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Basil the Great

On the Holy Spirit

From: Schaff - Wace, (ed)., Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II, v. 8, tr. by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, London 1894.


That the word "in," in as many senses as it bears, is understood of the Spirit.

61. Now, short and simple as this utter-ante is, it appears to me, as I consider it that its meanings are many and various. For of the senses in which "in" is used, we find that all help our conceptions of the Spirit. Form is said to be in Matter; Power to be in what is capable of it; Habit to be in him who is affected by it; and so on. Therefore, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit perfects rational beings, completing their excellence, He is analogous to Form. For he, who no longer "lives after the flesh," but, being "led by the Spirit of God," is called a Son of God, being "conformed to tile image of the Son of God," is described as spiritual. And as is the power of seeing in the healthy eye, so is the operation of the Spirit in the purified soul. Wherefore also Paul prays for the Ephesians that they may have their "eyes enlightened" by "the Spirit of wisdom." And as the art in him who has acquired it, so is the grace of the Spirit in the recipient ever present, though not continuously in operation. For as the art is potentially in the artist, but only in operation when he is working in accordance with it, so also the Spirit is ever present with those that are worthy, but works, as need requires, in prophecies, or in healings, or in some other actual carrying into effect of His potential action. Furthermore as in our bodies is health, or heat, or, generally, their variable conditions, so, very frequently is the Spirit in the soul; since He does not abide with those who, on account of the instability of their will, easily reject the grace which they have received. An instance of this is seen in Saul, and the seventy elders of the children of Israel, except Eldad and Medad, with whom alone the Spirit appears to have remained, and, generally, any one similar to these in character. And like reason in the soul, which is at one time the thought in the heart, and at another speech uttered by the tongue, so is the Holy Spirit, as when He "beareth witness with our spirit," and when lie "cries in our hearts, Abba, Father," or when He speaks on our behalf, as it is said, "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of our Father which speaketh in you." Again, the Spirit is conceived of, in relation to the distribution of gifts, as a whole in parts. For we all are "members one of another, having girls differing according to the grace that is given us." Wherefore "the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you," but all together complete the Body of Christ in the Unity of the Spirit, and render to one another the needful aid that comes of the gifts. "But God hath set the members in the body, every one of them, as it hath pleased Him." But "the members have the same care for one another," according to the inborn spiritual communion of their sympathy. Wherefore, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." And as parts in the whole so are we individually in the Spirit, because we all "were baptized in one body into one spirit."

62. It is an extraordinary statement, but it is none the less true, that the Spirit is frequently spoken of as the place of them that are being sanctified, and it will become evident that even by this figure the Spirit, so far from being degraded, is rather glorified. For words applicable to the body are, for the sake of clearness, frequently transferred in scripture to spiritual conceptions. Accordingly we find the Psalmist, even in reference to God, saying "Be Thou to me a champion God and a strong place to save me" and concerning the Spirit "behold there is place by me, and stand upon a rock." Plainly meaning the place or contemplation in the Spirit wherein, after Moses had entered thither, he was able to see God intelligibly manifested to him. This is the special and peculiar place of true worship; for it is said "Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place . . . but in the place the Lord thy God shall choose." Now what is a spiritual burnt offering? "The sacrifice of praise." And in what place do we offer it? In the Holy Spirit. Where have we learnt this? From the Lord himself in the words "The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." This place Jacob saw and said "The Lord is in this place." It follows that the Spirit is verily the place of the saints and the saint is the proper place for the Spirit, offering himself as he does for the indwelling of God, and called God's Temple. So Paul speaks in Christ, saying "In the sight of God we speak in Christ," and Christ in Paul, as he himself says "Since ye seek a proof ne Christ speaking in me." So also in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries, and again the Spirit speaks in him.

63. In relation to the originate, then, the Spirit is said to be in them "in divers portions and in divers manners," while in relation to the Father and the Son it is more consistent with true religion to assert Him not to be in but to be with. For the grace flowing from Him when He dwells in those that are worthy, and carries out His own operations, is well described as existing in those that are able to receive Him. On the other hand His essential existence before the ages, and His ceaseless abiding with Son and Father, cannot be contemplated without requiring titles expressive of eternal conjunction. For absolute and real co-existence is predicated in the case of things which are mutually inseparable. We say, for instance, that beat exists in the hot iron, but in the case of the actual fire it co-exists; and, similarly, that health exists in the body, but that life co-exists with the soul. It follows that wherever the fellowship is intimate, congenital, and inseparable, the word with is more expressive, suggesting, as it does, the idea of inseparable fellowship. Where on the other hand the grace flowing from the Spirit naturally comes and goes, it is properly and truly said to exist in, even if on account of the firmness of the recipients' disposition to good the grace abides with them continually. Thus whenever we have in mind the Spirit's proper rank, we contemplate Him as being with the Father and the Son, but when we think of the grace that flows from Him operating on those who participate in it, we say that the Spirit is in us. And the doxology which we offer "in the Spirit" is not an acknowledgment of His rank; it is rather a confession of our own weakness, while we shew that we are not sufficient to glorify Him of ourselves, but our sufficiency is in the Holy Spirit. Enabled in, [or by,] Him we render thanks to our God for the benefits we have received, according to the measure of our purification from evil, as we receive one a larger and another a smaller share of the aid of the Spirit, that we may offer "the sacrifice of praise to God." According to one use, then, it is thus that we offer our thanksgiving, as the true religion requires, in the Spirit; although it is not quite unobjectionable that any one should testify of himself "the Spirit of God is in me, and I offer glory after being made wise through the grace that flows from Him." For to a Paul it is becoming to say "I think also that I have the Spirit of God," and again, "that good thing which was committed to thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." And of Daniel it is fitting to say that "the Holy Spirit of God is in him," and similarly of men who are like these in virtue.

64. Another sense may however be given to the phrase, that just as the Father is seen in the Son, so is the Son in the Spirit. The "worship in the Spirit" suggests the idea of the operation of our intelligence being carried on in the light, as may be learned from the words spoken to the woman of Samaria. Deceived as she was by the customs of her country into the belief that worship was local, our Lord, with the object of giving her better instruction, said that worship ought to be offered "in Spirit and in Truth," plainly meaning by the Truth, Himself. As then we speak of the worship offered in the Image of God the Father as worship in the Son, so too do we speak of worship in the Spirit as shewing in Himself the Godhead of the Lord. Wherefore even in our worship the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son. If you remain outside the Spirit you will not be able even to worship at all; and on your becoming in Him you will in no wise be able to dissever Him from God;--any more than you will divorce light from visible objects. For it is impossible to behold the Image of the invisible God except by the enlightenment of the Spirit, and impracticable for him to fix his gaze on the Image to dissever the light from the Image, because the cause of vision is of necessity seen at the same time as the visible objects. Thus fitly and consistently do we behold the "Brightness of the glory" of God by means of the illumination of the Spirit, and by means of the "Express Image" we are led up to Him of whom He is the Express Image and Seal, graven to the like.

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