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Bishop Kallistos Ware
Orthodox Church

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  • Part II: Faith and Worship
    • God and man
      • The Holy Spirit
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The Holy Spirit

In their activity among men the second and the third persons of the Trinity are complementary

and reciprocal. Christ’s work of redemption cannot be considered apart from the Holy

Spirit's work of sanctification. The Word took flesh, said Athanasius, that we might receive the

Spirit (On the Incarnation and against the Arians, 8 (P.G. 26, 996C)): from one point of view, the whole

aim’ of the Incarnation is the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.

The Orthodox Church lays great stress upon the work of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen,

one of the reasons why Orthodox object to the filioque is because they see in it a tendency to

subordinate and neglect the Spirit. Saint Seraphim of Sarov briefly described the whole purpose

of the Christian life as nothing else than the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, saying at the beginning

of his conversation with Motovilov: ‘Prayer, fasting, vigils, and all other Christian practices,

however good they may be in themselves, certainly do not constitute the aim of our Christian

life: they are but the indispensable means of attaining that aim. For the true aim of the

Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, vigils, prayer, and almsgiving,

and other good works done in the name of Christ, they are only the means of acquiring

the Holy Spirit of God. Note well that it is only good works done in the name of Christ that bring

us the fruits of the Spirit.’

‘This definition,’ Vladimir Lossky has commented, ‘while it may at first sight appear oversimplified,

sums up the whole spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church’ (The Mystical Theology of

the Eastern Church, p. 196) As Saint Pachomiusdisciple Theodore said: ‘What is greater than to

possess the Holy Spirit? (First Greek Life of Pachomius, 135).

In the next chapter we shall have occasion to note the place of the Spirit in the Orthodox

doctrine of the Church; and in later chapters something will be said of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox

worship. In every sacramental action of the Church, and most notably at the climax of the

Eucharistic Prayer, the Spirit is solemnly invoked. In his private prayers at the start of each day,

an Orthodox Christian places himself under the protection of the Spirit, saying these words:

O heavenly king, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere and fillest all

things, the treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us. Cleanse us from

all impurity, and of thy goodness save our souls (This same prayer is used at the beginning of

most liturgical services).

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