Yesterday I made what might be considered an audacious claim: sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, Orthodox Christians bring with them the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere they go. This statement, however, is not pulled out of thin air — it is based upon the writings of the Fathers of the Church and the way Orthodox Christians worship.
Let me begin explaining how it is that Orthodox Christians might take the Kingdom where ever they are by quoting St. Irenaeus in his treatise Against the Heresies (3:24:1):
Where the Church is, there is the Holy Spirit and the fulness of grace.
Let me continue by examining a couple of statements made by St. Ambrose in the seventh chapter of the first book of his treatise On the Holy Spirit. Firstly, he cites the angel that descends upon the water at the pool near the Sheep Gate (Bethesda) in the fifth chapter of John (5:4). He states:
What did the Angel declare in this type but the descent of the Holy Spirit, which was to come to pass in our day, and should consecrate the waters when invoked by the prayers of the priest? That Angel, then, was a herald of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as by means of the grace of the Spirit medicine was to be applied to our infirmities of soul and mind. The Spirit, then, has the same ministers as God the Father and Christ. He fills all things, possesses all things, works all and in all in the same manner as God the Father and the Son work.
If it is true that the Holy Spirit has the same ministers as God the Father and God the Son because He is God, than the Father and the Son fill all things, possess all things and work all and in all because they are God like the Holy Spirit. St. Ambrose goes on to say:
The Apostle found nothing better to wish us than this, as He himself said: ‘We cease not to pray and make request for you that ye may be filled with the knowledge of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding walking worthily of God’ (Col. 1:9). He taught, then, that this was the will of God, that rather by walking in good works and words and affections, we should be filled with the will of God, Who puts His Holy Spirit in our hearts. Therefore if he who has the Holy Spirit is filled with the will of God, there is certainly no difference of will between the Father and the Son.
We who are filled with the will of the Spirit are also filled with the will of the Father and the Son.
Taking these statements together, it is easy to expand upon St. Ireneaus and claim that where the Church is, there is the Father and the Son as well as the Holy Spirit. Now note the first words said by Christ in His ministry (Matt. 4:17):
Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the presence of Christ, for He says (Matt. 12:28):
If I cast out demons by the Spirit, surely the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
Note how this reinforces what St. Ambrose said above — where the Spirit is, so is the Son.
This same Spirit is described in the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil thusly:
The spirit of truth the gift of Sonship, the pledge of our future inheritance, the first fruits of eternal blessings, the life giving power, the source of sanctification through whom every rational and spiritual creature is made capable of worshiping You and giving You eternal glorification, for all things are subject to You.
Taken together, all of these things lead to the conclusion made by Alexander Schmemann is his book The Eucharist (p. 36):
In other words, where there is the Holy Spirit, there is the Kingdom of God.
Since Orthodox Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit, there is the Kingdom of God, there is the Father, there is the Son — where ever they may go. Amen.