The Spirit Descends AND Remains

Baptism Dove

One of the famous sayings to come from the tragedy of the Russian Revolution was that “religion” was the opiate of the people. The Communist revolutionaries were convinced that the religion of the Russian people were keeping them slaves to the “ruling class” and they wanted to destroy everything that keeped “the people” down. This was a natural outgrowth of the so-called “Enlightenment” that produced our current modernity! Religion was the enemy.

Turns out the Communists were right! WHAT?!? Yep, religion is the opiate of the people. In fact, Orthodoxy is the cure for religion! I know what you’re thinking “What is he talking about? I thought Orthodoxy was a religion!” Fr. John Romanides said that Orthodoxy is the cure for the sickness of religion! But, like any profound truth, this truth is usually immediately co opted by the enemies of faith to say that all faith is bad, and, as usual, this would be equally wrong. The struggle comes in pressing beyond the easy misunderstandings on either side of this revelation to the profound invitation contained within!

And that profound invitation is nothing less than a divine opportunity to come to know the Uncreated God as the only, true Lover of mankind. But, if you reject that invitation, you will come to know God as “fire.” Make no mistake, dear ones, we humans are going to know God. We are going to, in fact we already are, enter into His Presence. The main focus of our labors in this life is the basic choice as to how we will receive Him: Light or Fire?

Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning: At that time, John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34

St. John recognizes Christ as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Notice he doesn’t say “who takes away the sin of the world if you ask Him to.” No. The Lord takes away the sin of the world. If you choose, out of your freedom, to keep your sins to yourself then that is your choice. But if you learn to embrace the One Who takes sin away, you will be healed from these wounds of your soul. St. John recognizes the Lord existed before him. Even though, by birth, St. John was six months older that Christ, St. John saw past this temporary date to the eternal existence of the Son of God before all time. Then St. John adds the kicker that cures religion: He declares that Jesus “baptizes with the Holy Spirit” BECAUSE St. John saw the Spirit like a dove “descend and remain” on the Lord at His baptism. The Lord has come to radically change us from a merely “religious” life to a relationship that so acclimates us to His Presence that the power of His Presence is “light” to us rather than the “fire” of those unprepared to live in His Presence. And what better way to acclimate us to being the “temple of God” than to give us His Holy Spirit as the living, vivifying power within us? Just as the Three young Hebrew men were in the furnace with One Who “looked like the Son of God,” (See Daniel 3) so we are called to be able to stand in the “fire” of God’s Presence and be transformed.

Today, is this what your faith is preparing you for in your life? Are you still gripped by the “sickness of religion” that reduces our faith to nothing more than a mere nostalgic repetition of “old words?” Or is this Orthodox faith doing has it has done for centuries; transform your life into a fit “temple of the Holy Spirit?” This is precisely what is meant by the statement that Orthodoxy is the cure for religion. This “Orthodox Way” is all about taking you from a life where faith is a hobby to a life where faith makes you a perfect “home” for God’s Spirit. Anything less isn’t normal Orthodoxy. Anything less isn’t being Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. We are so grateful for your participation with our daily devotionals, but we also have the twice monthly LIVE program called Faith Encouraged LIVE. This Sunday we will have our special guest, His Eminence, Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh join us to talk about the Power of the Divine Mystery of Baptism. That’s this Sunday night at 8 PM Eastern on AncientFaith.com

 

 

2 comments:

  1. Dear Fr. Barnabas, thank you for your excellent program and ministry. I am very glad you made this point about religion that most people don’t get. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity did not become incarnate to merely found another religion. Religion was necessary before Christ and is actually a characteristic of paganism or Judaism before Christ. Religion is needed when there is a gap between God and Man. Jesus Christ is the bridging of this gap as the God-Man – he is He who all humanity has been waiting for without even knowing it – and therefore “religion” has outlived its purpose. Before this bridging of the gap “religion” was necessary as a “surrogate” bridge. Christ, on the other hand, is the “real thing.” In this sense Christ did not found another religion, rather he is the fulfillment of all religions, even the abolishment or the opposite of religion. In religion man makes sacrifices to God or gods (whether animals or other things) in order to appease the deities and to plead with God to do what we want (the basic religious instinct is therefore an instinct of fear and not knowing who God is). For religion to exist we don’t need God to become incarnate for religion is a mere biological instinct unrelated to revelation, it is just like the instinct of hunger, etc. In Christianity, however, this whole situation is turned on it’s head: instead of man sacrificing to God to plead with him, in Christianity we have God sacrificing himself for us and pleading with us to be one with Him. This is unique and cannot be found in any “religion.” Therefore, thank you for making your excellent point: let us not denigrate our faith and all that Christ did for us by reducing it just to yet another “religion.”

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