The word of the day is “Spirit.” In our reading of Philippians 3:1-8, St. Paul warns again about the Judaizers who would persuade the Philippians to be circumcised to become true Christians. The Apostle cautions that circumcision is merely an outward sign in the physical body, the “flesh.” What counts is the “circumcision of the heart” as the prophet Jeremiah declared” (Jeremiah 4:4). To this Word of the prophet, Paul adds, “…and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter” (Romans 2:29).
Worship Inspired and Empowered by the Spirit
If so, then Paul can say without hesitation, “We are the circumcision.” St. John Chrysostom asks, “Which is superior, the soul or the body? Evidently the former. Therefore, that circumcision [of the soul] is also superior, or rather, no longer superior, but this is the only circumcision…” (NfPf1: 13). The Apostle says that those of this Spiritual “circumcision” worship God “by the Spirit,” as the oldest manuscripts put it. That is, the Holy Spirit inspires and empowers their worship and brings it straightaway to the Throne of God.
On the other hand, those who concentrate on the outward act rather than the Spiritual meaning of worship have “the form of godliness” but “deny its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). That is, they make an outward show of their piety but inwardly disregard its inner, Spiritual activity. Of this kind of piousness, the Lord said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). Physical acts of prayer, prostration, fasting, vigil, worship, and even charity alone without a sincere Spirit are useless.
James 5:16 draws the contrast to such Spiritless worship and prayer: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Thus, fruitful prayer is not a matter of volume or display of religiosity. ”We don’t have to shout or put on a show of piety to get God’s attention. The whisper of our hearts reaches the ears of God in an instant.