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Vol2-W-2 Acquisition of the Holy Spirit2

Vol2-W-2 Acquisition of the Holy Spirit2

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Published by: marianomx on Mar 24, 2009
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05/10/2014

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 Acquisition of the Holy Spirit as theGoal of the Christian Life
Spencer Estabrooks
Introduction
In this essay I shall focus on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit asthe goal of the Christian life. My intention is to make it possible for theFathers and saints who experienced transfiguration in Christ by theHoly Spirit, to teach us on this subject. By quoting from the saints,with my own brief comments, I want to provide the reader withcontinuing resources, and with possibilities for interaction with thesaints, should the reader desire to pursue fuller communion with theHoly Spirit.In a previous article in the winter 2006 issue of this journal, Igave a sketch of how the fullness of the Holy Spirit is present in acontinuing Pentecost within the Orthodox Church.
1
I provided a quickoverview of how it is possible for those seeking the fullness of the HolySpirit to find within Orthodoxy all the resources needed for fulfillingtheir quest.
1
Spencer Estabrooks, "A Continuing Pentecost: The Experience of the Holy Spirit in OrthodoxChristianity,"
The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity
, Vol. I, No. 1, Winter 2006.
 
The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity
Volume II, No 1, Winter 2007
14
This companion article has been written to describe the meansby which we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, as taught by the saints.The saints are not concerned with momentary experiences of thepresence of God, and certainly not with emotional indulgence, but withmaking our souls and bodies permanently capable of being a dwellingplace of the Holy Spirit, through continual repentance and our co-operation with the grace given us by God in the Holy Mysteries orSacraments.My spiritual experience before entering the Orthodox Church waslike continually trying to fill a sieve (or leaky cistern) with water. Iwas always left seeking a new experience of God’s presence to renewthe fading reality, rather than adding to spiritual life, and graduallypreparing, through much effort and attention, to be filled with theSpirit through a steady progress in the spiritual life.One goal of this article is to explain to those outside theOrthodox faith how spiritual fullness is gained according to Orthodoxteaching. A second goal is to provide for interested OrthodoxChristians who are hungering and thirsting after life in communionwith the Holy Trinity, some of the rich teaching about means availableto them for co-operating with the working of the Holy Spirit given tothem in baptism and chrismation. Through the writings of the saintsthere is also help for those who have buried this grace throughnegligence and ignorance and sins, to find the path of awakening tospiritual life again.I shall briefly outline the Orthodox teaching that the acquisitionof the Holy Spirit is the goal of the Christian life, made possiblethrough salvation in Jesus Christ. Then I shall gather some teachingof the saints about how the journey to the fullness of life in the Spiritis rooted in the Holy Mysteries of the Church. Finally, I shall providesome of the wisdom of the saints about how this goal is reachedthrough our co-operation with the grace given in the Holy Mysteries.When we describe the goal of the Christian life as the acquisition of theHoly Spirit, it is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is not
 
The Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity
Volume II, No 1, Winter 2007
15
separate from the goal of Christ being fully formed in us. Rather ourmovement toward full salvation (or divinization or deification) is simplybeing looked at in relation to another Person of the Holy Trinity.
2
 
The Gift of the Holy Spirit as the Outcome of Salvation in Christ
Orthodox teaching is clear that the coming of the Holy Spiritupon the Church is the purpose and intended fruit of the incarnationand the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. St.John the Forerunner told his followers and questioners:
I indeed baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with theHoly Spirit (Mark 1:8).
Our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples:
You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon youand you shall be my witnesses . . . . (Acts 1:8).
And in the 14
th
century St. Nicholas Cabasilas says of the outcome of Christ’s life and work:
What is the effect and the result of the sufferings and works andteaching of Christ? Considered in relation to ourselves, it is nothingother than the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church.
3
 
However it is not only the Church as the Body of Christ or onlyher hierarchy which receives the Holy Spirit, but all of its memberspersonally, and it is indeed Orthodox to desire the experience of theHoly Spirit at work in our lives. In the first century the promise of therestoration of the Holy Spirit as a gift to believers in Christ wasannounced by the apostle St. Peter to the crowds after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:
2
In the quotations which follow I emphasize certain phrases by use of italics to keep the readerfocussed on the main points being illustrated through the quotations.
3
Nicholas Cabasilas,
 A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy
(London, SPCK, 1983), p. 90.

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