The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
In the next few days, we will begin studying in depth the figures of the Nativity story as we approach the feast of Christmas. However, before we do, I wanted to write a reflection about the Holy Spirit, the often-forgotten member of the Holy Trinity. Many people pray to “God”, and in doing so, they are either addressing God in Trinity or God the Father. People will pray to Jesus, with many Christian denominations ending prayer “In Jesus’ name”. The Orthodox commonly pray to the Holy Trinity, ending prayers with “Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.” But what about the Holy Spirit alone? How come we don’t pray to Him?
The simple answer is, we do. In many of our services, the first prayer that is offered is to the Holy Spirit:
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasury of blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Gracious One.
All of our sacraments are “effected” (put into effect) by the grace of the Holy Spirit. We call the Spirit down “upon us and upon these Gifts here presented, and (implied through the Holy Spirit) make this bread to the be the precious Body of Your Christ, Amen. And that which is in this cup to be the precious Blood of Your Christ, Amen. Changing them by Your Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen.” Thus it is the Holy Spirit that changes ordinary substances of bread and wine into the extraordinary substances of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“The Grace of the Holy Spirit, through my unworthy person (through the unworthy person of the priest), looses and forgives your sins.” This is what is offered in the Prayer of Absolution after confession. It is the grace of the Holy Spirit which works through the unworthy hand of the priest to absolve sins.
Grace is what comes down on a man and a woman to unite them in marriage. It is what is invoked on the waters of baptisms. It is what makes oil become Holy Unction. It is what we receive in the sacrament of Chrismation. And it is what enables an ordinary man to become a member of the clergy.
However, grace is not limited to the sacraments. Grace, which is best defined as the spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit that heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking in each of us, is always accessible through prayer. To put into language that is easy to understand, the Holy Spirit is like a power source. When we want to use an appliance, we have to plug it into the wall, so that it has adequate electrical power, so that we can cook on a stove or in an oven, wash clothes in a washer or dryer, clean our dishes in the dish washer, etc., or even more common, so that we can charge our phones, use our hair dryer, or watch TV. An appliance doesn’t work if it is not plugged in. Once we plug in the appliance and turn it on, then it can do the essential things it does.
In a similar way, we are like appliances. Each of us was designed by God to do some pretty important and amazing things. However, we need to plug in to our power source, and that is the Holy Spirit. When we plug into the Holy Spirit through daily prayer and frequent participation in the sacraments, this is when we become alive, this is when we are able to do the essential and important things that God created us to do. We need to plug into the power source, the Holy Spirit, and then turn on our hearts, our minds, our hands, and ourselves, so that, powered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may live in God, and for God, using our talents to love Him while serving others in His name.
Most of us are familiar of the children’s story, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” In this story, the hare challenges the tortoise to a race. Obviously, the hare is faster and starts out at a fast clip. The tortoise moves at a slow and steady pace. The hare is so far out in front he become complacent and falls asleep. He awakens a while later to see that the tortoise has not only passed him but is about to cross the finish line ahead of him. The lesson to this fable is “slow and steady wins the race.” It is the Holy Spirit that allows to stay steady. A successful life is not one that is necessarily lived at a fast pace. Because fast many times leads us to be impulsive, and many of our sins are committed impulsively. Because if we were slow and steady, we’d think more before we act. Allowing the Holy Spirit to “power us” will make us more like the tortoise than the hare, and we all know from the story, it was the tortoise who won the race.
In this upcoming season of the Nativity, when life seems to get even faster—the school semester comes to an end, and there is so much stress to decorate, cook, gift-shop and gift-wrap as well as travel—it is very easy to feel like the hare, as well as to get exhausted like the hare. This is why, particularly in these upcoming several weeks until the Nativity, it is important that we “plug in” with the Holy Spirit, so that by being slow and steady, we can find our way to the manger, rejoicing rather than stressing in this season of the Nativity. In fact, the grace of the Holy Spirit is what can enable us to be slow and steady through any season of the year.
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, treasury of blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Gracious One. (Orthodox prayer to the Holy Spirit)
Give me the desire to plug in to the Holy Spirit each day, so that His grace may come upon me and guide my decisions in a way that makes my mind slow and steady, and my actions Godly and pure. Amen.
Slow and steady wins the race.
The Holy Spirit will give us grace.
We need to plug in through prayer to help navigate the problems we face.
And it all starts with giving the Spirit some of our life space.