St Basil the Great on the Holy Spirit

At the time St Basil wrote his treatise On the Holy Spirit, controversies abounded concerning the divinity of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. St Basil compared the state of the Church under siege to a naval battle being fought in the midst of a raging tempest, in which the two fleets are so broken up by the dark storm that banners can no longer be seen, signals are no longer recognised, and one cannot distinguish one’s ally from one’s foe.

St Basil denounces these errors as the end-product of vanity and pride in those who do not love truth in their hearts. He assembles all the evidence from Scripture, as well as the baptismal and liturgical tradition of the Church, and states that the ‘same honour’ is due to the Spirit as to the Father and the Son, since the Holy Spirit is divine in nature:

If wherever God is, the Spirit is present also, what nature shall we presume Him to have? An all encompassing nature, or a nature confined to particular places, as we have described the nature of angels. No one would say the latter. He is divine in nature, infinite in greatness, mighty in His works, good in His blessings; shall we not exult Him; shall we not glorify Him?

St Basil points out there is a diversity of manners in which creation participates in the Holy Spirit, since the gifts of the Holy Spirit are many and varied for each human person. There are two kinds of participation in God: an indirect participation, characteristic to those who remain in the passions, and a direct participation by those leading an ascetic struggle against their passions. The degree of the direct participation of the Holy Spirit depends on His Grace, and our purity of heart, our thirst for holiness, our struggle in the life of virtue, our faith and our worthiness. As the Holy Spirit distributes gifts in accordance to our worthiness and our struggle, it is those who have a direct participation who are able to maintain a relationship with the Holy Spirit, and who are able to grow more intensely to become, with His assistance, that which we were created to become – transformed Saints in the image and likeness of God.


Source: June-July 2015 Lychnos Edition