This famous conversation between St. Seraphim of Sarov and a young, Russian nobleman is a true treasure for us today:
Movilof asked: “What does it mean, acquiring the Holy Spirit?” Abba Seraphim replied: “When you acquire something you own it, like owning money. The Holy Spirit is your heavenly capital. Let us pray to be filled with Holy Spirit and let us be silent in His presence in order to hear what he wants us to know.” Movilof asked again: “What other methods apart from prayer can fill us with the Holy Spirit?” Abba Seraphim replied: “By using your gifts and in that way you make a profit for your eternity. The candle can light many other candles without losing its light. When you give to others you do not lose.” “How can I be sure that the Holy Spirit is within me, after all the Spirit is unseen?” The following amazing revelation happened as Abba Seraphim spoke: “Listen my friend. We are both in the presence of the Holy Spirit now, look at me.” The rest of the story is wonderful, but time escapes us!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 11:19-30:
In those days, those apostles who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians. Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabos stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea, and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
We see the prophet Agabos again in today’s lesson and he is given the insight that there will be a famine in and around Jerusalem. We also discover that the Message of the Faith has broken outside the Jewish world and is now reaching “the Greeks” the Gentiles.
And when the news hit headquarters that Gentiles were becoming Christians, the Apostles sent Barnabas to check this news out! And when Barnabas saw how the Holy Spirit was transforming so many lives, even Gentiles, he went and got “Saul” who would be “Paul” to help these new Gentile converts in catechizing them with the whole story of the work of God from creation to Abraham to Christ!
And all of this is a consequence of the Church being empowered at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit.
Look what happened once the Church was empowered to fulfill the Lord’s last command to them to “make disciples” of every nation.
First, Persecution didn’t destroy them. It just spread the message further! Next, the Faith breaks out and starts reaching everybody, not just the “chosen few!” Then, the people reorient their everyday living so that when Barnabas came to see what was happening, he could tell the difference in how the Christians lived! And then, the intimacy with God in the people’s lives produced Agabos to warn of a serious problem coming to the area in a famine. And finally, that very same Spirit moved everyone to start doing what they could to gather money and supplies for the suffering that was to come to the people!
Today, are you “full of the Spirit?” Has your daily practice of the Faith in prayer, fasting, and generosity produced an intimacy with God that empowers you to be what you were created to be? It is by this timeless wisdom that we can and should be Orthodox on Purpose.