Search
Tools
LANGUAGES

The Holy Spirit

From AlexanderMen

Jump to: navigation, search

Part of the Seven Talks on the Creed

Here, reprinted with permission from "Tradition Alive" and before that translated by Colin Masica in a limited edition for Oakwood. As in all the talks Fr Men's reference and thought is very wide ranging. Fifth Talk on the Creed

We move on to the mystery of the Divine Spirit, or the Spirit of God, concerning which the “Symbol of Faith” has this to say: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets.

Let me translate this into plain Russian: “... in the Holy Spirit, Who brings life, Who issues forth from the Father, Who we worship in the same way as the Father and the Son -- one Divinity, Who speaks through prophets.”

In fact, already in the Old Testament, in ancient times, when a mysterious power overcame an ordinary man, calling him to service, he went out to preach, like the great pastoral prophet Amos went, who was neither of the priestly order, nor a servant of the Temple, nor, so to say, an officially appointed prophet who had this duty. He was simply a herdsman and farmer. Yet once the Spirit of God came over him, and he subsequently wrote:

When the lion roars, who does not tremble,
When the Lord speaks, who will not be a prophet.

That is to say, this is a power that takes a person beyond himself. A power that works in such a way that a human being is enabled to do more than he normally can.

When we say “spirit” we often imply by this something incorporeal, almost impotent. On the contrary, in the language of the Bible the Hebrew word ruach or the Greek pnevma signifies “power, storm, wind, hurricane, breath.” And “breath” is “life.” The Spirit is power. The Divine Power, or the Holy Spirit.

The word holy is equivalent to the word God. Both words need clarifying. In the Bible, in the Old Testament, the word holy often designated, not our notion of a righteous man, but someone special, standing higher than this world, sacred. We could even say, something inviolable. Therefore God, first of all, was called Holy. In this sense He is other than the world, the absolute Other. And man must remember that He is radically distinct from everything with which we come in contact. So, when they speak of the “Spirit of God”, this means the Spirit of Holiness, the Holy Spirit. Is this an impersonal power? No. Notice the first lines in the Bible itself, where we read that when the Lord fashioned the Universe, the earth was without form and void Darkness signifies the primary material, the primary structures of the cosmos. The Spirit of God, as it were, “hovered”, in the Russian translation “floated”, over the water, but really this verb means something like “warmed”. It was used to describe a bird that hovered over its nest or hatches its eggs, or warms its fledglings. He brings life to the Universe.

If God as Father is the First Principle of everything, and God as the Logos, as the Word, is the Creator of everything that has created, it is God as Spirit that is its preserver, supporter, and the power constantly abiding in it. And of course this power, indisputably is Divine, and Personal. When the prophets came forward under the impetus of the Spirit, they themselves were astounded that things were revealed to them that not only were not comprehensible to them, but even contradicted their innermost thoughts and feelings. There took place tragic battles between the will of the prophet and the voice of the Spirit of God. Battles, because in the Biblical Revelation the personality of the prophet was never suppressed; he did not dissolve in the ocean of the Absolute.

On the contrary, he stood before God, as a personality before the One who is beyond the personal. And here there transpired a dramatic struggle and voluntary agreement. A man receives the Spirit of God within himself. Therefore He “spoke by the prophets”.

Can we say that there have been no prophets since those ancient times? No. It is sufficient to remember that at the beginning of the 19th century St. Seraphim of Sarov, one of the glorified saints of Russia, said that the chief aim of the Christian life is the acquisition within oneself of the Holy Spirit, or, as he expressed it, the “gaining” of the Spirit. It means this is possible for us human beings. And we know of people of great wisdom, ascetics, righteous men and women, public figures -- they might be illiterate, or great writers -- who acted as prophets, through whom the will of God was revealed. They were giants of moral power, of social protest, they went against the current. What was it that assisted them? It was the influence of the Spirit of God on history. For example, probably many of you are acquainted with the historiosophical concepts of Leo Nikolaevich Gumilev, who noted that the birth of new nations, new formations in the human race is inescapably connected with the appearance of a so-called “impassioned” group, a white-hot epicenter, consisting of the kind of personalities that go in advance to meet risk and even perish, and thereby move the development of history forward.

So, we have a basis for thinking that there are influences of the Spirit of God on history. The Spirit of God is manifested in talents and gifts. It is very mysterious and odd. We don’t always understand where it is coming from. The history of mankind bears witness that from time to time peoples, civilizations, or separate individuals are given precisely this gift of the Spirit, and everything depends on how they receive it and on how they realize it. It can be realized in a completely false direction. It is here that both reason and conscience, and a clear, precise awareness, ought to help a person, because a human being possessed by the Spirit of God is not a sleep-walker, a Pythic oracle, a creature that has lost its senses. No. The Spirit of God does not extinguish human reason, but on the contrary, illuminates it. If a person does not permit reason to function and thinks that it is possible to live only by irrational, intuitive impulse, he or she can get lost. One may dissipate the spiritual gift of passion, destroy it, or turn it in entirely the wrong direction.

How has this played out in history? I think you can estimate it fairly well. There have been people seemingly possessed by the idea of saving others, of helping others, shall we say the Russian revolutionaries of the 19th century. Certainly they had passion, certainly this was a moral impulse, a high impulse, but they didn’t take the time to think about how all this could be done. So they rushed ahead blindly; it was entirely a blind impulse, a mad, destructive impulse. “Call Russia to the axe.” Well, they did call it to the axe, and the result was extremely lamentable.

Then it was they who became victims of this perverted impulse. They themselves turned into new oppressors and slave-masters. Spiritual comprehension demands sober analysis.

Therefore the Apostle John says, “My brothers, do not believe every spirit.” They might be pseudomorphs of the Spirit of God.

It is very important for us to remember and to know that Christ, when He was telling His disciples that He would visibly depart, depart from this world, promised them that the Spirit of God would continue His mission on earth. He would be the Protector, the Intercessor for the community of the Church, the Paraclete. Paraclete in Greek means defender, intercessor, comforter, as He is called. “I will send you, I will ask the Father to send you this Comforter. He will direct you to all truth.” Thus, the Church is created by the power of the Spirit of God.

Here we have a difficult problem in front of us. What do we call the Church?

A small bit of philological information: the Russian word “church” [tserkov] comes from the Greek word kyriakon - ‘the house of God, whence also Kirche, English church, etc. There is another Greek name for the Church -- ekklesia, which means ‘people’s assembly’. This term was used to translate the Ancient Hebrew word kakhal, ‘community’, or the Aramaic kekhal, ‘community of people’ . From ekklesia come the French word église and the Spanish iglesia. What is this all about? When you read fiction or journalism, or some sort of historical literature, often the word “Church’ [Tserkov’] is met with as the designation of some kind of institution, some kind of establishment like a party. According to this model, so to speak, which we have become accustomed to seeing in the course of our whole life, we think that this “party” must issue some directives, and have some ideological bases or ideological appraisals of everything in the world. Therefore I am often asked here and in other places where I talk with people, “But what is the position of the Church regarding UFO’s?” -- or something else. As if the Church had some kind of laboratory, a structure or shall we say a “trust”, which works out an ideological position with regard to all phenomena in the world -- including cosmic phenomena. This is a kind of notion of an ideological apparatus, a notion of, so to say, an authority structure, which can be overthrown, and then return to power, and not accidentally. Christians themselves are guilty in this, because in certain periods of history the Christian community in fact underwent sclerotic alterations, and began to be reminiscent of some kind of ideological party. Naturally, along with all the consequences that proceeded from that, with the suppression of dissent, with fanaticism, with a quite powerful bureaucracy, with the immobility and clumsiness of this apparatus, there went, so to say, a great measure of conservatism.

But, when we read in the “Symbol of Faith” about the Church, which is moved by the Spirit of God, the “Symbol” absolutely does not mean this historical reality. According to the Christian point of view, the Church is a divine-human organism. A divine-human organism, or the Body of Christ, as the Apostle Paul teaches us. It is a certain spiritual community in which Christ continues to work, in which the Spirit of God lives and which exists by this Spirit. How did it come into being? Christ created it, but He did not formalize it, He did not give it any structure. He only said, “You are Mine, you are My community.” Every member of it had to be a bearer of His Spirit. Soon after the events in the Gospel another important event took place -- the birth of the Church. It happened like this. It is described in the book, The Acts of the Apostles. The disciples of Jesus from Galilee were gathered in Jerusalem according to His command. They were praying there together. It was the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, or Pentecost, as we call it, because it was fixed at 50 days after Passover/Pascha. Until this time the disciples kept quiet, perhaps even timidly. They not come forward as some new spiritual religious force. They also went to the Temple to pray with all the others; they lived in their semi-domestic commune. There were a few hundred persons there. Perhaps the entire Church was no larger than us, gathered here today. But at one point, when the holiday was in full swing, this group of apostles and disciples went out into the streets of the city and began to glorify God in a strange manner.

They spoke and almost sang. It was an astounding doxology. They spoke in some incomprehensible tongue. But, on the other side, people who had come together for the pilgrimage from all the ends of the earth recognized it, and understood this speech. How? We don’t know. But the meaning got through to them all. This was an extraordinary phenomenon. Some decided that they were simply drunk; others could not understand what was going on. Then Peter stepped forward and said, “No, brothers and sisters. This is not madness, nor are they drunk.” The Spirit of God had descended on the apostles. And had led them forth to preach the Gospel. It is from this moment that the Church is born, preaching and proclaiming Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

It resembles its Founder, the God-Man Jesus Christ. But there is a huge difference. If the human principle in Him was free from evil and from sin, the human element of the Church is earthly; it is not free from sin. The Church consists of the same kind of people as all the rest, but she is the seed, the basis, as it were the kernel of the future humanity, which must come together in spiritual unity, in the greatest diversity, in the greatest openness and the greatest freedom. What does man suffer from?

From alienation, from loneliness, from being crushed by the crowd or by himself. The Church is not the crowd; it is a spiritual unity, when all are transparent to one another. At the same time it is what the Russian philosophers of the last century called sobornost’, i.e. in contrast with collectivism, in which the personality disappears, and with individualism, in which the personality has an exaggerated and excessive development, under the term sobornost’ theology understands a unity which does not kill personality. It is one of the special properties of the Church. She is the continuation of the life and activity and witness of Christ on earth. She carries within her His treasures, and sows them like seed throughout the world. But we always should remember that as soon as the members, the bearers of the Church depart from the spirit of Christ’s love, they automatically cease to be its representatives. Therefore it is abundantly clear that ecclesiastical institutions by themselves, so to say, this whole “structure”, does not automatically guarantee faithfulness to Christ.

Of course, some of you may ask, “Then what do we need the institution for? Why not let there be free communities without any hierarchical structure?” and so forth.

You know that the more advanced an organism is, the more differentiated it is. Only the simplest have nothing but a nucleus and protoplasm. An advanced organism is distinguished by the complexity of its component elements. Therefore the Apostle Paul says, “In the body various parts and organs serve its unity.” Therefore, being simultaneously not only a spiritual but also a social organism, the Church has to have some kind of social structure. Otherwise she cannot live. This is simply a necessary condition, for the Church just as for any association. Now let us turn to her attributes, or more accurately, her characteristics, which we find in the “Symbol of Faith”. [I believe] in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This is our main theme today. First of all, why is the Church one? Because we are looking at the Oneness of God. This is a mystical Oneness. You are thinking, then there is no point in the revelation to mankind of the Divine Tri-Unity, there is no point in God revealing Himself as Creator, as Logos, and as Spirit. No, quite the contrary. It has a direct practical significance for our life. It is not abstract metaphysics, not abstract dogma.

I remind you once more how deeply Andrei Rubliev and his presumed teacher, St. Sergius, understood this. When ancient Russia found itself in a difficult situation, during the Mongol yoke and internal strife among the princes, of spiritual crisis and decline, what could oppose this disintegrating world? Love. But what kind of love? First of all divine love. St. Sergius named his little church in honor of the Holy Trinity. It was the first Trinity church in Russia. Why? Because, as the ancient text says, the Saint wanted the people, through contemplating the Unity of the Holy Trinity, to overcome the evil division of the world.

On the night of His Mystical Supper, before His death, Christ prayed, saying, “May they all be one, as You O Father are in Me and I in You. Let them also all be one.” That is, the unity of Divine love that is primary, in the Trinity, is the prototype for us, for our Unity, our mutual interpenetrating, our mutual interpermeability, our mutual openness to one another. When people are capable of being, to use philosophical language, “immanent” to one another. In reality, we are “transcendent” to one another, that is, each one of us is a closed system. Even people who love one another penetrate from heart to heart only with difficulty. So you see, God calls people to a new path -- one of mutual interpenetrating. When Rubliev painted his “Trinity”, he portrayed in a practical way, with colors and lines, namely this invisible mystery of love, this circle, which as it were beckons and calls man to change his model of the world.

The aggressive, embittered, disintegrating existence of man -- a pack of wolves, of solitary wolves (it only seems that they are a real pack) -- is opposed by the catholicity [sobornost’] of love of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, as Christ is one, as God is one, as the Spirit of God is one, the Church is one. When Christ began to speak about the Church, He told Peter, “I will build My Church on a rock, on a stone, on you, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it,” because Peter was the first to confess Him as the Messiah. “The gates of hell” means the powers of the nether regions, the powers of death. And He did not say, “My churches”; He said “My Church”, using the singular to refer to one substance. But here you might ask me, “But how is it one?” When out of the more than 1.5 billion Christians that are on earth, about 900 million are Catholic, 90 million are Orthodox, and the rest are Protestants. And the Protestants divide into countless groups -- Lutherans, Evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. Where is the unity here? This question is a very complicated one, but we don’t need to think that a mechanical unity can substitute for spiritual unity here. These divisions which have taken place in the Church over the course of the centuries do not reflect the nature of the Church itself. They reflect cultural, political, national, and psychological barriers, which people have not been capable of surmounting. We must note that when the old Roman Empire attempted to unite and identify itself with the whole of Christianity, the eastern provinces opposed this. They broke off. The so-called pre-Chalcedonian churches were formed -- the churches of the Copts, of the Ethiopians, of the Syrians. The grounds were dogmatic ones, but it was really a reaction of the eastern borderlands. But in spite of that, until the 10th century the Church remained essentially one, and not divided. Everywhere there were churches with their own heads. A Pope in Alexandria, a Pope in Rome (papas means ‘father’), in Constantinople, in Antioch, and other major centers. But after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in the parts, the “halves” of the former Empire, different social and cultural conditions arose. In the East, the absolutist imperial power was retained, and all the ancient structures of slaveholding, etc. were also retained, and the ecclesiastical leadership, the ecclesiastical community, and the ecclesiastical structure found itself under the control of the State, a rigid control. This has been the fate of the Eastern Church over the course of 1500 years down to this day.

In the West, the Empire collapsed. Barbarians flooded into Italy. Only one structure remained -the authority of the Church -- as a basis for the rebirth of a future culture. The Roman Church felt independent of the State, because in general there was no State; there were the newly-arising barbarian kingdoms, which warred among themselves, fell, and sprang up anew.

The Western Church became, so to speak, masculine, bellicose. When the Byzantine emperors tried to take control of it and subject it to their authority, the Roman pontiff turned to King Pepin in the name of the Apostle Peter -- to the barbarian king Pepin. The latter moved his detachments to Rome and did not allow Rome to be seized and subjected. He then set aside for the Roman pontiff, for the Pope, a part of the territory of central Italy. For what purpose? So that no emperor or king could take the Roman bishop under his control with his bare hands. Thus arose the Papal State, which existed until the year 1870. Then it was abolished as a result of the uprising led by Garibaldi, and reestablished in 1929, but no longer in its previous dimensions, but symbolically, 108 acres in all. But in compensation, this territory is not subject to any government.

I have been on this Vatican territory. When you enter, there is a border guard in old-fashioned costumes, designed by Michelangelo, and you are crossing an international boundary.

Such was the destiny of the Western Church. But the Eastern Church, subject to the Emperor, kept moving away from it more and more. There were different cultural paths. Conflict between the East and the West had an effect on the Church and ended with the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicating the Papal legate, that is, envoy, while the Papal envoy excommunicated the Patriarch, and this is considered the formal beginning of the division of the Churches. The year 1054. It is true that today, after 1000 years, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope have called back this document and have publicly burned it as a sign that this conflict is over. But alas, after 1000 years of separated existence many dogmatic and other peculiarities have accumulated which make unity a complex problem. Later, a schism took place in the Western Church, and the Protestants appeared. They began to subdivide in their turn.

So what is the Church?

The Church is a complex formation. First of all, it is that Church which was founded by Christ. This means, coming without interruption from the Apostles. Such is the Orthodox Church, the Eastern Church. Such also is the Catholic Church, the Western Church. In the practice of the Orthodox Church, we recognize the hierarchy and the sacraments of the Catholic Church, that is, we recognize it as a Church, albeit separated from us. They, in their turn, call us “separated brethren”. The same thing, obviously can be said about the ancient Oriental Churches -- the Armenian, the Ethiopian, the Coptic. It gets more complicated when we come to Protestantism. But in the broad sense of the word, we may consider any community a Church that confesses Jesus Christ come into the world in the flesh, crucified, and resurrected. The history of conflicts and discussions has shown that when people argue, they only become hardened in their positions. Theological polemicists have not been able to bring the Churches closer. Something else has brought them closer. Now, when they know more about the West in the East, and the West knows more about the East, rapprochement proceeds through quite different channels. For example, the Western Church is beginning to honor our saints. I have seen an enormous literature about Russian ascetics of the past and present. In every Catholic church in Italy I have seen a representation of the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God and other Orthodox icons. They relate to us very openly, as if gradually departing from the idea of division.

In our Church there are various points of view in this regard. From complete rejection, which was formulated by Alexander Stepanovich Khomiakov: he thought that Christianity was only the Orthodox Eastern Church while the Catholic Church was no longer Christianity. But at present the Orthodox Church does not share that point of view. If we receive a Catholic priest into our ecclesiastical jurisdiction, he becomes Orthodox; no one reordains him. His priesthood is considered real. All his sacraments -- baptism, communion, and everything that he has performed, were real. Hence the logical conclusion that we recognize this. Only by getting well acquainted with one another can we understand the causes of the divisions and often see to what extent they were far removed from genuine spirituality and a “ sense of Church” **

    • Tserkovnost’ - a peculiarly Russian concept which is difficult or

impossible to translate = “the feeling of the Church as it is supposed to be.” Tomas Spidlik -- or his translator, Anthony P. Gythiel (The Spiritiuality of the Christian East, Cistercian Publications, 1986), after making a similar comment, translates it as “a sense of Church” and says it “amounts to the consciousness .... that no one may believe he is saved unless he is saved together with others.” (p.352-353) [TR]

So, One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. What does it mean? That she consists of saints? Yes. In apostolic times all believers called themselves that -- saints. Not in the sense in which we use this word now, but in the sense that they were special people dedicated to God. Although the Church lives in the world and is as it were wholly immersed in it, on the other hand she is the ship of God, floating on the sea, an Ark. In any case the Christian is separated from the world. He is separated in some respect. There is here a kind of secret dialectic. Both in the world, and not of this world, both openness, and closure.

To explain this simply is impossible; it can be understood only in practice. Only in practice can you grasp what this means -- to be with all and like all, and at the same time to be separate, to be inside your Ark.

One more thing. Dedication to God is imitation of Christ. Christ was the healer, Christ was the Sacrifice, Christ was the heart, which is devoted to human beings, and he was the witness to the truth. “I came in order to witness to the truth.” The Church is the same. If members of the Church betray this, they cease to be expressions of the Church. Sometimes the reproach is made, “but isn’t this similar to the Party? They say that the Party’s ideal has been perverted, that the ideal was thus and such, whereas it has become different in real life.” No. No. This is not similar, because such a radical difference does not exist in political history, where we could say that in the beginning there were people who wished to respect culture, respect all human beings, the value of personality, the right of religious belief, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press. It was not like that. As soon as our Revolution began, all of this came crashing down in an hour. If we look at the past, in the 19th century, when the Marxist circles were being formed, there was no “superfluous” democracy in them either. No, that was not at all characteristic of them. There is no point in speaking of perversion here. Everything was as it was intended. Everything proceeded in the appointed direction and bore its fruits. But those fruits turned out to be bitter ones. For everyone, including those who cultivated them. This has no connection with our theme.

Meanwhile, the distance between the Gospel and, for example, any kind of religious-fanatic-inquisitor is infinite. Because there is nothing even comparable here. The external regalia, as we might call it, of this inquisitor means nothing more than the crosses on the wings of Fascist airplanes. Because it is only an external symbol. The content is absolutely otherwise.

“In one Holy, Catholic [Sobornaia], and Apostolic Church.” Sobornaia is the Church Slavonic translation of a Greek term, in the original Katholiki. The Catholic Church. Catholic means Universal, gathered from the whole world. Not something separate, or pertaining to a particular epoch, or national, or ancient, or modernized, but universal, i.e., really its place is everywhere. There are no barriers, no limitations. While creating national cultures or influencing them, the Church remains supranational, supraethnic, suprahuman, embracing all. The Universal Church, that is, in its primordial sense.

We may, of course, ask, “Well, how are we to understand the ‘Russian’ Orthodox Church, the ‘Georgian,’ and so forth.” These are all national embodiments of the Church. Are they necessary? Yes, of course. The Church influences the creativity of man, in the moral, social, and artistic spheres. The Christian religion lies at the base of the world of people, including “nations”. The creativity of nations is a great calling before God. You know that when civilization becomes depersonalized it ceases to be creative. Therefore in every culture there has to be created its interpretation, its refraction, of Christianity. The more many-faceted it is, the more fully the Church expresses itself. If we look at African churches, we shall see there patterns peculiar to the folk tradition of the Africans -- Madonnas with black faces, representations of Christ in ebony wood. Indian churches with Christ represented as seated in the lotus position. Every culture, including those of the North American Indians and the Eskimos, creates its own aspect of the Church, and this in no way diminishes its unity. This was providentially prepared by the social-cultural unity of the Roman Empire that already existed. Christianity was preached in the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire took in a multitude of peoples, which in general did not lose their identity, but at the same time were mutually connected by koiné Greek as an international language and by Roman laws and the concept of Roman citizenship. Finally, the apostolic Church. In a simplified form this presentation is connected with the idea that the apostles appointed their successors, the successors, others, that a laying-on of hands took place, and thus down to our time. It did in fact happen like this.

Even if there wasn’t, in the literal sense, a transmission of apostolic rights (historians argue about this}, the living continuity was always maintained. It was there before the books of the New Testament arose. It was the basis of the Church, the basis for choosing from various books namely those that corresponded to the tradition of the Apostles. The oral tradition was the source according to which everything proceeded. This means the Church was founded on the apostles. There were first, the twelve; and later, the seventy who were her founders. Moreover, Christ used the number 12 with a purpose. According to the Bible, 12 is the number of the elect. In ancient times, there were 12 patriarchs, the founders of the people of Israel, which at one time was the Old Testament Church. As if to continue this line, Christ chooses 12 apostles as progenitors of the New Testament Church of Christ. Therefore the whole Church stands, as represented in the Apocalypse, on the shoulders of the apostles as on a rock. And one more characteristic of the Church comes in here. Apostle means envoy, the envoy of Christ. The Church should be the envoy of Christ in the world. When she carries this out, then she is real. The Church bears his voice. She is the preaching Church. Preaching in the sense that she bears witness to the treasure that has been entrusted to her, to the living Christ, to his presence in the world, to the living Spirit of God, who is present here. Not because the wisest or the strongest people are gathered in the Church, but because the Spirit of God speaks through them, because he is the chief, at times hidden, and at times manifest, power in this world.

At all times and no matter what events take place, the Church is always this same voice. Her tradition, leading from the Apostles, is simultaneously the criterion of testing what in the real, empirical, earthly church belongs to Christ and God in the Truth, and what is alien, transitory, perverted, human. What is this tradition of the Church?

It is first of all her principal dogmas. There are very few of them. Many people who have recently been converted suppose that there are a colossal collection of dogmas. No. That which has been stated in the Ecumenical Councils is dogma. The rest is freely accepted or rejected by whomever it pleases. What is the axis of tradition?

The teachings and revelation of God that are in written form -- the Holy Scripture -- the Bible. Therefore do not imagine that the Bible is something opposed to tradition. It is in fact the fixed tradition of the Church, and through the Bible we test how much we have departed from or how much we are in agreement with the will of Christ and with the Holy Spirit. This is the way that a question here is resolved.

Thus a person, upon entering the Church, and living in her, has received not only a refuge, but also a calling. Being a Christian is a profession, to put it in ordinary language. It means doing in the world something quite special, doing something for the eternal One. And although our life is ephemeral, although it is short and often insignificant, participation in eternity, involvement in it, makes it full of non-ephemeral content.

When we enter the Church, we find there Christ and the Holy Spirit, who is acting in her. And just as the Lord Jesus was buried and the seal was on his grave and he conquered death, so also the Church, more than once, it seems, has been destroyed either by external enemies or by internal ones, unworthy Christians who have defiled her essence, degraded her, and misinterpreted her; but she has risen anew each time and will always arise.

In the Apocalypse of John she is called the Bride. “Bride” is an image taken from the Old Testament. “The Bride” is the community that awaits its divine bridegroom. And this means that the foundation of everything here is built on love. Love is life, love is the greatest mystery. As we draw near to God, we reveal him within the Church as infinite love, as the meaning of our entire existence, as its beauty, as its fullness.

There is a final thing I want to tell you. Time and again I am asked, “The teaching of Christ is excellent. The Gospel is magnificent. But why do we need the Church here? There is so much that is negative in it.” Yes, there has been the negative side. There has indeed. But before saying this and rejecting the idea of community, we should remember that this is after all his Church. He founded it 2000 years ago. He said that the gates of hell would not overcome her. He is present in her always unto the end of the age. One more thing. If it is so, this means that he did not wish us to reach the truth in isolation, each one by himself in some sort of separate and isolated little world, but that He wanted us to do this together. Even if this is difficult, for any human society contains within it the danger of temptations, frictions, scandals. But that is what he wanted. One more I repeat, this was his will. his Church, his Spirit, which abides in her even today. Thank you.