Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. Nikolai Velimrovich, Bishop of Ohrid and Zhicha, tells of a story of St. Sergius of Radonezh in his wonderful collection of the saints, The Prologue of Ohrid. He tells of how a certain peasant came from a great distance to see and speak with the renowned saint. When he inquired at the monastery he was told that the saint was out in the garden working. As he approached the garden he spied a man poorly dressed in ragged clothes, toiling away at digging, just like any other peasant. Upon seeing this, he returned to the monastery to complain, believing that the monks had tricked him. Again, he asked to see the saint. No sooner had he asked than Sergius appeared, greeted the inquirer, and served him a meal, still unbeknownst to the seeker. St. Sergius had the spiritual gift of peering into souls and so could see that this peasant held him in low esteem because of how he was dressed. Sergius promised his inquirer that he would soon see the one whom he sought. But, at that time, the prince, along with his boyars, arrived at the monastery. When they saw Sergius, they bowed low beseeching the saint’s blessing. The inquiring peasant saw all of this and was astounded, amazed that all this time the one whom he sought out was close at hand all this time. The peasant immediately repented of his ignorance, reproaching himself. As soon as the prince departed, he “quickly approached the saint, fell at his feet, and began to beg his forgiveness.” Sergius, then, “embraced him and said . . ., ‘Do not grieve, my son, for you are the only one who knew the truth about me, considering me to be nothing – while others were deluded, taking me for something great’” (The Prologue of Ohrid II, p. 388).
Another saint, our holy Apostle Paul, writes immediately on the heels of our reading from his Epistle, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” – an appropriate commentary on the words and life of St. Sergius of Radonezh – a lesson we all would do well to absorb and emulate (Ga. 6:3). “For I say, through the grace given to me,” says the blessed Paul, “to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Rm. 12:3). “Be not wise in thine own eyes,” we are instructed by Wisdom, “fear the Lord and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy flesh and marrow to thy bones” (Pr. 3:7-8).
You might be asking, “What has this to do with the Apostle’s reading on the fruit of the Holy Spirit?” and I would say, “Everything.” Without humility we cannot be saints. Without humility, we cannot grow up into the likeness that is our destiny in Jesus Christ, that is, the likeness of God Himself Whose most holy image is ours by His grace! Without humility, we drive the Holy Spirit out of our lives because when we are full of ourselves we cannot be full of the Spirit of God. We “quench the Spirit” (1 Th. 5:19), to use the Apostle’s words who commands us elsewhere “not [to] grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ep. 4:30). We cannot serve two masters: ourselves and God. For we will be invariably compelled to love the one and despise the other, so our Lord warns (Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). We cannot be humble, meek, longsuffering, kind, or faithful without the Holy Spirit. We cannot have the disposition of love, joy, or peace without the Holy Spirit. And we most certainly need the Holy Spirit’s indwelling Presence and Power (which is the energy of divine grace) to have and maintain self-control over the passions that bite and nip and seek to devour us like ravenous wolves or stalking lions (Ga. 5:15; 1 Pe. 5:5-8).
The fruit of the Holy Spirit enumerated here in St. Paul’s letter and so well manifested in the lives of God’s saints is intentionally linked with the Power and the Presence of the Holy Spirit in us “by Whom we have been sealed for the day of redemption” when we were baptized and chrismated (Ep. 4:30). But you, who have begun in the Holy Spirit, do you now wish to return to the flesh, that is, to go back to life lived in your own strength, lived your own way, lived apart from Jesus Christ crucified (Ga. 3:3)? You know well the outcome of the branch severed from the Life-giving Vine: it dies and is fit only to be cast into the fire and burned (Jn. 15:1-17).
Perhaps to put the fruit of the Holy Spirit in perspective we need to hear the contrasting side of the works of sin and death. St. Paul enumerates these as well in this same chapter of the spiritual fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are evident,” says the Apostle. The flesh is not alive in the sense of being spiritually alive in the Power of the Spirit of God and is capable, therefore, of only producing works that are ultimately lifeless and fruitless. In other words dead because they are done in the power of the lifeless spirit of self-centeredness, the uncrucified self. And these are: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery [which is associated with drugs and potions and incantations], hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” This apostolic list of vices is not exhaustive, mind you. The Apostle has a similar but slightly different list in 1 Corinthians (1 Cr. 6:9-10). “[T]hose who practice such things,” he says in both 1 Corinthians and here in Galatians, “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Ga. 5:19-21).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.” This fruit comes about in our lives only by the indwelling grace of the Holy Spirit with which and with Whom we are to cooperate. This is how saints become saints. It is an exercise in faith, hope, and love. The passions that are ever present don’t suddenly, mysteriously, or magically disappear, but they are confronted in the strength of the Spirit of God, engaged, and fought against by the warriors of Jesus Christ (Zc. 4:6; Ep. 6:10-18). We have a choice always before us: to live by the flesh and its passions or to live in the Holy Spirit; to “live” in the power of sin and death or to be alive in the Spirit, “the Lord, the Giver of Life” (Nicene Creed)? “If we live in the Spirit,” Paul says, “let us also walk in the Spirit.” We cannot live in the flesh and walk by the Spirit. The two are mutually incompatible (Ga. 5:17). We must choose daily. “[T]hose who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” “Walk in the Spirit,” says the Apostle, “and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh,” that is, its passions (Ga. 5:16). We will never be without the passions that dog us, but we are not obligated to gratify them. We cannot play the “powerless victim” card. It might work in our politically correct world, but the Kingdom of God is far from politically correct. “[P]ut on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rm. 13:14). “If we live in the Spirit [and we do as the baptized], let us also walk in the Spirit.” Hence, the apostolic exhortation to a life – a walk – of repentance and mortification (which is not restricted solely to Lent)!
“[B]e filled with the Spirit,” cries St. Paul in another of his Epistles (Ep. 5:18). We must drink deeply of the Spirit of the living God, not just once, but again and again, Who flows like a mighty river (Is. 44:3; Jn. 7:37-39). The Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, promises our Lord (Lk. 11:13; Jm. 1:17). It is in the Mystery of our Lord’s most holy Body and most precious Blood that the gift and the grace of the Holy Spirit is received, renewed, and replenished in our lives. “Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here offered,” the priest implores Almighty God in the Epiclesis just after he has prayed that the Holy Spirit would not be taken from us but renewed in us as on the Day of Pentecost (Divine Liturgy). These consecrated Gifts of the Body and the Blood are, among other things, to those who partake of them “for the remission of sins, [and] for the communion of Thy Holy Spirit.” And the congregation confesses in thanksgiving with utter joy having partaken of the “holy, divine, immortal, and Life-giving Mysteries,” “We have seen the true Light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us” (Troparion).
Let us, beloved, not grieve nor quench the Spirit of God poured out upon us and into us for our salvation (Rm. 5:5; Ts. 3:5-6). Let us not mimic nor echo the disciples of John the Baptist when asked if they have received the Holy Spirit, “’We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit’” (Ac. 19:1-2). But, let us ever pray,
O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One (Troparion).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, especially our venerable father, Sergius of Radonezh, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!