June/July 2014 - Vol. 74.

The Fire of the Holy Spirit.
from the writings and sermons of Spirit-filled preachers - ancient and new

Made New by Spiritual Fire and Water
by Didymus of Alexandria (313 – 398 AD)

Speaking quite literally, and also in harmony with the words of water and the Spirit, John the Baptist says of Christ: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Since we are only vessels of clay, we must first be cleansed in water and then hardened by spiritual fire – for God is a consuming fire. We need the Holy Spirit to perfect and renew us, for spiritual fire can cleanse us, and spiritual water can recast us as in a furnace and make us into new men and women. 

[see longer version of the homily, The Holy Spirit Perfects and Renews Us]

The Fire of the Holy Spirit
by Theodore of Heraclia (d. 355 AD)

The souls of the saints, in order to receive the mystery of revelation, are said to be baptized purely “in fire.” This is because the Spirit first came down upon the disciples in tongues of fire, by which they were baptized and their souls made perfect (Acts 2:3). Or because, in the age to come, all will be baptized with fire, for “everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49), so that “the fire may test everyone’s work, of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13). Fire is appointed for the material element, which in itself is neither wicked nor evil but powerful and able to purify from evil. For the power of fire is deemed to be beneficial and strong, destructive of evil things and preservative of what is better. This is why fire is associated with wisdom by the prophets. For this reason also, when God is called “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29), this is to be understood as a term and symbol not for evil but for power. As fire is the strongest of the elements and conquers everything else, in the same way God is all-powerful and almighty, able to conquer, to create, to make, to nourish, to multiply, to save, possessing authority over both body and soul. Just as fire outperforms all the elements, so too all gods, powers and rulers are no match for the Almighty.

Fire has a twofold potency. On the one hand, it is suitable for the formation and ripening of fruits and for the birth and sustenance of animals. The sun is the primary image of this power. On the other hand, fire is fit for destroying and consuming, as is the case with earthly fire. When God therefore is called a “consuming fire,” able to destroy, he is being called a mighty and irresistible power. To God nothing is impossible. Concerning such a power the Savior also says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49). This is a power that purifies the saints, causes material things to disappear and, we might say, educates. Fire induces fear. Its light spreads outward. 

Turned Upside Down by the Holy Spirit 
by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household 

At Pentecost... the apostles did not want to make a name for themselves but for God. They were no longer discussing among themselves who the greatest was. They were turned upside down by the Holy Spirit, dazzled by the glory of God. Everyone understood them because they did not speak about themselves but about “God’s great deeds.” The apostles experienced the Copernican revolution: They became “decentralized” from themselves and were “recentralized” on God. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to perform this Copernican revolution in us too. Let’s make him our center and proclaim his great deeds. Only then can we say that the revolution has happened! 

…Our evangelization should be Pentecostal: It should cause heartstrings to vibrate. In the place where the towers of Babel were first erected and people wanted to make a name for themselves, those towers are demolished and every one’s name is forgotten. Let us, therefore, lift up the name that is above all names and proclaim Paul’s words, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (see Romans 10:9).

[see longer version of the homily, Pentecost: The Way to Conversion and Unity]

A Completely New Kind of Life
by Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD)

It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell. He so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life... Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? 

With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men and women of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples... The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid. Very true, then, was our Savior’s saying that it was to their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit. 

[see longer version of the homily, The All-powerful Spirit Changes Us]

The Spirit Restores Paradise to Us
by Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD)

The Spirit restores paradise to us and the way to heaven and adoption as children of God; he instills   confidence that we may call God truly Father and grants us the grace of Christ to be children of the   light and to enjoy eternal glory. In a word, he bestows the fullness of blessings in this world and the   next; for we may contemplate now in the mirror of faith the promised things we shall someday enjoy. If this is the foretaste, what must the reality be? If these are the first fruits, what must be the harvest?

[from the treatise On the Holy Spirit]

The Witness of the Holy Spirit
by John Wesley (1703 – 1791 AD)

The Spirit directly witnesses to our spirit, that we are children of God. That Jesus Christ has loved us and given his life for us. That our sins are forgiven and forgotten. Faith becomes personal - I, even I, am reconciled to God.

The testimony of the Spirit of God must come before the testimony of our own spirit. This is evident by the fact that: We must be holy of heart, and holy in life before we can be conscious that we are so; before we can have the testimony of our spirit, that we are inwardly and outwardly holy. But we must love God, before we can be holy at all. Love of God is the root of all holiness. Now we cannot love God untll we know he loves us. "We love him, because he first loved us." And we cannot know his pardoning love to us, until his Spirit witnesses it to our spirit. Consequently, the witness of the Holy Spirit precedes our inward consciousness of it and the testimony of our spirit concerning it.

[see longer version of the sermon, The Witness of the Holy Spirit]

The Indwelling Spirit 
by John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890 AD)

The Spirit comes to us as Christ came, by a real and personal visitation... Such is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, whether in Jew or Greek, bond or free. He himself perchance in his mysterious nature, is the Eternal Love whereby the Father and the Son have dwelt in each other, as ancient writers have believed; and what he is in heaven, that he is abundantly on earth. 

He lives in the Christian's heart, as the never-failing fount of charity, which is the very sweetness of the living waters. For where he is, "there is liberty" from the tyranny of sin, from the dread, which the natural man feels, of an offended, unreconciled Creator. Doubt, gloom, impatience have been expelled; joy in the Gospel has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind. 

[see longer version of the homily, The Indwelling Spirit]

The Glory of the Holy Spirit 
by Gregory of Nyssa (335 – 395 AD)

When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought us by our savior will be fully realized, for all men will be united with one another through their union with the one supreme Good. They will possess the perfection ascribed to the dove, according to our interpretation of the text: One alone is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only child of her mother, her chosen one. (Song of Songs)

Then, when [Christ's] human nature had been glorified by the Spirit, the glory of the Spirit was passed on to all his kin, beginning with his disciples. This is why he said: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them, so that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, I want them to be perfectly one.

[see longer version of the homily, The Glory of the Holy Spirit]

The Renewing Work of the Holy Spirit
by Steve Clark, author of Charismatic Spirituality

The renewing work of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing part of the life of the pilgrim people of God. In every age, the Holy Spirit begins movements of renewal. Sometimes he does so through the ordinary forms of church life, sometimes through special interventions that may lead to new forms of Christian living.

We live in a special time of renewal…a time in which we cannot simply rely on the accomplishments or forms of life of the past. Rather we must live the unchanging life of Christ and his church in new ways. These have to be both more effective for our age and more faithful to what was entrusted to the church in the beginning. 

As throughout the ages the Holy Spirit has been active among the Christian people to bring about renewal, groups of Christians have come together to respond. Many Christians have come together to perform some special services or foster spiritual growth with no further bond among themselves than that necessary for achieving particular goals... When the Holy Spirit renews his people, he often leads groups of Christians to join themselves to one another to live more fully the life together of the Christian people. Such a coming together is not intended as an alternative to the life of the church.  Rather, it is a renewed living out of what the life of the church should be and so signifies the communion and unity of the church of Christ.

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