Sometimes we hear that a “real Christian” is always recognized by a certain outward demeanor. It’s a common, but superficial way of describing the Christian life. Today’s reading in the Office of Readings provides some helpful balance:
Those who have been found worthy to become children of God and also to be born again through the Holy Spirit, those who carry Christ within them, shining within them and renewing them – these people are guided by the Spirit in various ways and led forward by grace working invisibly in the inner peace of their hearts.Sometimes they are, as it were, in mourning and lamentation for the whole human race. They utter prayers for all mankind and fall back in tears and lamentation. They are on fire with spiritual love for all humanity.Sometimes they burn, through the Spirit, with such love and exultation that they would embrace all mankind if they could, without discrimination, good and bad alike.Sometimes they are cast down by humility, down below the least of men, as they consider themselves to be in the lowest, the most abject of conditions.Sometimes the Spirit keeps them in a state of inextinguishable and unspeakable gladness.Sometimes they are like some champion who puts on a full suit of royal armour and plunges into battle, combats his enemies fiercely and at length vanquishes them. For in the same way the spiritual champion, wearing the heavenly armour of the Spirit, attacks his enemies and, winning the battle, treads them underfoot.Sometimes their soul is in the deepest silence, stillness and peace, experiencing nothing but spiritual delight and ineffable power: the best of all possible states.Sometimes their soul is in a state of understanding and boundless wisdom and attention to the inscrutable Spirit, taught by grace things that neither tongue nor lips can describe.And sometimes their soul is in a state just like anyone else’s.Thus grace is poured into them in different ways, and by different paths it leads the soul, renewing it according to God’s will. It guides it by various paths until it is made whole, sinless and stainless before the heavenly Father.Therefore let us pray to God, pray with great love and hope, that he may give us the heavenly grace of the Spirit. Let us pray that the Spirit may guide us and lead us, following God’s will in every way, and may re-make us in stillness and in quiet. Thanks to his guidance and spiritual strengthening, may we be found worthy to attain the perfection and fullness of Christ. As St Paul says: that you may be filled to the complete fullness of Christ.