Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What's Required to Acquire the Holy Spirit? ( Saint Seraphim of Sarov )

Saint Seraphim of Sarov says "the true goal of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit." He says,
"What God requires is a true faith in Himself and His Only begotten Son. In return He generously bestows the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Lord seeks hearts filled with love for God and for one's neighbor." Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that this is not a task just for monks, but is one for all Christians.
"Those who live in the world, even though married, should resemble the monks in everything else. You are wholly mistaken if you think that there are some things that are required of seculars, and others for monastics... They will have to render the same account... When Christ orders us to follow the narrow path, he is speaking to all men." The level of perfection that we are all called to, does not come without our effort. This effort involves what is commonly termed ascetic practices which include a daily rule for prayer and fasting as well as the study of Holy Scripture and other spiritual writings.

When St. Seraphim says, "to acquire" the Holy Spirit, he uses this idea of acquiring in a similar way to saying we acquire material benefits. Saint Seraphim says,
Surely you understand what it means to acquire money? The acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God is exactly the same. You understand I am sure, O lover of God, the meaning of acquiring in a worldly sense. The primary aim of ordinary people in a worldly sense is to acquire, or to make, money... the acquisition of the Spirit of God is the same as the acquisition of capital with the difference that it is eternal and dispenses grace. Since it is so similar to everyday ordinary money, it is acquired in much the same way. How do we acquire material wealth? We must train ourselves, develop valued skills, and apply them through hard work. For spiritual benefits we also must work and prepare to receive the heavenly benefits.
Saint Seraphim continues,
Our Lord Jesus Christ himself compares our life in this world with a marketplace. He likens our everyday activities to trading, telling, telling us to 'trade till I come, redeeming the time, because the days are evil' (cf. Lk 19:13; Eph 5:16). In other words make the most of your time by obtaining heavenly blessings in exchange for you earthly good. The goods you should be trading in are those very same good works done for Christ's sake that confer upon us all the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is these good works which include not only charitable acts but also our ascetic efforts that are essential to purify our mind and heart from the bodily passions that too frequently take precedence over the desire of the soul.
Ascetic efforts cannot be considered as merits to earn God's grace, but only as means to an end, They prepare us for the acquisition of the Holy Spirit and union with God. With the Holy Spirit moving though us we must align our free will with God's and live the virtues. This is only possible though the work of the Holy Spirit. But, we must always remember that God will not judge us based on our ascetic efforts, but will judge us based on our humility as expressed in our love for others and love for God.
Saint Seraphim says,
Prayer, fasting, vigils and all other Christian practices, however good they may be in and of themselves, do not constitute the true goal of our Christian way of ice. They only serve as the indispensable means of attaining it. The true goal of our Christain life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. Fasting, keeping vigil, prayers, and charity, as well as every other good deed done for the sake of Christ, are but the means through which we may acquire the Holy Spirit of God. The love of God must be the motivation of all our actions. As we learn to love others we will increase our love of God. As our love of God is increased so will our love for others. The ascetic practices cannot interfere with our love for others. If we must take care of the needs of a child or a parent or any other person, we cannot use our ascetic practices to excuse ourselves from our loving care of others. But we also must recognize that this ability to love is increased as we purify our heart and mind and this comes about as a result our ascetic efforts so we can acquire the Holy Spirit.

Reference: The Joy of the Holy by Harry M. Boosalis, pp 35 - 43.