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457Homily for 8/1/11 - St Seraphim - Acquire the Holy Spirit

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  • Fr David Moser
    Jul 31, 2011
      Today we celebrate the feast of the opening of the relics of St Seraphim
      of Sarov. St Seraphim is the patron and protector of our temple and by
      his prayers this parish was established and has not only survived but
      grown and prospered. This summer feast of St Seraphim marks the
      anniversary of his glorification which he himself prophesied as a
      “summer Pascha”. Indeed it was a truly a summer Pascha for there was a
      great and continual outpouring of grace evident in uncounted healings,
      an atmosphere of brightness and joy and the fragrance of unceasing
      prayer rising from crowds gathered there.

      St Seraphim was a man of prayer and of deed. In living a life of prayer
      he was granted the grace of the Holy Spirit in large measure and as his
      God-pleasing life became known, it was obvious that his every word and
      deed was filled with that grace and was focused on the glory of God.
      Although he wrote little, some of his words were recorded and have been
      handed down to us. Perhaps the most well known of these is the record of
      his conversation with his close friend and disciple, Nicholas Motovilov.
      (http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/wonderful.aspx) The entire conversation
      was centered on the question of the purpose of the Christian life and St
      Seraphim summed that purpose up in one short phrase, “Acquire the Holy

      In answer to the question “what is the aim of the Christian life?” St
      Seraphim gave this answer, “Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other
      Christian practices, however good they may be in themselves, do not
      constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the
      indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian
      life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for
      fasts, and vigils, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s
      sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. But mark,
      my son, only the good deed done for Christ’s sake brings us the fruits
      of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ’s sake, even though
      it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of
      God in this.”

      In these words we see both the path of our salvation and a warning
      against a false path that looks the same but does not lead to life. In
      order to acquire the Holy Spirit, we must not only do those good deeds,
      but we must do them in the proper spirit. It does nothing for us to
      fast, keep vigil, tithe, even to be loving and kind to our neighbors and
      our enemies alike if we do all this for our own sake, hoping by them to
      prove ourselves worthy of God’s gifts to us (or even less commendable,
      if we do these things to gather the praise, honors and benefits of the
      world). We do these things simply out of love for God, because He asks
      them of us and because we know that by this we can come closer to Him.

      Providentially, N. A. Motovilov was like many of us, still a novice in
      the spiritual life and so he began to ask St Seraphim questions about
      the meaning of his words. First he asked, “What do you mean by
      acquiring” and St Seraphim explained that acquiring is the same as
      obtaining. He then demonstrated the meaning of this through the parable
      of the wise and foolish virgins. He explained the foolish virgins did
      not lack good works, for what good work is greater than virginity, but
      what they lacked was the grace of the Holy Spirit. He said “I think that
      what they were lacking was the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God.
      These virgins practice the virtues, but in their spiritual ignorance
      they supposed that the Christian life consisted merely in doing good
      works. By doing a good deed they thought they were doing the work of
      God, but they little cared whether they acquired thereby the grace of
      God’s Spirit. … The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is, so to say, the
      oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They were called foolish just
      because they had forgotten the necessary fruit of virtue, the grace of
      the Holy Spirit, without which no one is or can be saved. … This is the
      oil in the lamps of the wise virgins which could burn long and brightly,
      and these virgins with their burning lamps were able to meet the
      Bridegroom Who came at midnight, and could enter the bridechamber of joy
      with Him. … the oil is not good deeds, but the grace of the All-Holy
      Spirit of God which is obtained through them and which changes souls
      from one state to another – that is, from corruption to incorruption,
      from spiritual death to spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the
      stable of our being … into a temple of the Divinity, into the shining
      bridechamber of eternal joy in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Creator and
      Redeemer and eternal Bridegroom of our souls.”

      Here we can see more clearly the full meaning of the simple words of St
      Seraphim, “Acquire the Holy Spirit.” This is quite simply the whole and
      entire meaning and purpose of our earthly lives. In this life, our only
      goal, our only purpose is to acquire the Holy Spirit – to fill our souls
      with the grace which He gives, which transforms us from corruption to
      incorruption, from death to life.

      Let us then brothers and sisters in Christ, diligently go about this
      labor of acquiring the Holy Spirit. Evaluate everything you do in this
      light – “will this bring me the grace of the Holy Spirit?” Do everything
      that you do to the glory of God. Everything that you do in this life –
      even the mundane tasks of your daily life and work – can be done to the
      glory of God and thereby become a source of the grace of the Holy
      Spirit. Those things which cannot be done to the Glory of God then have
      no place in your life for they are dead and useless and even if they do
      not hinder your acquisition of the Holy Spirit, they will at least rob
      you of the grace that you might have obtained in the same moment.

      It is good that you pray; it is good that you are compassionate and love
      your neighbor; it is good that you attend the services of the Church; it
      is good that you fast and keep the vigils; it is good that you confess
      your sins and repent and receive the Mysteries. All these things are
      good – but if you do them for any reason other than the glory of God, if
      you think that these things in and of themselves will benefit your soul,
      then you are sadly mistaken. Do all these things, and do them not for
      your own gain or benefit but solely for the glory of God.

      We spend our whole lives acquiring things. We acquire money, and homes,
      and cars, and families, and careers, and reputations, and possessions
      and a host of other things. Most importantly though we should spend our
      lives acquiring the grace of the Holy Spirit – nothing else matters.
      Hear the words of our batisuhka (dear father) Seraphim and “Acquire the
      Holy Spirit of God”

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)