The Holy Spirit: Lifting the Veil of Darkness

Simeon MetaphrastisSt Symeon Metaphrastis (10th Century) offers an interesting discourse on what it means to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit and how the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church is part of God’s plan of salvation for the human race.  He understands that from the time of the ancestral sin of Adam, that a certain veil or darkness had descended upon humanity, making it hard for us to see spiritual realities.  Moses briefly experienced the lifting of this veil, but it is not until the coming of the Christ and the Holy Spirit that humanity is truly enlightened and that the veil is lifted so that we can now see clearly the spiritual reality which God reveals to us.  Symeon writes

????????????????St Paul most accurately and lucidly revealed to every believing soul the perfect mystery of the Christian faith, showing to all how to attain experience of it through divine grace. This mystery is the effulgence of celestial light in the vision and power of the Spirit. He did not want anyone to think that the illumination of the Spirit consists simply in enlightening us through conceptual knowledge, and so to risk falling short of the perfect mystery of grace through ignorance and laziness.”

The Holy Spirit does not merely or mostly convey information to us about God, rather the Holy Spirit in enlightening us forms our heart and minds with the experiential knowledge of God.   The Christian life is more formational than informational:  it forms our hearts, it does not only inform the mind.   The Spirit does not just inform, but also transforms and reforms us into the image and likeness of God.

“To indicate the true character of spiritual knowledge St Paul therefore gives as an example the glory of the Holy Spirit that shone from the face of Moses. ‘If the ministry of death,’ he says, ‘engraved in letters on stone, was accompanied by such glory that the sons of Israel could not bear to gaze at the face of Moses because of the glory, transitory though it was, that shone from it, then how much greater must the glory be that accompanies the ministry of the Spirit? If the ministry of condemnation is glorious, the ministry of righteousness must greatly excel it in glory. Indeed, what once seemed full of glory now seems to have no glory at all, because it is outshone by a glory that is so much greater. If what was transitory came with glory, what endures will be far more glorious’ (2 Cor. 3:7-11).”

Moses is glorified by God, but St. Paul claims the ministry of Moses, as glorious as it was has been surpassed by Christ.  And what was thought of as glorious (Moses’ face) is so outshone by Christ that the glory of Christ is revealed as being far more glorious.  One might think of how the light of a single light bulb in a room is completely outshone by a flash of lightening.  Additionally for St. Paul the giving of the Law by Moses did not ultimately bring salvation to the world, but rather the law revealed sin and further condemned humanity.   It is Christ who saves us from sin, even the sin revealed by the Law.

“He says ‘transitory’ because it was Moses’ mortal body that shone with the glory of light. And he continues: ‘Having such hope as this, we can proceed with great confidence’ (2 Cor. 3:12).”

Moses shone with the light from God, but Moses does not attain the Promised Land but rather dies in the wilderness.  So the glory of Moses was ‘transitory’ and not permanent, whereas the glory of Christ who rises from the dead is eternal for death no longer has dominion over Christ.

“A little later he affirms that this everlasting and immortal glory of the Spirit shines even now with immortal and indestructible power in the immortal inner being of the saints: ‘With unveiled face we all’ – all, that is to say, who through perfect faith are born in the Spirit -‘reflect as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and are transfigured into the same image from glory to glory through the Lord who is the Spirit’ (2 Cor. 3:18). The words ‘with unveiled face’ indicate the soul; he adds that when one turns back to the Lord the veil is taken off, and that the Lord is the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 3:16-17). By this he clearly shows that from the time of Adam’s transgression a veil of darkness has encroached upon mankind and has covered the soul.”

Even the saints of the Old Testament saw spiritual realities darkly or at a distance, as covered with a veil. They had glimpses of the true light, but only in Christ is the fullness of God revealed and finally we see things clearly.

“But we believe that through the illumination of the Spirit this veil is now removed from truly faithful and saintly souls. It was for this reason that Christ came; and to those who truly believe in Him God has given the grace to attain this measure of holiness.  As we said, the effulgence of the Holy Spirit is not merely some kind of revelation on the level of conceptual images, or merely an illumination of grace. It is the true and unceasing effulgence of God’s own light in the soul: ‘The God who said, “Out of darkness let light shine”, has made His light shine in our hearts, to give us the illumination of the knowledge of Christ’s glory’ (2 Cor. 4:6). “

(THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 34467-506)

“For the law was given through Moses;

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God;

the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,

he has made him known.”

(John 1:17-18)

Christ Jesus and Moses