God has given mankind to participate in communion with Him out of His rich mercy and grace, without which it would be impossible. Through Christ's taking to Himself our very human nature, without sin, and deifying it, we may now participate and abide in the grace of God. Man's nature is redeemed and deified, he may now choose God, and thus may participate in grace. Through participation and synergy, man's own freewill is honored. As man in the beginning freely chose sin and death, now man must freely choose grace and life. By accepting and abiding in grace, we begin the abundant “life from above” (cf. John 3). Through grace the Christian believer no longer exists simply on a biological level; he is plugged into the divine life while still abiding in his mortal body. By grace the believer is called to have the Spirit penetrating every aspect of his existence, as in the beginning the breath of God permeated every fiber of Adam's being, endowing him with spiritual life.
The whole point of the Christian life consists of this: that we would be partakers of the divine life which is energized within the believer by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Christian believer being transformed by the Spirit partakes of, and is moved by, the very energy and life of the Holy Spirit. St. Macarius the Great speaking of this mystery says:
If, then, anyone loves God, God also shares His love with him. Once a man believes in Him, God bestows on such a one a heavenly faith and so he becomes twofold. As you offer to God any part of yourself, He Himself shares with your soul similar aspects of His own being, so that all you do, you may do sincerely and purely, loving and praying in this same way.
The believer who is bearing within himself the Spirit of God is guided by the grace of God and his inner man is adorned with the beauty of Christ. St. Seraphim of Sarov teaches,
“The Holy Spirit Himself comes to dwell in our souls, and we are granted this very presence of the Almighty, this abiding attendance of the Triune God in our souls only if we earnestly strive to acquire the Holy Spirit, preparing a place for His omnipotent in our souls and bodies according to His pure promise 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people'.”
In the Holy Spirit our fleshly existence begins its transformation into heavenly; by Him we are united to Christ and through Him to the whole of redeemed creation: “The Maker Himself of heaven and earth and all created things gives us to know Him by the Holy Spirit. In this same Holy Spirit we know the Mother of God, the Angels and the Saints, and our spirit burns with love for them” (St. Silouan the Athonite). By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit the believer enters upon transfigureration, becoming a living member of the Body of Christ. Through participation in Christ we become one with Him; the life we live we live for Him and through Him. “Wit
the fullness of our being we coinhere fully in the fullness of God,
becoming everything God is save for essence” (St. Maximos the
Confessor). If we are alive in Christ (and thereby in the Spirit)
then we partake of Him in a living manner, conscious and aware; only
the dead have no consciousness, as St. Symeon the New Theologian
|St. John Maximovich|
Experience and participation in Christ is the promise and call of all true Christians. It is to this one single goal that every believer is called to be focused on, directing his whole life, indeed his whole person, in pursuit of the grace of the Spirit and the transformation which ensues. Thus the Lord through His Saints calls the believer to be watchful, guarding his life and heart in purity, focusing all energy on life in Him:
Be watchful as you travel each day the narrow but joyous and exhilarating road of the mind, keeping your attention humbly in your heart, reproaching yourself ready to rebut your enemies, thinking of your death and invoking Jesus Christ. You will then attain a vision of the Holy of holies and be illumined by Christ … in the presence of Christ you will feel the Holy Spirit spring up within your soul. It is the Spirit who initiates man's intellect (nous), so that it can see with 'unveiled face' (2 Cro. 3: 18). For 'no one can say “Lord Jesus” except in the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor. 12: 3). In other words, it is the Spirit who mystically confirms Christ's presence in us. (St. Hesychios the Priest)
The grace of the Holy Spirit must be guarded and sought at all times. There is never a point when a believer should feel spiritually comfortable. There is no one time instantaneous moment from nothing to everything. A Christian is called to spend his life being filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
It should be pointed out that the believer's personal experience of grace is never to be set in contrast to, or against, the experience of the Body of Christ. Indeed the two are in reality one. Every true personal experience is strengthened and confirmed in the life of the Church. The believer's experience of grace is a personalized expression of the corporate experience. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit energized in the Church the fullness of faith, and through Him She is given to fathom the mysteries of God. This full experience of faith is manifest in the over two thousand year life of the Church in the Holy Spirit. The believer partakes of this fullness of life in his person in as much as he is united to the Body of Christ.