A Voice From The Isles:
Although some find New Year’s resolutions helpful, I never have. Perhaps I know myself too well. We say don’t we: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Well, that just about sums me up, but I would rather use the words of St Paul: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” (Romans 7:15)
I submit that we don’t need a New Year’s resolution but rather a New Year’s revolution. Let us think of revolution not in terms of a violent overthrow of the state but personally and spiritually as in the root sense of “revolve”... that is a complete turnaround in our lives. This is not easily accomplished by any means, nor can it be achieved simply by resolving to do better. We know that unaided by God we can do nothing. Jesus said as much, as recorded in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 15 and verse 5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” With God empowering us by the Holy Spirit, we can indeed turn our lives around.
St Basil the Great, whose feast it is today, has much to teach us concerning this revolution in the Holy Spirit. He wrote a very important work simply entitled: “On the Holy Spirit” in which he sought to defend the divinity of the Holy Spirit against His detractors, heretics who like the Arians in respect of Christ, supposed the Holy Spirit to be a creature rather than God himself. In the extract that follows (chapter 49) you can see what a revolution St. Basil believed the Holy Spirit does and can effect in humanity and the Cosmos as a whole.
What does the Holy Spirit do? His works are ineffable in Majesty and innumerable in quantity. How can we even ponder what extends beyond the ages? What did He do before creation began? How great are the graces He showered on creation? What power will He wield in the age to come? He existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. Even if you can imagine anything beyond the ages, you will discover that the Spirit is even further beyond. If you consider creation remember that the heavenly powers were established by the Spirit; this establishment means that they were disinclined to fall away from the good.
The Spirit enables the heavenly powers to avoid evil and persevere in goodness. Christ comes, and the Spirit prepares His way. He comes in the flesh, but the Spirit is never separated from Him. Working of miracles and gifts of healing, come from the Holy Spirit. Demons are driven out by the Spirit of God. The presence of the Spirit despoils the devil. Remission of sins is given through the gift of the Spirit: “you were washed, you were sanctified… In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit of our God.”
Through the Spirit we become intimate with God: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Resurrection from the dead is accomplished by the operation of the Spirit: “thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, and they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth.”
Now don’t get me wrong. We do need to be resolved, or rather to have resolve. We need to choose to be open to God, to serve him. We need to strive with all our might to live our lives according to His will. However, resolution without revolution is bound to fail. As the Psalmist says: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
So we need our lives to be revolutionised by the Holy Spirit if we are to please God. With that revolution there also comes guidance and an empowerment for God’s service. Subdeacon Emmanuel will be preaching about that next week.
Before then, of course, we have the feast of Holy Theophany on Friday when we recall into the present Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan, whereby His anointment with the Spirit from the Father is plain for all to see. As St. Basil make clear in the extract we have just heard, the Spirit is never absent from the Son but rather He rests upon the Son eternally. He is the Principle of life, sanctification and power for all those who call upon Him. The Spirit then is there for all of us in the same way that He will be there next Sunday for Nicholas when he is baptised and for Jamie the Sunday afterward when he is chrismated.
For all of us, baptism is and should be our own personal Pentecost and we must live continually in the power of the Holy Spirit if we want ourselves and the world around us to be changed for the better.
This, therefore, should be our resolution for this New Year: to allow God His just and gentle revolution in our hearts whereby his love and power can really begin to turn things round for us and for our world; if we will only mean business with God. Let us therefore make it our resolve so to do.