The Indwelling Christ

“I kneel before the Father, from Whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its Name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:14)

After the newly-Chrismated Orthodox Christian is received into the holy Church, I follow him or her to ask what their impressions are regarding the Orthodox Christian faith. Not only for their sake, though I wish for them a simple and complete transition from their former faith or from agnosticism. I want to “pick their brains,” to use the painful cliché, and learn how we appear to somebody not yet “one of us.” I recall a recent convert who said, “It’s an adjustment to pray to a number.” After the initial blank incomprehensibility of what she was saying, it came to me—she means the Holy Trinity.

When we say or pray “Holy Trinity, ” we mean of course Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s a short-cut, but we assume all understand there are three Persons [hypostases] in one essence. There are so many ways to express what always remains a mystery: Three Persons in One Godhead, and there is no simple way to describe the indescribable or define what transcends all definitions. Do we begin with One and expand to the Three? Somehow, that suggests a web or circle without a center. Shall we start with the Three Persons and bring them into a unity? Better, perhaps; however, no mental image can capture, much less exhaust, the Trinity in unity.

Rather than try to draw up mental images, let us analyze St. Paul’s words above. He does not try conjuring a mental vision of Trinity. Rather, by pulling the reader into his intimate prayer, he kneels before the heavenly Father. He is not kneeling as we understand it. Jews pray standing. The apostle’s prayer is so intense that he makes a prostration touching his forehead to the ground as he is lifting up his heart before the Almighty. God is no longer only El Shaddia, or Elohim; now he knows the Supreme Being as Father. No other religious leader or founder taught their followers that name. Jesus did. Recognize the implications—all creation once enlightened will realize the unity of everyone, everything and all.

We live in and endure a world in constant turmoil, a chaos of suffering and confusion. It was not intended to be this way. It is God’s constant desire that the world will become what He had intended at creation. All that which is confused and confusing is planned to be brought to a harmony in Jesus Christ. That cannot come about unless it first is part of God’s intention being carried out in the family called by the name of Christ. Unless Jesus dwells in your heart, there will be nowhere in all creation that at least the seed of harmony is begun. If you are too weak spiritually, morally, or intellectually to have ample faith so that Christ may dwell in your hearts, the Father will send the Holy Spirit to fill you with energy, or grace, sufficient to open the eye of your soul and rise above what is the logic of fallen nature to go inward, into the nous within and come in touch with the indwelling Christ.

What difference does it make whether or not Christ dwells in our hearts? Three elements will be present: A) That which humans have that makes us different from all animals—the ability to think and to reason. To reason with the mind of Jesus is to bring every situation to the heavenly Father and ask for understanding. B) To pray that passions not fog the clear vision of conscience. We must be certain that we are not deciding on the basis of self-interest but objective and just. As the Grass-hopper advised to Pinocchio, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” C) “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done,” Jesus prayed to the Father, and so must we ever be able to sort out what is our will from the heavenly Father’s will in all things.