communion; on a broader scale He abundantly pours out grace on us through water.
We, from our side, should with all possible fervor do everything that is necessary to be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, wherefore: “Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ, does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9).
But what must we do? The presence of the Spirit of God and the action of His grace is witnessed in our heart by sincere warmth for God – by temperance, by tenderness, by reverence. So we must to do everything that will raise and support this warmth, and avoid everything that will dissipate and cool our heart to God,obeying the commandment of the Apostle which says: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Th. 5:19), “do not offend the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30), and in another place rules “rekindle the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). If we rekindle, He will not extinguish, if we do not offend Him, He will remain in us, but with Him is both all the abundance and all the fullness of the spiritual life.
For this purpose, first, one must steadily abide in church order and formation in everything or in the prayerful and ascetic labor according to the order and the Typicon (Ustav) of the Holy Church. Here certainly the observance of fasts, frequent penance and communing the Holy Mysteries, all other prayerful blessings, going to the temples of God for all services, not only on feasts, but also at any season when affairs allow, domestic prayers, hearing and reading the words of God, conversations with devout people, obedience to one’s father confessor, and on a broader scale everything, that is confirmed in the Church for instilling in us the spiritual life, or adorning ourselves and everything in our lives with churchliness.
The grace of the Holy Spirit, received by us in the mysteries, is also that spark which has taken root in some kind of material. Here air is necessary for that material to burn from that spark, so that if there is no air the spark dies out; and so for us as the spark of grace falling into our essence through the mystery turns to spiritual flame, each of us must weigh ourselves down with spiritual air (atmosphere); but such air serves all of the church building. As the spark is ignited by the movement of air (wind) in the flame; so churchliness, by this spiritual trend, will stir up in us the power of the grace of the Spirit of God. “Be filled with the Spirit”, commands the Apostle, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). The more earnestly and reverent one enters this order, the more his heart is likely warmed and the Spirit of grace is ignited; on the other hand, for the one who leaves the Church that grace of the Spirit soon dies out, is cooled and dies again as fire in a vacuum dies.
To this prayerful labor or pious deeds one must still attach, secondly, the labor of good works: to give alms, to show compassion, to resolve offences, to protect from oppression, to observe the truth, to abstain from anger, envy, condemnation and every lust, and on a broader scale to create any beneficence to what the Lord obligates us in our life and in our circumstances. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). As natural forces weaken and atrophy from lack of exercise, the grace of the Spirit is also diminished and completely departs when we do not practice Her unique deeds, when we do not allow Her the open space to operate in us and penetrate us, and, what is even worse, if the deeds oppose Her, we shall drive Her away from ourselves. Wherefore as bees fly away from smoke so also the grace of the Spirit flies away from the acrid smoke of pernicious deeds and passions. Therefore the Apostle said: “And do not offend the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of deliverance”, and then he adds: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:30, 31), specifying what deeds offends the Spirit of God. The grace of the Spirit of God is immaculate. To keep Her before us, one must keep the house of his heart in cleanliness and with decent furniture, and this furniture is composed of the union of various virtues (Col. 6, 12-17). Here the proper furniture in the temple for the dwelling of the Spirit of God is sincerity. If we shall go into these deeds, the grace will always inhere in us, and Her fire will never go out in us. But it is not enough to have deeds; one must while doing deeds have both good thoughts and feelings, to have the art to control the movements of the heart, which the Holy Fathers call attention, temperance, internal action. It concentrates all our forces in oneness and is therefore the strongest means for kindling the grace of the Spirit of God in us. Scattered rays of the sun do not light themselves; but when in the process of burning they fly down and collect in one point, they soon will ignite any combustible substance. Also it is accomplished even in us. When we do not give heed to ourselves, our ideas and feelings are in dispersion; but when we give heed, they gather in oneness, and in our heart warmth will then be kindled from the thought of the omnipresent Lord who fills all things. If, in such a way, we take heed and intelligently standing sincerely before the Lord, we shall walk in the commandments of God and in the full order of the Church; but also the grace of the Holy Spirit will unquenchably burn in us. The fire of the Holy Spirit will then burn up all impurities, and we are created as the dwelling of God in the Holy Spirit.
By Sergei V. Bulgakov