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Does everyone receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism?
by Saint Simeon the New Theologian
Our blessed and God-bearing Father Simeon the New Theologian (956-1036), reposed on the 12th of March and commemorated on the 12th of October. The texts below are excerpts of his writings.
Á. Does everyone receive the Holy Spirit?
"And let no one say 'I have received Christ through holy baptism'; instead, let them learn that all those who become baptized do not receive Christ through their baptism, except if they are firm in faith and possess perfect knowledge, or have previously tended to their self and have cleansed it*, and have thereafter proceeded to be baptized. This is something that the researcher of Scriptures is made aware of, from the Apostolic words and acts. For it has been written: 'When the apostles who were in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who went down there from Jerusalem to pray so that the Samaritans would receive the Holy Spirit. For none of them had yet received the Holy Spirit; indeed, the ones there were only baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. They (=the Apostles) then placed their hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit.'
So, did you notice how the already baptized ones do not receive the Holy Spirit immediately? Did you learn from the Apostles how some people - although having believed and become baptized, did not “clothed themselves with Christ” with their baptism? Because, if this (the 'donning' of Christ) had indeed taken place, the Apostles would not have prayed afterwards and placed their hands on them. It was with the receiving of the Holy Spirit that they received the Lord Jesus; for Jesus is not one thing, and the Holy Spirit another. And who says this? The very Logos Himself, when He said to the Samaritan woman: "God is Spirit". If, therefore, Christ is God, He is Spirit according to the nature of godhood, and therefore he who has Christ, has Holy Spirit. And he who has the Holy Spirit, likewise has the Lord, as Paul also had said, "As for the Spirit, He is the Lord..."
Source: Saint Simeon the New theologian, "Bible of Ethics” (vivlos ton ithikon), Homily No.10.
*OODE note: Of course, infants that are baptized are already pure in heart..
Â - On those who think that they have the Holy Spirit
Here I am again, addressing those who claim that they have the Holy Spirit without being sure of this, and who think that they acquired it inside them, through Holy Baptism. They, who think they possess the treasure (2 Cor. 4:7) but are aware that their self is entirely vacant of it; (Also addressing) those who admit that they felt absolutely nothing during Holy Baptism, but who nevertheless believe that from that moment, the gift of God has resided inside them and continues to remain inside their soul, without them perceiving it and feeling it; and not only those (am I addressing), but also those who claim that they never had any awareness of the Grace of the Holy Spirit through theory ('sighting') and revelation, except through their faith and their contemplations alone, and who have not received Grace through experience but have held it inside them, by just listening to divine words.
I will therefore present the things they say, so pay attention to what these supposed sages and scientists (Deut.1:13, also Isa.5:21) assert, according to their opinion:
«Those of you who have been baptized in Christ –says Paul- have clothed yourselves with Christ» (Gal.3:27). Well? Aren’t we baptized too? So, if we are indeed baptized, then it is obvious that –as the Apostle tells us- we have also - have clothed ourselves with Christ.
This is their first argument, and the respective scriptural passage is its supposed “proof”. So, what reply could be given - not by us, but by the Holy Spirit – to these people?
-Do you claim, o people, that this “garment” that is donned is Christ?
-Yes, they reply.
-So, (to speak like a fool towards fools), is Christ something, or isn’t He?
-He certainly is, they will reply (if they haven’t lost their senses completely).
-Well, if you admit that He is “something”, then tell us what He is, so that you might first teach yourselves to speak, not as faithless ones, but as faithful ones. What else is Christ of course if not a true God, Who truly became a perfect Man? If you admit this, then tell us the reason that God became a Man. Most certainly (according to the teaching of the Divine Scriptures and the events themselves that took place and continue to take place – even if you ignore them, not wanting to hear about them) the reason is so that He could make man a God (John 1:12, Gal. 4:5) And how does He fashion the deification of Man? Through His flesh, or through His Godhood? Through His Godhood of course. “The flesh does not benefit anything; it is the spirit that vitalizes” (John 6:63). If, therefore, He first deified the flesh which He Himself had assumed, then He must also deify all of us, not with His perishable flesh, but with His deified flesh, so that in no way should we ever consider Him a man but confess Him as one, perfect God with two natures (given that God is one), for the corruptible element was devoured by incorruptibility. (1 Cor. 15:54) and the corporeal was not ruined by the incorporeal but was instead altered completely and remains distinct, ineffably mixed and joined with the Triadic God, through an immiscible combination, so that one God is worshipped in three Personae: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And let there be no addition to the number of the Personae on account of the incarnation, nor should the Holy Trinity sustain any alteration because of the human body.
What is the reason that I am saying these things? It is so that you might know beforehand the things that you confessed when I asked you, so that you do not inadvertently deviate from the straight path of these meanings and tire us, and add more sin to your soul.
But I will again remind you of everything that we said in brief, so that what I will say further along will also be understood.
So, it is Christ. But what is He? A true God, Who also became a perfect man, truly. And He became a man, which He had never previously become. And He deified us and will deify us, but not only through His flesh, as it cannot be separated. Now, pay attention and reply prudently as I ask you:
If baptized ones “don Christ” (Gal.3:27), then what are they donning? God. So, doesn’t one who has “donned God” mentally understand and “see” what he has donned? A naked person who is clothed will feel the garment placed on him and he will see it. Won’t the one with a naked soul feel God when he “dons” Him? If the one who dons God doesn’t feel anything, then what has he donned? Therefore, to you, God is a…. “nothing”! Because if He was a “something”, then those who donned Him would have perceived Him. Because it is only when we don’t don anything that we don’t feel anything; whereas if we clothe ourselves or someone else clothes us, we perceive it full well – provided our senses are functioning properly. Because only the dead do not feel anything when they are being clothed and I am afraid that perhaps those who assert these things are indeed dead and naked.
And thus was the question tackled.
Translation by A. N.
Article published in English on: 20-9-2008.
Last update: 20-9-2008.