Monday, August 11, 2014

Were Saint Symeon the New Theologian and Saint John of Kronstadt Charismatics?

Both saints moved in the charisms. prophecies of the future, words of knowledge, visions and dreams, seers into the heavens, purveyors of the direct mysteries of God for specific current situations to individuals and churches. They are only two of the saints of God who did so. Were they charismatics? Is Christianity charismatic? The word charism is a greek word meaning "grace". "mata" means "gifts", i.e., chrismata means "grace gifts." Does God gift his church with gifts that are beyond the natural realm? Is the church supernatural? Is the Holy Spirit limited to only the natural? Is the church? Is not all of the body Christ gifted with charisms? If not, then is Christianity just like any other idealistic philosophical belief system?

The word, charismatic, has been usurped by the modern Montanist-influenced movement predominately seen in the protestant world.  Unfortunately, some Orthodox believers fail to understand that the word belongs to the church. It is scriptural. It is Orthodox. To be charismatic does not mean that one is part of the Charismatic Movement, which includes spiritualism, demonic influence, false prophets, satanic visions and manifestations, and false doctrines, promoted by men and women who are not under the authority or umbrella of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. To be charismatic means that the orthodox church is infused with the Holy Spirit and operates in the heavenly realms. In this way, and in this way only, will "the gates of hell not prevail against it."

First and foremost, salvation, being born again of spirit and of water, is charismatic. Indeed, all of the sacraments are charismatic. "The holy mysteries or sacraments in the Orthodox Church are vessels of the mystical participation in divine grace of mankind. In a general sense, the Orthodox Church considers everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical." 

So, too, the church, through it's individual members, operates in the charismatic gifts of ministry.

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:"

Were any of these charisms temporary? Are any of these gifts void today? Only if the following has been accomplished...

"...Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"

Some Orthodox believers, do wrongfully use the word, charismatic, as a curse word to indict other Orthodox Christians. They are uniformed and deceived, when they assume that because an Orthodox person is graced with one of the more demonstratively supernatural ministry gifts, that they must be part of the satanic Charismatic Movement, or are in prelest and deception. They unwisely resist and even attribute such works to the devil. Such knee-jerk reaction is a perilous thing akin to blaspheming the Holy Spirit Himself. Safeguards are given to the church through it's Bishops and those with the charism of Discernment of Spirits, to root out false gifts, but individuals who, out of ignorance, pride, or other such fleshly persuasion, speak such judgement, are in danger themselves of judgement. Saint Symeon and Saint John were subject to such attacks as were other saints. Even Christ was accused: 

"This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

He replied with this warning:

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."

If you are an Orthodox Christian, then, yes! You are charismatic, though it is advisable in the Western culture not to preface it with "I am a", lest the uniformed misunderstand. Rather, acknowledge that the Holy Spirit resides in you and it is through His charisms, indeed, in Him alone, that you live and move and have your being.

I am not permitted, nor do I desire to be identified with a specific ministry gift with which I am graced. I am satisfied, and so should you be, to know that He is the gift and all that He is is in you, and He has promised that "Greater things will you do than I have done."  I am also ever aware that I am a sinner and my soul is in constant need of redemption, healing and forgiveness. In my early days as an Orthodox Christian, I was ignorant of the ethos and culture which includes specific verbiage and semantics. I was surprised to learn that the words such as "Clairvoyant" and "Seer" were acceptable words when referring to related gifts, but the word "prophet", though it is as Orthodox a word as the former, carried with it connotations and provoked much misunderstanding. I was also unaware that such gifts are deemed by some to be rare. The rarity of these gifts may or may not be true. It is more likely that they are instead, rarely talked about by those who are thus gifted, because of contrition or fear of rejection. In any case, some have relegated these charisms to only cloistered monks and saints of old, and this is not true. My mistake came in creating a blog called Orthodox Prophets, as an outlet for those with such gifts to speak to the world. Rather than accomplish the intended purpose, the blog was perceived by some as a self-promotion. No one, bishop, priest, or laymen, friend or critic, ever spoke to the content of the posts because they could not see through the fact of the very existence of the blog. Out of deference to those to whom the blog was a stumbling block, I removed it from public view. God does not need me. He does not need you. He does not desire sacrifice, but a broken and contrite spirit, he will not despise. None of us are the saviors of the world. Salvation has already come and He is Christ Jesus. It is amazing, it is glorious, that He takes these mortal vessels, cleanses them, fills them with Himself, then pours out His ministry to the world. We have become partakers of His mysteries, His charisms, His charismata, for indeed, without his unmerited favor, none of us would subsist.

Oh... and yes, Saint Symeon and Saint John were charismatics!

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