Sunday, September 8, 2013
ST. GREGORY OF SINAI - On How to Discover the Energy of the Holy Spirit
Today we will look again at some of the teachings of St. Gregory of Sinai who lived in the thirteenth century. Although not an "ancient Desert Father" in the chronological sense, he is clearly one of them in a spiritual sense. Today's article is an excellent piece on the power of the Holy Spirit:
ON HOW TO DISCOVER THE ENERGY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
-- The energy of the Holy Spirit, which we have already mystically received in baptism, is realized in two ways. First, to generalize, this gift is revealed, as St. Mark tells us (e.g., St. Mark the Ascetic in "On Baptism"), through arduous and protracted practice of the commandments: to the degree to which we effectively practice the commandments its radiance is increasingly manifested in us. Secondly, it is manifested to those under guidance through the continuous invocation of the Lord Jesus, repeated with conscious awareness, that is, through mindfulness of god. In the first way, it is revealed more slowly, in the second more rapidly, if one diligently and persistently learns how to dig the ground and locate the gold. Thus if we want to realize and know the truth and not to be led astray, let us seek to possess only the heart-engrafted energy in a way that is totally without shape or form, not trying to contemplate in our imagination what we take to be the figure or similitude of things holy or to see any colors or lights. For in the nature of things the spirit of delusion deceives the intellect through such spurious fantasies, especially at the early stages, in those who are still inexperienced. On the contrary, let our aim be to make the energy of prayer alone active in our hearts, for it brings warmth and joy to the intellect, and sets the heart alight with an ineffable love for God and man. It is on account of this that humility and contrition flow richly from prayer. For prayer in beginners is the unceasing noetic activity of the Holy Spirit. To start with it rises like a fire of joy from the heart; in the end it is like light made fragrant by divine energy.
-- There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test -- for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, "It is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it" (Wisdom 1:2). In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God's visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins. Again, in some the soul at the outset experiences an unutterable sense of contrition and an indescribable pain, like the woman in Scripture who labors to give birth (Revolution 12:2). For the living and active Logos - - that is to say, Jesus -- penetrates, as the apostle says, to the point at which soul separates from body, joints from marrow (Hebrews 4:12), so as to expel by force every trace of passion from both soul and body. In others it is manifest as an unconquerable love and peace, shown towards all, or as a joyousness that the fathers have often called exultation -- a spiritual force and an impulsion of the living heart that is also described as a vibration and sighing of the Spirit who makes wordless intercession for us to God (Romans 8:26). Isaiah has also called the "waves" of God's righteousness (Isaiah 48:18), while the great Ephrem calls it "spurring." The Lord Himself describes it as a "spring of water welling up for eternal life" (John 4:14) -- He refers to the Spirit as water -- a source that leaps up in the heart and erupts through the ebullience of its power.
-- You should know that there are two kinds of exultation or joyousness: the calm variety (called a vibration or sighing or intercession of the Spirit), and the great exultation of the heart -- a leap, bound or jump, the soaring flight of the living heart towards the sphere of the divine. For when the soul has been raised on the wings of divine love by the Holy Spirit and has been freed from the bonds of the passions, it strives to fly to that higher realm even before death, seeking to separate itself from its burden. This is also known as a stirring of the spirit -- that is to say, an eruption or impulsion -- as in the text, "Jesus was stirred in spirit and, deeply moved, He said, 'Where have you laid him?'" (John 11:34). David the Psalmist indicates the difference between the greater and the lesser exultation when he declares that the mountains leap like rams and the little hills like lambs (Psalm 114:6). He is referring of course to those who are perfect and to beginners, for physical mountains and hills, lacking animal life, do not actually leap about.
-- Divine awe has nothing to do with trepidation -- by which I mean, not the tremulousness induced by joy, but the trepidation induced by wrath or chastisement or the feeling of desertion by God. On the contrary, divine awe is accompanied by a tremulous sense of jubilation from the prayer of fire that we offer when filled with awe. This awe is not the fear provoked by wrath or punishment, but it is inspired by wisdom, and is also described as "the beginning of wisdom" (Psalms 111:10). Awe may be divided into three kinds, even though the fathers speak only of two: the awe of beginners, that of the perfect, and that provoked by wrath, which should properly be called trepidation, agitation or contrition.
-- There are several kinds of trembling. That of wrath is one, that of joy is another, and that of the soul's incensive power, when the heart's blood is over-heated, is another, that of old age is another, that of sin or delusion is another, and that of the curse which was laid on the human race because of Cain is another (Genesis 4:11-15). In the early stages of spiritual warfare, however, it sometimes but not always happens that the trembling induced by joy and that induced by sin contend with one another. The first is the tremulous sense of jubilation, when grace refreshes the soul with great joyfulness accompanied by tears; the second is characterized by a disordered fervor, stupor and obduracy that consume the sol, inflame the sexual organs, and impel one to assent through the imagination to erotic physical obscenities. END
from The Philokalia: Volume IV, edited and translated by G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1995), pp. 259 - 261.