“If thou knewest the Gift of God, and He it is Who saith to thee, ‘Give Me to drink,’ thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” “If thou knewest the Gift of God….” What is this Gift of God? Without question, according to Christ and the Apostles, it is the very Person of the Holy Spirit.
This is the Gift of God which Christ came into the world to impart to all mankind. This is the living water which He thirsted to give to the Samaritan Woman, and to all those who were in the Temple at Mid-Pentecost, when He cried out and declared: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink; he that believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” And the Holy Theologian John explains that “This He spake of the Spirit Whom they that believe on Him should receive. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This is the Gift of God, the Living Water, that Christ first offered to the Samaritan Woman, when He said to her, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; for the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The words of Christ are ever-living, ever-active, ever-present, ever-relevant, ever-demanding. Though we have been sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit as members of Christ’s very Body in the Church, we are called to ceaselessly grow in Christ, and to ever be filled with the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul exhorts us.
There is an ever-progressing teaching of Christ regarding the acquisition of the Holy Spirit in the order of the Gospels. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Christ teaches that we should ask, so we may be given—“Ask, and it shall be given you.” In St. Luke’s Gospel, Christ explains what we are to ask to be given, saying, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your sons, how much more shall the Father give the Holy Spirit to him who asks.” Then in St. John’s Gospel, Christ teaches us how to ask for the Holy Spirit, saying, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do…. If ye shall ask of the Father anything in My name, I will do it. If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth.”
First He teaches us that we should keep asking, that we might receive the Gift of God. Then He teaches us what we are to ask to be given above all else—the Holy Spirit. Then He teaches us how to ask—by prayer in His name, and by keeping His commandments of love. His Beloved Apostle concisely puts it this way in his First Epistle: “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandment, and do those things that are pleasing to Him. And this is His commandment: That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He gave us commandment. And He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him; and hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit Whom He hath given us.” Also, the Beloved Theologian teaches us the fullness of this love: “Hereby we perceive the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
So, the Beloved Apostle teaches us what above all else are the commandments of Christ—to believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and to love one another with the same sacrificial and martyric love of Christ for our brethren. Prayer, and above all, the Jesus Prayer, and humble sacrificial service: this is how we ask to be more filled with the Holy Spirit.
This is how we are to perceive the love of God among us. What does it say in the reading of the Book of Acts today? St. Barnabas came to Antioch, and what happened? It says: “When he came, and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would continue to cleave unto the Lord Jesus Christ.”
St. Barnabas saw the grace of God in the living Church of Antioch. This was both a vision of the eyes of the body, and of the mind—he perceived the presence of the Living Spirit radiating from within each member, as a fountain flowing out of their bellies unto everlasting life, and he saw the same Holy Spirit encompassing them all, abiding with them, together with the Father and the Son. But this grace was also seen with his physical eyes—because he perceived the love of Christ God in them, of which St. John speaks, that sacrificial and humble union of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity incarnate before his eyes in the divine union of the members of the Antiochian Church through the Incarnate Christ.
Having seen this, he was glad. He saw the grace of God, both physically and spiritually. And yet he exhorted them to be even more filled with this grace by exhorting them to “cleave unto the Lord with purpose of heart.” This cleaving is true faith, whole-hearted trust, a spiritual attachment of oneself to Jesus Christ.
This cleaving is what St. John exhorts us when he tells us to believe on the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And at the end of his Holy Gospel, he explains: “These things I have written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through His name.” And at the end of his First Epistle he declares the same, saying: “These things I have written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” He writes unto those who already believe on the name of Christ, and yet he explains that he has written to them for the purpose that they might continue to grow in this belief on the name of Christ.
Everywhere we are exhorted to grow into Christ, to acquire more of the Holy Spirit, to become more God-like. But is this what we seek? Is this what we thirst for? Are we responsive to the truth that St. John declares when, with unveiled language, he says that we have perceived the love of God in the laying down of His life for us?
Let us ask ourselves, am I seeking the love of God with my whole heart? Do I thirst for salvation? Or do I thirst for worldly things, for repose, for something that is fleeting? This is a very simple question. But we do not take it seriously. We would like to find something more interesting to do, and to occupy our mind with. But this is the most salvific.
Do I thirst for Christ? Do I thirst for the Holy Spirit? Do I thirst for righteousness, virtue, the very life and energy and grace of Christ pulsing through my veins? Or have I become self-complacent? Have I lulled myself to sleep in ignorance, negligence, forgetfulness, insensibility? Have I mistaken the false peace of self-complacent and idle pride for the peace and grace of the Holy Spirit? Have I called that which is evil, good; bitterness, sweetness; darkness, light; the inaction of delusion and sin, the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit? Have I come to such blasphemy, and that in such a lax and careless manner?
Why don’t we thirst for Christ? For, He thirsts for our thirst. On the Cross He said, “I thirst.” Truly He, as fully Man, thirsted physically, but much more was His vehement and unquenchable thirst for our salvation and our undying thirst of love for Him when He said this.
Do we not perceive this love of God, that perception of His love which St. John spoke about? Do we not behold the Crucified Christ on the Cross in the Holy Icons right before our eyes with a spiritual thirst, a thirst which perceives that He is the Rock of Life Who has broken Himself upon the Cross in order to pour out the Living Water of the Holy Spirit into the depths of our souls? Do we gaze at Him casually? Do we gaze at Him indifferently? Or do we truly and whole-heartedly see that He desires to not only fill our thirsting souls, but to over-fill them, to make them spring forth into the world around us, to spring up unto eternal life, to wash over with perceptible grace all those around us?
“Today,” the Scriptures declare, “if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts, for today is the day of salvation.” What are we then waiting for? What are we slumbering for? Why are we senseless and uncaring? What shall we begin to ask for? How shall we begin to thirst for Christ? How shall we make a beginning to be filled with the Living Water of the Holy Spirit, to receive this most precious Gift of God Himself? One of the ascetics has told us, that first we should ask of the Lord tears, for through tears all our prayers are answered.
But this too is a great grace which eludes us. But nonetheless we must seek it through prayer. We must endure the dryness and burden of seemingly-fruitless prayer, even as the farmer endures the heat of the day, the clearing of the field, the tilling of the hard soil, the patient planting of seed, the daily watering and protection of his crop, until the day of harvest.
First, we will experience pain of heart, a sorrow deep inside, a gnawing agony of soul seeking to slake its thirst. Then we will experience an ever-increasing flame of thirst, a seemingly-unhealable wound, an inconsolable anguish and contrition of soul. These are labor pains, these are the hard work of the interior man. We must endure them, we must not yet seek to lay hold of consoling tears of compunction, because it is a great gift which bears within itself the bedewing grace of the Holy Spirit, the comfort of the Comforter, the slaking of our thirsting soul. We must not expect to lay hold of this too quickly, without much effort, without much pain and patience and crucifixion with Christ. We must seek it with long-suffering.
Contrition is a like a fire in the soul, a pain not soothed, an affliction from the awareness of our wretchedness. But compunction is a cooling water, a refreshing breeze, a sweet pain of heart, a joy-producing sorrow, a thirst which quenches thirst, but continues to thirst, and is continually being satisfied, it is the humiliation and brokenness of the sinful heart before God, but one which is swallowed up in an even greater consciousness of God’s mercy, God’s love, God the Father’s care and acceptance of the broken heart. It is a fountain of living water springing forth from our heart unto the everlasting life of God’s compassion.
What more pleasing sacrifice is there? What whole-burnt offering is better than the flaming heart which is afflicted by its sins? This is the fiery sacrifice which God seeks. This is our two mites, our pitiful offering, our maimed and blemished sacrifice. This is that which we must seek to find: a broken heart. The Prophet Joel taught this thousands of years ago: “Rend your hearts, and not your garments!”
How, how to rend them? How to pierce them? How to sensitize them? How to enflame them? How to make them thirst, O Lord? By My name, He says. Pierce them with the Sword of the Spirit, Jesus Christ, the Crucified One, the Co-Sufferer of Mankind, the Bridegroom of your soul. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!” “Lord Jesus Christ, help me to make a good beginning!” “Lord Jesus Christ, grant me to love Thee as much as I love sin itself!” “Lord Jesus Christ, make me thirst for Thee, make me to love Thee, make me to seek Thee above all else!” “Lord Jesus Christ, wound my soul and pierce my heart with Thy love!”
This is our humble path. This is our beginning. This is our hope for salvation. What does St. Paul declare: “The Word of Salvation is in your very mouth; if you call upon the Lord Jesus, and believe Him to be risen from the dead and living, you shall be saved. For all who continue to call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
All who call upon His name shall abide with Him. Though unclean, He shall cleanse them. Though paralyzed, He shall raise them. Though dead, He shall enliven them. Though sinfully leprous, He shall make them whole. This calling purifies us. This calling and invoking of His most sweet name will make us to call out more, and will purify us in the process. This is what He has taught us.
Therefore, let us increase our zeal; let us begin to want to thirst more for Him; let us rouse ourselves from the sleep of carelessness; let us fall down and worship Him, and let us pour out our hearts to Him—continually, unfailingly, honestly, boldly, with trust in His mercy. For, this repentance is the proof of our seeking the desire for true love for God. And, growing in this love, we will become more perfected in love for others, loving all as Christ loves them, and loving them as Christ Himself, to the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.