Tuesday, June 3, 2014

If You Were a Tree, What Kind of Tree Would You Be?

The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.

As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Office of Readings, Monday of the 7th Week of Easter

Reflection – Time for a little seasonal blogging, as the great feast of Pentecost, in its solemnity exceeded only by Christmas and Easter, is coming. This instruction by Cyril of Jerusalem is especially beautiful, and I always look forward to it in the office each year. It is a clear teaching on the nature of grace, its essentially divine quality, and its created effects in the soul.

As we are in this Pentecost ‘season’, so to speak, it is good to ponder a bit what kind of plant you are. Are you a palm tree or a vine? Or some people are garden vegetables, not too exciting perhaps, but bringing solid food to the table of humanity day by day. Others are flowers, with a great capacity to beautify life and delight their brothers and sisters.

And then there are the great trees, oaks and maples and such, that are capacious and strong enough to provide shelter and security to others, shade from the heat of the day, respite from a harsh world. And others are the green grass of the world, low to the ground, trodden on sometimes, seen as being of little account, yet in their humility and meekness playing a more vital role in holding the dew of the Spirit in the clay of the earth than most realize. The victim souls, who are low and despicable in the eyes of the world yet hold so much together in hidden fecundity.

We all of us are something, and this something is what the Spirit waters and nourishes and makes grow upwards from its human earthly roots towards the heavens, the air and sky that is symbolic of the divine sphere. I suppose ultimately we don’t have to know exactly what plant we are—probably it is not given to us to see too clearly our precise place in the Body of Christ and the Body of Man.

The key is to have faith that we are there, and to call out to the Spirit to pour down his gentle rain on us to make us grow to be who we are, become ourselves in the deepest sense of that word, which is really to become Christ, and in this becoming bear fruit in our lives with the beautiful fruits of the Spirit we find in Galatians 5.

And that’s where I will go tomorrow – to that magnificent teaching of Paul about the fruits of the flesh and the Spirit and how they come to us all in our lives.