My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we gather together for the Holidays, we know the reason for the Season. It is not something new. It is not something that needs to be stated every year as though we somehow forgot. We choose to ignore it. We choose to focus on ourselves and our personal desires.
As a result, we see depression, sadness, and expectations that never seem to match up with reality. We decorate our homes and fill our time with parties, but none of these things ever fill the void.
I use the term “things” purposefully because we are not going to find joy in any “thing.” We won’t find joy in any “idea” either. The only real and lasting joy is to be found in Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the answer to every question and every hole in our life is filled by the Holy Spirit. To truly understand this season we must acquire the Holy Spirit.
If we were filled with the Holy Spirit we would weep with such unspeakable joy at the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We would not think of ourselves, but would be like the Shepherds seeking to tell everyone the Good News. We would not worry about presents for ourselves, but would be seeking to offer to God Gold (Kingly Praise), Frankincense (Godly Worship), and Myrrh (Useful Works). If we filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of making dynamic plans, we would always say, “I make plans, but in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”
How else can we explain that Churches are empty on Christmas? How else can we explain the destruction of Christmas year after year? How else can we explain that children do not know the story of the Birth of Jesus Christ? We have been long been presented with the Truth and we know what is right. Yet, we simply cannot seem to realign ourselves.
That is because we cannot change by willpower alone. We cannot seek to only be superficially “good people.” We can only change with the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I would like to share an excerpt from St. Seraphim of Sarov, On the Acquisition of the Holy Spirit. In this work, which I urge all Christians to read and internalize, he shows us the acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the most important spiritual goal for us all. It is the beginning, the middle, and the end of our Spiritual Journey, and it is the source of every fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
“Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ’s sake. Trade spiritually with them; trade with those which give you the greatest profit. Accumulate capital from the superabundance of God’s grace, deposit it in God’s eternal bank which will bring you immaterial interest, not four or six per cent, but one hundred per cent for one spiritual ruble, and even infinitely more than that. For example, if prayer and watching gives you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner.
“That’s it, my son. That is how you must spiritually trade in virtue. Distribute the Holy Spirit’s gifts of grace to those in need of them, just as a lighted candle burning with earthly fire shines itself and lights other candles for the illumining of all in other places, without diminishing its own light. If it is so, with regard to the earthly fire, what shall we say about the fire of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God? For earthly riches decrease with distribution, but the more the heavenly riches of God’s grace are distributed, the more they increase in the one who distributes them. Thus the Lord Himself was pleased to say to the Samaritan woman: All who drink this water will be thirsty again. “But whoever drinks the water that I shall give him will never be thirsty any more; but the water that I shall give him will be in him a spring of water leaping up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).”
This turns the logic of the world on its head. Instead of gaining and hoarding to acquire treasure, we ought to give. The recompense of this is always infinitely higher than we give. That is how the Infinite Grace of God pours out over us. The treasure of the Holy Spirit, in addition to providing riches that can never be taken away, also makes us into people so full of light and fire, that we enrich those around us. We become beacons and we inspire others to seek that light themselves.
If we can change with His help, then the reason for the season becomes self evident. I pray that we can all acquire such a spirit. I pray we can all give so much more than Christmas gifts to our loved ones this season. I pray we can gain, instead of an ipad or laptop, kindness or gentleness.
I wish you all, my spiritual family in Christ, a very Merry Christmas (Christ’s Mass a.k.a The Divine Liturgy of the Incarnation our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) and a Happy New Year. The greatest gift I have been given is the honor and privilege to be your priest.
I remain your servant in Christ, Fr. Dimitri Tobias, Proistamenos