III Lent Thursday – Esaias 11:10 – 12:2

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Thus saith the Lord: And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious. 11 And it shall be in that day, that the Lord shall again shew his hand, to be zealous for the remnant that is left of the people, which shall be left by the Assyrians, and that from Egypt, and from the country of Babylon, and from Ethiopia, and from the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia. 12 And he shall lift up a standard for the nations, and he shall gather the lost ones of Israel, and he shall gather the dispersed of Juda from the four corners of the earth. 13 And the envy of Ephraim shall be taken away, and the enemies of Juda shall perish: Ephraim shall not envy Juda, and Juda shall not afflict Ephraim. 14 And they shall fly in the ships of the Philistines: they shall at the same time spoil the sea, and them that come from the east, and Idumea: and they shall lay their hands on Moab first; but the children of Ammon shall first obey them  15 And the Lord shall make desolate the sea of Egypt; and he shall lay his hand on the river with a strong wind, and he shall smite the seven channels, so that men shall pass through it dry-shod. 16 And there shall be a passage for my people that is left in Egypt: and it shall be to Israel as the day when he came forth out of the land of Egypt.  12:1 And in that day thou shalt say, I will bless thee, O Lord; for thou wast angry with me, but thou hast turned aside thy wrath, and hast pitied me. 2 Behold, my God is my Saviour; I will trust in him, and not be afraid: for the Lord is my glory and my praise, and is become my salvation. 

Verse ten, which begins today’s reading, repeats the expression “…the root of Jesse,” which has already been introduced in verse one of this same chapter eleven.  Jesse is the father of King David, and chapter eleven of Esaias is one of the prophecies of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ from the Holy Virgin, who is descended from the House of David. Here is the beginning of chapter eleven: 

11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: 2 and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness shall fill him; 3 the spirit of the fear of God. 

The word “rod” (rabdos) in verse one signifies a shoot coming forth from the root.  The shoot from the root of Jesse is the Holy Virgin Mary:  

“…And there shall come forth a shoot from the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root…”.  It is certain that this shoot signifies the Blessed Virgin Mary, who sprang from the stock of Jesse and David and was made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, bringing forth a new flower of human flesh, from a mother’s womb to be sure, but through a virgin birth. – St. Leo the Great, Sermon 24, On the Nativity of the Lord. 

Verse two is a prophecy of the Holy Spirit coming to rest upon the Lord at His baptism in the Jordan.   As God, of course, He is always one with the Holy Spirit, but at his baptism, He received the Holy Spirit according to His human nature.  Verses two through three are also the  source for our knowledge of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:  wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, godliness, and the fear of God.  

St. Maximus the Confessor addresses the question of why the prophet uses the single noun “Spirit” but then goes on to speak of multiple “spirits”:  

The holy prophet Isaiah says in his prophecy that seven spirits rested on the Savior who rose up from the root of Jesse.  He knows that these were not seven spirits of God.  What he has in mind is that there are seven activities of the Holy Spirit, and these he calls “spirits,” because the Holy Spirit brings about each individual activity perfectly and proportionately. 

The divine apostle, on the other hand, speaks about the different activities of the one Holy Spirit as “varieties of gifts (I Corinthians 12:4) brought about by one and the same Spirit.  If then the manifestation of the Spirit is granted to each person according to the measure of his faith, then each believer who shares in such a gift does so in proportion to his faith and to the interior disposition of his soul.  He receives the appropriate action of the Spirit granted to him in the degree that he is able to perform this or that commandment. 

One person receives, as it were, the word of wisdom, another the word of knowledge, another the word of faith, and still another something other of the gifts of the Spirit enumerated by the great apostle (I Cor. 12:8ff).  In this way one receives through the Spirit, according to the measure of one’s faith, a gift of perfect, direct, and wholly spiritual love for God, while another receives from the same Spirit a gift of perfect love for the neighbor.  As I said, the gift that is proper to each one is brought about by the same Spirit.  If, like holy Isaiah, one calls these gifts “spirits,” he has not gone wrong. For as the Holy Spirit is the perfect agent of every gift, so He is found proportionately in every gift to a greater or lesser degree. –  Questions to Thalassius, 29

Upon the Lord Jesus Christ, then, according to His human nature, rests all of the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit, that Spirit with Whom, according to His divine nature, He is always one in eternity, in the unity of the Holy Trinity.  He did not receive the Spirit into His humanity for His own sake, however:  How could He Who as God is co-essential with the Holy Spirit possibly lack the Holy Spirit?   He deigned to become a man, and as a man He received the Holy Spirit, in order to share the Holy Spirit with us by means of our union with Him as One who shares our human nature.  He shares with us, according to His uncreated energies, all the fullness of His divinity, not by simple fiat as though from an external source, but most intimately and personally through the medium of His deified humanity. 

Each of the baptized, according to the measure of grace each receives, manifests the gifts of the Spirit according to the inscrutable will of God, Who understands each of us perfectly, not only according to the human nature we all share, but also according to the unique characteristics of each person’s hypostatic character, which He takes hold of and molds according to His unique plan for each unique soul.  Thus there comes to be in the Church a delightful variety in unity.  The Church is not an undifferentiated mass of zombified, uniform automatons, as we see in the “ideal citizens” of manmade utopias;  She is, rather, a perfectly coordinated and unified organic ensemble of inexhaustibly various and lively permutations of holiness.  

How, then, shall I discover what my unique manifestations of the Spirit are to be?  Simple: By keeping the commandments of God.   Here is what St. Mark the Ascetic says about this:  

Everyone who has been baptized in the Orthodox way has mystically received all Grace.  He is informed about this while fulfilling the Commandments. – Concerning Those Who Think That Men Are Justified by Works, 92.  

Let that sink in for a minute:  I have received all Grace. In other words, the fullness of what the Lord Jesus Christ received in the Jordan at His Baptism, He has already bestowed upon me, completely and unreservedly, in my baptism and chrismation. This is according to dynamis, however, according to potentiality.   I do not perceive the grace according to energeia, according to the felt activities – the effects – of grace, until I begin struggling to fulfill His commandments.  “If you love me,” Christ said to His disciples, “keep my commandments.”   As we run the path of His commandments, our hearts expand with this love, and we begin to manifest Christ to others, each according to the measure given Him by God.  

That thought alone should motivate us to keep a good Lent!   

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