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Life of Virtue & Righteousness (15)

Pope Shenouda III | 24 October 2010

 represents life of Virtue & Righteousness
The Scripture says, "No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Rom 8: 1) What then is the life in the Spirit? It is the spiritual life as a whole.
   Living in the Spirit is based on two main things: a. the victory of the human spirit in its struggles

b. the work of God's Holy Spirit within man. 
   The human spirit has marvelous powers by nature. If these are well utilized, they will lift a person, even an unbeliever, up very high. This is how the Hendu practice Yoga through spiritual exercises that lift their souls to their full natural powers, overcoming the flesh and material.
 
   If this is the nature of the human spirit, how much more if it is supported by the God's Holy Spirit! Therefore, a person needs to strengthen the spirit and bring it into communion with God's Spirit by avoiding passive actions and stumbles, and providing it continually with spiritual nourishment represented in prayers, meditations, spiritual reading, praises, hymns, liturgies, spiritual exercises, and refreshing spiritual meetings.
 
   For the relationship with the Holy Spirit, from the passive aspect, one should not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 4: 20), nor quench or resist the Spirit (1 Thess 5: 19), but positively should grow as far as to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5: 18).
 
   The development of our relationship with the Spirit:
1. This relationship begins in the Sacrament of Baptism, where we are born of water and the Spirit (Jn 3: 5).
2. Then in the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are anointed with the Holy Chrism (Myron) by which the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and our body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6: 19). At the beginning of the Apostolic Era this took place by the laying on of the hands, as in the case of the Samaritans (Acts 8: 17) and the Ephesians (Acts 19: 6). When the number of believers increased they used the Holy Anointing instead (1 Jn 2: 20, 27).
3. To receive the Holy Spirit is not enough, for we should have communion with Him. He works within us and through us, and we have to work and take part with Him in every action. Therefore the Church mentions the communion of the Holy Spirit in the blessing of the congregation by the priest at the end of every meeting (2 Cor 13: 14).
4. Through this communion, the fruit of the Spirit appears in our life, which St. Paul describes, saying: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Gal 5: 22, 23)
The fruit of the Spirit is the outcome of the work of the Holy Spirit in us and our responding to Him.
5. The more the fruit of the Spirit multiplies, the more our spiritual fervency will increase. That is why the apostle requires us to be fervent in spirit (Rom 12: 11); for our Lord is a consuming fire. (Heb 12: 29). Whoever has God's Spirit dwelling in him will certainly be enflamed with His holy fire.
 
God's Spirit descended as tongues of fire upon the disciples, and enkindled them with holy fire and zeal for ministry and preaching all over the world, so that "those whose voices are not heard, their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Ps 19)
 
God appeared in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush (Ex 3: 2), and the flame in the censer turns the coal into burning live coal. We also see how the holy fire always burning on the altar of the Old Testament was an evidence of the acceptance of the burnt offerings (Lev 6: 13)!
 
The angels, being near to God and His Holy Spirit working in them, are described as spirits and a flame of fire (Ps 104: 4). From this fire is derived the name of the rank of the Seraphim.
 
We then can distinguish a spiritual person by the fruit of the Spirit in his life, because "By their fruits you will know them." (Mt 7: 20) The spiritual fervency in a person is revealed in his prayers, in the fervent words, tears, faith, and way. They are prayers that shake the place, as in the case of the disciples (Acts 4: 31).
 
The ministry of a spiritual person is fervent in its power, extension, impact, holy zeal, and wonderful enthusiasm. It is full of activity and yields multiple fruit. The fervency of love in such a person in whom God's Spirit works distinguishes him.
Of this fiery love towards God and people, the Song says, "Many waters cannot quench love." (Song 8: 7) It extends to everybody, serves everybody, and works for the salvation of everybody. If you do not have such fervency, it means that the work of the Spirit within you is not as ought to be.
 
Tepidity fights fervency, and if it grows or extends in time it will turn into spiritual coldness, turning a person to a still corpse in the church, receiving no blessing at all.
 
However, some wrongly make a connection between meekness and fervency, thinking that meekness requires being with no fervency or vitality, not affecting or affected, not enflamed by zeal even for the Lord! Nay, for the Lord Christ was meek and humble, and at the same time was fervent in emotions and in ministry, going about doing good  (Acts 10: 38).
6. The behavior of a person within whom God's Spirit dwells should be spiritual.
His intentions, attitudes, and means should be spiritual. Every word he utters should be spiritual and have spiritual impact on the souls of those receiving it; for it is God's Spirit who speaks on his mouth!
The Lord Christ said to His disciples, "It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Mt 10: 20) Say to Him then whenever you speak, "O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise." (Ps 51)
 
When such a person faces some hardship, he handles it in a spiritual way.
Some would solve their problems nervously making much noise and agitation, others address them emotionally by tears and wailing, others reasonably, and others spiritually with prayer, fasting, vows, and masses, without sinning, and keeping blameless in the sight of God and men.
When God's Spirit dwells in a person, He sanctifies him totally, heart, mind, body, spirit, and soul, and sanctifies his life, as the Scripture says, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess 5: 23) It is sanctification on both positive and passive sides. He sanctifies one's life so that the fruit of the Spirit appears in it; and on the other side a person ought to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them, for what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? (2 Cor 6: 14) (Eph 5: 11) Otherwise, the Spirit will not work in you, at least at the time you do that. He may rebuke you, but you resist Him, a matter which the apostle warns against, saying, 
“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." (Heb 3: 7, 15)
 
When you take part in any such work of darkness, you will have separated yourself from the work of the Spirit in you, even temporarily, with action and behavior, or with your will and intent. The Spirit may not depart from you, but will continue rebuking you, although you have separated yourself from Him with your mind and feelings. See the beautiful words said about Samson the Valiant at the beginning of his spiritual life: "The Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan" (Judg 13: 25), and consider whether you are moved by the Lord's Spirit or by yourself. What moves you? Wrong feelings or thoughts, another will, may be of a relative, a friend, or a guide who is moved by God's Spirit or not?
 
7. Whoever is moved by God's Spirit ought to walk in the Spirit. 
St. Paul says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Rom 8: 1) He hold a comparison between both. "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit; for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God … So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God … But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you … Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Rom 8: 5- 13)
 
There is then wrestling between the flesh and the spirit, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another." (Gal 5: 16, 17) But does man continues wrestling all his life and cries out, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find … O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7: 18, 24) Perhaps wrestling is only at the beginning of the spiritual life until he flesh submits to the spiritual aspect, through which time man will say to God, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." (1 Cor 9: 27) When the flesh is wholly sanctified and submits to the Spirit, and takes part with Him in spiritual work, there will be no wrestling but rather cooperation. 
8. When man grows in spirituality, he will attain a higher level, and his spirit will have power over his body and over the others, that is, deeper influence, and even over the devils. It is the power which the Lord gave to His disciples, saying, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy." (Lk 10: 19) That is why the devils feared the saints and cried out in terror because of their awe and power, as the case when St. Makarius the Great was exiled in Feyala Island by the Arians, the demons cried out on his coming to that island, and said, 'We have left you the desert, and you came here to destroy us!'
 
By that power the saints cast out demons. They never submitted to them, but fought and overcame in every spiritual war they waged against them, until the demons became afraid of them and their prayers acquired the power to drive away the demons.
 
You can have studies and meditations on the subject of the fear of the demons of God's children. You will find a whole chapter on the weakness of the demons in the book of St. Athanasius "The Life of St. Anthony".
 
As for power over the others, it appears in the influence one may have on them. 
There may a person who speaks as with authority. His words have power and enter into the heart and the mind, and influence the intentions. The word will not then return void, but will do its work and have its impact.
9. The gifts of the Spirit to people are enumerated by St. Paul in a whole chapter (1 Cor 12), explaining that one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Cor 12: 11).
However, it is better to speak about the fruit of the Spirit rather than on the gifts of the Spirit; for the fruit of the Spirit is related to one's eternal life, whereas most of the gifts relate to serving the others, and may cause some to fall in pride and vainglory.
10.  The Spirit gives special power to a believer, therefore the Lord said to His disciples, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." (Acts 1: 8) The power appears in the life of God's children, power not from this world but from God's Spirit, revealed in the power of their word and ministry, in their victory over demons, and in enduring hardships and tribulations. This power also appears in the power of their prayers and faith, their having no fear whatever the causes may be. Indeed, the kingdom of God comes with power (Mk 9: 1)!
 
This power distinguished the apostolic era in which the Holy Spirit worked powerfully, and distinguished the epoch of the councils and heroes of faith, and the epoch of monasticism, especially in its beginnings.
This power appeared in the sermon of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, for on that day about three thousand souls accepted faith (Acts 2: 41). This power also distinguished the ministry of St. Stephen (Acts 6: 10) and the preaching of St. Paul the Apostle with its impact and extension. Many ministers lack such activity and knowledge, in spite of the wide spreading of their ministry and the advanced technologies, for they lack the power of the Spirit.
 
A true spiritual minister serves with his spirit adorned with virtues and supported by the Spirit of God.
The apostle speaks about the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet 3: 4), and the Song of Songs speaks about the spirit adorned with virtues, saying, "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning upon her beloved?" "Who is this coming out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the merchant’s fragrant powders?" (Song 3: 6; 8: 5)
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