Prayer to the Holy Spirit:
O Heavenly King, The Comforter, The Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present & fillest all things.
Treasury of Blessings & Giver of Life,
come & abide in us, & cleanse us from every impurity,
& save our souls, O Good One.
I had a very hard time deciding on a name for this blog site. Within the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Faith there are many great phrases & quotes from the Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers, liturgical services, hymnology and prayer books that would make wonderful titles. There were many ideas—some good & some not. Two prayers however, kept recurring in my mind & both were very meaningful to me as a catechumen. One is spoken by the priest during most Orthodox services: “For Thou art a Good God Who lovest mankind…” The other was the above prayer to the Holy Spirit. Just imagine, a God who loves mankind and is everywhere present filling all things! I had heard these ideas in my pre-Orthodox days & they are “basic” beliefs of omnipresence & ambivalence. What impressed me then is the tense these are written in: the present tense—now! God is present now & fills all things now! Many religious traditions frequently fail to bring out the now of God. They tend to look to the past or the future, often forgetting the now, almost as if now does not exist.
God did a multitude of things in the past: the creation of the cosmos, promises to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, the giving of the Mosaic law, revelations to the Old Testament prophets—& many more far too numerous to mention here. God (as Christ) also did a multitude of things in the New Testament: the Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, miraculous healings, raising the dead, feeding multitudes—again the events are too numerous to mention. But the most “recent” New Testament events are now 2,000 years old; let’s face it, that’s a very long time in human terms…the virtual dustbin of history.
Many religious traditions also look to the future as far as God’s activities are concerned. Christ is coming back in the future (although He could return at any moment). The Antichrist is coming in the future. The Great Tribulation is going to occur in the future. For many the Rapture (think “Left Behind” series) is going to occur in the future. The great 1,000 millennial reign of Christ will occur in the future. All will be judged & accordingly escorted into the eternal delight of heaven or thrown into the eternal torment of hell in the future.
Now few in the West would agree that God only acts in the past or future & not the here & now present. But even when referring God’s actions in our present time frame, they still tend to refer either to the past (what He has done) or future (what He will do), but seldom in the present (what He is doing). A Protestant would never say they are being saved (this would be viewed as nonsense); it is always “I was/am saved”—historic fact—over, done, past. At Christmas, they will say “Christ was born” & then the Nativity & Incarnation as fully God/fully Man—oh so important for our salvation–is forgotten for another year when it will once again be remembered as a mere historical event full of debatable, impossible & odd details. At Easter the West happily proclaims “He arose!” & once again continue on with routine life. By way of contrast the Orthodox proclaim “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”at Christmas, & at Easter “Christ Is Risen! Indeed He Is Risen!” The Paschal Canon is more telling: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, & upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” Note the “is risen”, “trampling down” & “bestowing life”; all present tense & active actions of God’s continuing grace to mankind.
I like Orthodoxy’s focus on the here & now present…a focus on God Who is Everywhere Present & Fillest All Things. We can experience God in the here & now. We are being saved through God’s grace. In Orthodoxy the faithful experience God in & through the mysteries (sacraments). During Confession we experience God’s forgiveness in the here & now. During the Divine Liturgy which features the reception of Holy Communion we experience the very presence of Christ Himself for the remission of sins, healing of soul & body & eternal life. For the Orthodox salvation is continual & on-going communion with God. Many however, will quickly reject as impossible this idea of communion with God; a communion that is possible because God IS everywhere present & DOES fill all things. For me it is impossible to believe that God was experienced in the past & will be experienced in the future, but cannot experienced in the present.