Is Christianity an impossible deal? The answer is yes and no. Yes, for only those who do not take the indwelling Holy Spirit seriously. The apparently impossible teaching of our lord can be practiced if we cooperate with the guiding spirit. That is why Christian life is often defined as a new life in Christ guided by Holy Spirit. And this article focuses on the Holy Spirit who assists man to become not a superman but a real man. Yes humanization is divinization or by becoming like God by the help of the Holy Spirit is.
Holy spirit and the church.
Jesus Christ promised to the church the assistance and the guidance of the spirit when his physical presence left it. In Pentecost the early Christian community received the Holy Spirit and the church was officially inaugurated. They witnessed the erection of the tower of church which gathered together the people beyond the language and cultural differences, which is contrary to the building of the tower of Babel, which brought about the division and dispersion of people due to the communication gap. The principle unity in church is not the Catholicos or the pope or the Holy Synod but the Holy Spirit. As blood is circulating through all parts of the body. The Holy Spirit strives to empower all members of the church and keep them in fellowship.
Holy tradition of the church which contains the bible, doctrines, councils, canons, church fathers and saints is an expression of the life of the church through the Holy Spirit, and the spirit uses these to inspire and vivify the members of the church.
The church is supposed to be the kingdom of God. Participation in the renewal and sanctification brings about by the Holy Spirit is inevitable to make the church “the kingdom of God”. The Son of God incarnated in order to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The ministry of the church is nothing less than to continue the mission of Christ. This is fulfilled by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. According to Gregory of Nyssa the petition “thy holy spirit come upon us and cleanse us” Unfortunately the pride of man and his reluctance to subject to the sanctification enacted by the spirits thwarts the establishment of community on earth as God wishes.
Major functions of the Spirit.
Edification and guidance of the church, sanctification of its members, and thus the enlightment of the world are certain fundamental functions of the spirit.
Various symbols employed in the New Testament to denote the indescribable Holy Spirit indirectly explain certain aspects of his functions. Water (Jn 7:37-39) as water is indispensable for life; Holy Spirit is essential for an abundant life. The purifying thrust of Holy Spirit is also implied in this symbol. It is noticeable that water is used in the service of Pentecost as a lively symbol of the spirit. (b) Fire: as the pillar of fire and the cloud led the Israelites through the desert, the holy spirit functions as the light to the way of the church. (c) During the time of Christ dove was a sacrificial object, which restores the communion with God. (d) Advance: the Greek word Arrabon means advance payment or first installment. Life in the Holy Spirit is a foretaste or advance experience of the life in heaven. (e) Seal: seal is a guarantee of ownership. The seal of the Holy Spirit, which the Christians receive in baptism, always remind that they belong to God. (f) Oil: oil was important for healing in ancient days. The Holy Spirit restores the health of soul and mind.
Besides these the Holy Spirit works in numerous ways to bring people to perfection. The holy spirit makes us aware of sin and judgment, strengthens us to stand for the truth, assists in prayer, leads us in deification, imprints the image of Christ in us, brings about fellowship, leads us to truth, produces fruit of the spirit and imparts special gifts etc. among these I would like to highlight four important functions of the spirit.
1. Spirit of Truth.
Jesus Christ used the expression “spirit of the truth” many times. Deliberately to contrast with the spirit of deception or lies. Even if the mankind has acquired an immense quantity of knowledge in various fields, due to the impact of the force of deception, evil is considered as good and vice versa and the most important and vice versa. The guidance of the spirit of truth, which imparts a power of discernment and leads to all truth, is essential especially when we face the complex issues of modern life.
2. Spirit of Unity.
Despite the advancement in education and science, the communal violence, division in politics and nations and disintegration of family are characteristic of modern life. Communities of fellowship together is an inevitable antidote to this disintegration. It is in this context must we appreciate the relevance of the uniting work of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit instills in us love towards other and keeps us in Christ. So any attempt, which contributes, to division in congregations or churches is a damned wickedness against the Holy Spirit.
3. Spirit of empowerment.
When the Holy Spirit is permitted to work effectively, a spiritual fervor in worship and mission is evident. The Holy Spirit indwells and inspires internally to continue the ministry of Christ boldly. When the disciples were empowered by the spirit, they turned the world upside down. The empowering spirit is highly necessary for the Indian church which recently witnessed many atrocities and persecutions against its members. The Holy Spirit may inspire us to continue our mission of compassion with an added vigor.
The ministers in the church are appointed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. The main celebrant in ordination ceremony is Holy Spirit. And the spirit received through the laying on of hands guides and strengthens the ministers.
4. Spirit of Sanctification.
Sanctification is a process of divinization in which the person concerned participates in the characteristics of God. To become like Christ is the same process. Christification of persons and community is a major work of the spirit. As a first step, the Spirit uproots the deep-rooted vices and destroys them along with the evil passions. And the seeds of virtues in man are nurtured and the person concerned produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness etc. whenever St. Paul exhorts to walk by the spirit. He means to cooperate with the spirit to manifest this life of divinization.
The greatest expression of being filled with the Holy Spirit is abundant love and other aspects of fruit of Holy Spirit and not the gifts of the spirit. The gifts like power of healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues etc are bestowed upon only certain members of the church whereas the fruit is meant to be used just for the edification of the whole church. St. Paul discourages especially the speaking in tongues and teaches that it will be terminated, whereas love never ends.
Reception of the Holy Spirit.
Holy baptism is the personal Pentecost of every Christian. This is above all a sacrament of Holy Spirit. In baptism the Holy Spirit is given as a gift to reside upon the Christian forever.
It is unjust to separate the baptismal acts and confine the idea of the reception of the Holy Spirit to a particular act alone. In fact baptism as a whole confers Holy Spirit upon the baptismal candidate. However we can highlight certain important baptismal acts in Syrian tradition by which the candidate receives Holy Spirit particularly.
(a) Breathing: The celebrant breathes 3 times upon the candidate and also on the surface of the water in baptistery. The child receives the Holy Spirit as the disciples received him when breathed upon by Jesus Christ.
(b) Laying on of hands: The celebrant lays his right hand upon the head o the candidate during the time of the baptism proper in the baptistery. This act reminds us of the laying the hands of John the Baptist on Jesus in the Jordan River when Jesus received Holy Spirit. It is noticeable that many other ancient rites like East Syrian and Manorite rites there is an invocation to the Holy Spirit by laying the hands on the head of the candidate.
(c) Baptism proper: ‘baptism proper’ refers to the part of the sacrament which takes place in the baptistery especially the cleansing by the blessed water. It is note worthy that after the epiclesis or the prayer for sending the Holy Spirit, holy moroon, is poured into the water. Thus a proper ground is prepared for a rebirth in water and spirit.
(d) Anointing: The pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of gladness confers the gift of son ship whereas the post baptismal anointing with the moroon imparts the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, anointing was the symbol of the reception of the spirit. And Jn 2:20-27 refers to the Holy Spirit receiving through the anointing. The Hebrew term messiah means the anointed one and the anointing is with the hly spirit. Hence all men and women are expected to become “christs” through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Even if we have received the Holy Spirit in baptism, we need to grow in the spirit and to be filled and to be filled with him. St. Paul exhorts us to be filled not in alcoholic spirit but in Holy Spirit. All spiritual exercise like fasting, repentance, holy Qurbana, prayer etc. are meant to rekindle the dim fire of the holy spirit. The celebration of Pentecost and the preceding 10 days of waiting ale to be observed meaningfully with vigils, retreats and teaching in each parish. When there is a sincere attempt to walk according to the guidance of spirit and desire ardently for more spirit God will grant us an abundant life of Holy Spirit.
In our consumerist culture unfortunately majority are driven by greed than by need. It is natural that they are not much interested in a life guided by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand many of the so-called extreme spiritual people claim that they had an electricity like experience o holy spirit. In fact the Holy Spirit divinizes the world mainly through restoring our true human nature in Christ or making us Christ like. So he spirit filled life is manifested through our disciplined life, fellowship and our earnestness in translating love into concrete actions in our society through suffering.