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Who Spake By the Prophets

December 15, 2013

17_prophet_elijah_gdmAccording to the Nicene Creed and according to Scripture itself, the Holy Spirit spake through the Prophets to the children of Israel in their wanderings, in their disobedience, in their sorrows, and in their afflictions. And through the Prophets of the Old Testament, the Apostles of the New Testament, and the Saints Who live in the age to come, the same Spirit of God continues to speak to us in our wanderings, disobedience, sorrows, and afflictions. When we wander about in our own concerns and worries, the Divine Spirit speaks to us through the Prophet Jeremiah awakening us up from sleep, “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (2:32). When we act as “a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isaiah 30:9), the same Spirit calls out to us with the voice of the Prophet Hosea, “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God” (14:1). When we are in sorrow over our sins, the Spirit of God through the Prophet Isaiah speaks to us a word of comfort: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (1:1). And when our burdens seem to much to bear, the Spirit through the same Prophet reminds us of our Savior: “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (53:4). Yes, the Spirit Who spake by the Prophets then speaks by the Prophets now, illumining us about faithfulness to God and maintaining our hope in Him.

The Spirit also spake through the Prophets about the wonderful work of salvation. Through the Prophets, the Spirit spake of the incarnation: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Through the Prophets, the Spirit spake of Saint John the Baptist’s call to repentance: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3). Through the Prophets, the Spirit spake of Christ’s teaching us about the mysteries of the Kingdom through parables: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). Through the Prophets, the Spirit spake of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” (Matthew 21:5). Through the Prophets, the Spirit spake of Christ’s passion, “They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots” (Matthew 27:35). And through the Prophets, the Spirit spake of Christ’s glorious resurrection, “as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

Thus, the Spirit Who spake by the Prophets of old speaks to us today about the truth of reality and the truth about ourselves, about theological teachings revealed by God beyond the grasp of the human mind and about the human heart called to be purified and to become a vessel of the most High. And in speaking through the Prophets, the Spirit humbly chooses to use purified vessels of clay to express the will of God for us. On this point, Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes, “we maintain that the grace of God at sundry times and in divers manners spake by the Prophets, ordering their voices in conformity with our capacity for understanding and using the modes of expression with which we are familiar. By this means as with a guiding hand, He leads us to the knowledge of higher truths, not teaching us with terms that are proportional to their inherent sublimity (for how can the great be contained by the little?), but descending to the lower level of our limited ability to comprehend. Even as God gave animals the ability to move, but no longer dictates every step they take, for their nature moves on its own, making its way and adapting its faculty for movement according to the conditions…, so our nature that has received from God the power of speech and utterance and of expressing the will by the voice proceeds on its way through things, giving them distinctive names by varying inflections of sound” (Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book).

In other words, by speaking through the Prophets, the Holy Spirit reveals that God is with us and remains with us not only in spite of our weak and downtrodden condition, but in that condition with all its limitations imposed by where we live and when we live as well as by what we can and cannot know. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Prophets to us about the most basic needs of our hearts and the highest hopes we can ever have in a way that is concrete and tailored to the human condition. If we would only believe this with all our heart, we would listen to the Scriptures with attentive ears. The Prophets of old for the children of Israel would become the Prophets of today for us. The Apostles of old ministering to the early Church would become the Apostles of today ministering to us. And the Saints of old illumining the faithful would become the Saints of today illumining us. And their words tailored to the human condition would be received as intended with all their personal and vital significance as words of hope, as words of consolation and as words of life everlasting. This would also make us even more attentive to the speech of every brother and sister in Christ, for through them the Spirit God may be speaking to us. Saint Augustine hearing a child say, “Take up and read; take up and read,” understood the voice as the Spirit of God speaking to him. He relates, “interpreting it as none other than a command to me from Heaven to open the book and to read the first chapter I should come across… I grasped the book, opened it, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell, — ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.’ No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended, — by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart, — all the gloom of doubt vanished away” (Confessions, Book 8, chapter 12). And so, Augustine, like so many of the Saints, began his journey to blessedness from a willingness to hear and to believe that the Holy Spirit spake through the Prophets. And that same path opens up before us if we too believe that through those same Prophets, He speaks to us today.

From → Nicene Creed

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