It’s the culture, Sir

September 25, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, News

The lesson here is that culture matters – forget this and all other efforts with regard to talent initiatives will be dysfunctional, if not altogether lost. Don’t allow your culture to evolve by default, create it by design. The first step in cultural design is to be very, very careful who you let through the front door. People, their traits, attitudes, and work ethic (or lack thereof) are contagions. This can be positive or negative – the choice is yours. The old saying, “talent begets talent” is true, but talent that aligns with culture will produce better results than talent that does not.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Coptic

September 20, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Coptic

The connection between the Egyptian Church and the Holy Spirit can be traced back all the way to the birth of Jesus in the beginning of the Gospel narrative. Following the early ecclesiastical history, the development of the church continues with the desert fathers, among who Anthony of Egypt is a prime example.

In this context, the Coptics focus on anointing with oil, laying on of hands, and even laying on of the Bible or other holy objects on the sick person as a healing method. Because of their teaching about the connection between demons and deceases, exorcism is practiced along with healing.[1]

This is consistent with the writings of one of their prime writers by the name of Shenoute of Atripe (4th-5th century), who believed that the Holy Spirit is a life-giving force needed in order to obtain victory in both the spiritual and material worlds.[2] Impacted by the problems of the monastic life, his theology further reflected on the Spirit as “a consistent vigilance.” [3]

The Spirit is also the one who maintains the walls of the individual’s heart. In this sense, the spirit is the agent of continuous victory in the life of the Christian. Shenoute’s teaching of momentarily and continuous victory is similar to what we consider today as sanctification of the believer. This is further revealed in his belief of the fruits of the Spirit being manifested as a result of the believer’s victory over evil.[4] This element of Shenoute’s credo integrates a continuation with the previously discussed positions on the fruit of the Spirit by Maximus the Confessor and Gregory Narek.

Even wider range of mystical experiences in the context of the Coptic Church is provided by Pseudo-Macareus (4th c.). In his view, the Spirit is the one who nourishes the Church, and as such He is also the source and the provider of the pneumatic experiences.[5] Similar to John Cassian, he describes the Spirit in the means of light and “inflammation.”[6] In his description of the pneumatic experience as ”intoxication,” Pseudo-Macareus is consistent with the previously discussed example of Isaac of Nineveh.[7] Analogically to Symeon the New Theologian, Pseudo-Macareus claims that the above experience is strictly personal.[8] And along with John Cassian, Maximus the Confessor, Seraphim Sarov, Narsai and many others he holds “that a true communion with God is possible only as an individual takes time to enter a quite place for solitary prayer.”[9]

[1] Otto F. A. Meinardus, Christian Egypt: Faith and Life (Cairo: American University Press, 1970), 224.

[2] Johannes Leipoldt and W. E. Crum, eds., Sinuthii archimandritae vita et opera omnia, CSCO 73 Coptic 5 (Paris: e Typographeo reibulicae, 1913; reprint Louvain, imprimerie orientaliste L. Durbecq, 1954), 12-.31-32.

[3] Dimitri Cozby, “Abba Shenute of Atripe: First Homily on the Patriarchs,” in Dwight W. Young, ed., Studies Presented to Hans Jacob Polotsky (Bacon Hill: Pirtle and Polson, 1981), 17-20.

[4] Leipoldt and Crum, 81.2-21.

[5]Granville Penn, Institutes of Christian Perfection (London: John Murray, 1816), 5.12.

[6] Ibid., 5.4.

[7] Inst., 66.

[8] Burgess, 148.

[9] Ibid.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Ethiopian

September 5, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Ethiopian

The Ethiopian Church is not a significance source of information in our study, because the Holy Spirit is not a prime issue there until the fourteenth century.[1] Surprisingly, gifts and fruits of the Spirit are not mentioned. For the Ethiopians, the Holy Spirit the one who teaches us the nature and unity of the Godhead.[2] Similar to the teaching of Hazzaya, the Spirit is the Perfector of the creation.[3] Like the Father and the Son, He blesses the believers and speaks to the church.

The experience of the Spirit for the Ethiopic saints is a vision of the Trinity. In one occasion of such a vision, a man received the elements of the Eucharist from the Trinity.  In a similar pattern, nine of the fourteen anaphorae of the Ethiopic church refer to the Holy Spirit changing of the Eucharistic elements into the Body and the Blood of Christ.[4]

[1] Getatchwe Haile, “Religious Controversies and the Growth of Ethiopic Literature in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries,” Oriens Christianus 65 (1981): 102-36.

[2] G. W. B. Huntingford, “Saints of Medieval Ethiopia,” Abba Salama 10 (1979): 287-89.

[3] Mingana, 148.

[4] O. H. I. Hadji-Burmester, “A Comparative Study of the Form of the Words of Institution and the Epiclesis in the Anaphorae of the Ethiopic Church,” Eastern Churches Quarterly 13:1 (Spring 1959): 41.

Cup & Cross Ministries Shares the Love of Christ with Bulgarian Sunflower Seeds in Polk County, TN

September 1, 2022 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

by Kathryn Donev

Sunflowers are so much fun.  They are actually thousands of tiny flowers that bring joy in many ways. It’s neat to watch them follow the sun because of a trait called heliotropism.  Eating sunflower seeds can lower rates of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. They are a good source of many vitamins and minerals that can support your immune system. And did you know that a sunflowers destroy contaminants of its surrounding soil, water and air?

Although sunflowers are Native to North America, Bulgaria is among the top 10 sunflower producing countries.  As in various places in Polk County, Bulgaria is famous for their golden fields. And believe it or not, you can find Bulgarian sunflower seeds in any Dollar General labeled with the Clover Valley brand.  When we were ministering together with Feeding God’s Lambs Summer Program at First Baptist Benton giving a presentation about the 6 Senses of Bulgaria, the kids even got to taste some.  Fun.

With a multisensory trip to Bulgaria, we shared how the Holy Spirit is our Sixth Sense to guide and direct us in life and found in everything we touch, see, hear, smell and even taste.  When we all come together, we can do great things, just as with the thousands of tiny flowers that come together to have the appearance of a unified flower.  Let us be a purifier of our environments and always be reminded to follow the SON.  Being consumed with the sixth sense of the Holy Spirit is good for the soul.

Who are the other 500 in the 15/50 Window?

August 30, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

DIGITAL DISCIPLESHIP: Who are the other 500 in the 15/50 Window of your church/ministry LIVE broadcast?

5 Ways to Connect With Your Visitors:

  1. FOSTER A CULTURE OF INVITING
  2. CREATE A POSITIVE GUEST FLOW
  3. PREPARE FOR THEIR ARRIVAL
  4. GET THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION
  5. ENGAGE THEM WITHIN THE FIRST 48 HOURS

97%of new visitors find church online
Your church’s first impression is being formed online

  • Before a family visits a church, they have visited its website
  • Takes only 2.6 seconds for an individual to form a first impression
  • 94% of first impressions are visual (design-related)
  • Visitors will spend 6 seconds on the main image of a website
  • Another 6 seconds is spent on the main content
  • An average of 5 seconds are spent looking for an address
  • Google: “Users strongly prefer website designs that look both simple and familiar” (i.e. low visual complexity)

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Armenian

August 15, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church: Armenian

The Armenian Church claims to be found by St. Bartholomew in the midst of the first century.[1] The Armenian faith practices focused on preservation of the apostolic doctrines and habits. In this act it links its story with history and remains not only a discoverer, but also a preserver and a carrier of the past Christian tradition.[2]

Remarkable remains the role of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy of the Armenian tradition. A prime example is the number of congregational songs dedicated to the Holy Spirit, in which the Spirit: (1) descended from heaven upon the apostles, (2) filled them all, (3) arming them with “fire by miracle,” (4) giving them “diverse tongues,” (5) and “manifold gifts.”[3] Because of the hardship in its long history, the Armenian Church has developed an extraordinary pneumatic heritage.

An Armenian apostle, patron and national saint by the name of Gregory the Illuminator (ca. 240-325), led the restoration of the Armenian Church. His studies were focused on the theology of the Holy Spirit and catechism shows examples of deep and concentrated pneumatic research.

For example, he includes a study of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the former, He is present in the band of the prophets, as a sign of their office.[4] In the later, He is present in the baptism of Christ signifying His purity and sinlessness.[5]

In this context, Gregory the Illuminator describes the Spirit is described as a furnace, which burns sin away.[6] Fire is the sanctifying agent of the Spirit.[7] Only after the twelve were led through the fire experience, they received divine knowledge and supernatural interpretation of the Old Testament prophesies, in order to reveal the mysteries of the Word.[8]

Similar view in this tradition holds Gregory Narek (ca. 950-ca. 1010), who claims that the Spirit pardons our sins, and thus gives birth of the Church.[9] He further states that the Spirit equips the Church with both spiritual gifts and fruits, which coexist only in the ecclesiastical environment.[10] Interesting in this context is his description of “intoxicating joy” through which he comes close to a number of experiences from different cultural and ethnical settings among which the already discussed Seraphim Sarov and Narsai.[11]

[1] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 1.13 in NPF 2nd Series, 1:100-2.

[2] Burgess, 113.

[3] Ibid., 115-16.

[4] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 502., in Robert W. Thomson, ed., The Teachings of St. Gregory: An Early Armenian Catechism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970)., 116.

[5] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 418, 420; Thomson, Teaching, 91.

[6] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 682; Thomson, Teaching, 170.

[7] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 676; Thomson, Teaching, 168.

[8] Gregory the Illuminator, Cathehism parag. 661-63, 672; Thomson, Teaching, 164-65, 167.

[9] Robert W. Thompson, “Gregory of Narek’s Commentary on the Song of Songs,” Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., 43:2 (October 1983): 453-96, 6.8, 7.13, 8.5; Thompson 484, 490-92.

[10] Mischa Kudian, Lamentations of Nerek: Mystic Soliloquies with God (London: Mashtots Press, 1977), 3.1, 15.1.

[11] Thompson, “Song of Songs,” 4.10.

The Orthodox Church after AD 1054

August 5, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News, Publication, Research

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The Orthodox Church after AD 1054

The development of Pneumatism, in this latter period, is directly linked to three major political processes in Eastern Europe. The first one was the schism of 1054, after which the unity of the Church would never be the same. The ecclesiastical division, which is based more on the political situation than doctrinal differences officially completed a separation, which had started centuries ago.

The second one includes the mission to the Slavs. What Burgess[1] fails to mention is the fact that the brothers Cyril and Methodius were born in a wealthy Bulgarian family and sent to Thessalonica to be educated early in their lives. After extensive study and research, they were able to invent an alphabetic structure called Glagolitza, which was the first Slavic alphabet. This success was dated as early as 881-882 A.D. Their work was not left unnoted by King Boris I, under who Bulgaria had adopted Christianity twenty years earlier in 863 A.D.[2]

Thus, the work of “Thessalonica brothers,” as they are often called in the Bulgarian tradition, was not only “a great missionary effort,” as Burgess claims, but also rather a patriotic and nationalistic return to their roots in an attempt to adjust Greek ecclesiastical tradition to the needs of Slavs and Bulgarians. Their revolutionary plan included the formation of the Slavic alphabet, which was to be used as an instrument to translate, write and distribute liturgical literature in the language spoken by the Slavs in the land of Bulgaria. With this they not only fulfilled their original purpose, to limit the Greek influence on the Bulgarian Church, but also became a steppingstone in the development of the Bulgarian culture by the means of the written literature.

The last major conflict was the invasion of the united Islamic armies to the Balkans. The Turks were cruel and in their aggression. In a typical Oriental model, their purpose was not only to conquer, but also to exploit the conquered lands. In their attempt to do so, they did not stop to only physical conquest, but attempted to change the culture, religion, customs, ethnos and national belonging of the conquered nations. Thus, preserving Eastern Christianity and Orthodox liturgical practices became the means of survival for the Balkan nations.

The focus in the writings of this period’s pneumatologists is the idea of representation of the Holy Spirit as energy. This belief is so extreme that it leads to the conviction that divine energy is present even at the graves of dead saints.[3] This is in continuation with some of preceding writings from the pre-schism period.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) is a major example of this link with the past and preservation of the pneumatic experience. Living in the very beginning of the Turkish conquest over the Balkans and great political changes, Palamas wrote that the only way to know God is through an inner change, a transfiguration done only by the Spirit of God.[4]

This act is the initiation of deification. The Holy Spirit is viewed as light in the process of edifying the church.[5] The believers are instruments in the hands of God.[6] They are led by the Spirit through the means of the spiritual gifts, which Palamas reports as possible and active in his days. He further lists three different categories of gifts: word of instruction, healing and miracles. The gifts are obtained only through “intense mental prayer.” Laying on of hands, after the example of the apostle Paul, is also required.[7]

At the same historical moment, similar position is supported by Nicholas Cabasilas (1320-1371). While differs from Symeon the New Theologian, that there’s a special experience outside of the established sacraments, Cabasilas reports the practice of spiritual gifts.[8] He also claims that gifts are signs for the power of God being active in the world. The church is to partake into the gifts and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit.[9]

Palamas’ prime mystical focus, however, is on the essence and energies of the Holy Spirit. He claims that God is known through energies, and not essence.[10] Similar position is taken by Irenaeus[11] and Athenagoras[12] as early as the second century. Basil,[13] Gregory of Nissa,[14] and later on Pseudo-Dionisius[15] and Maximius the Confessor[16] also distinguish understanding of God between energy and essence. Thus, through this position, Palamas becomes a preserver of centuries of theological research and experience, and provides a link with the doctrinal past of the early Eastern Church.

Seraphim Sarov has a similar role.  Sarov lives in the later part of this period in eighteenth century feudal Russia. Although, his surrounding is primarily monastic, limited by Eastern sacramental tradition and severe ascethism, his experiences are of intense mystical nature and divine inspiration. For Sarov, the purpose of Christian life is “acquisition” of the Holy Spirit.[17] The Spirit is to be acquired as “a financial reserve,” which is done through prayer and is available to both monks and laity.

Both the idea of financial reserve and equality between clergy and laity are definitely reflect on the present situation in Russia during the time of Sarov. While the former is clearly a reflection on the economical crises in the monarchy, the latter reflects on the structural, hierarchical crisis of the Russian church. The above ideas are both prophetic and revolutionary, especially viewed in the context of the Bolshevik Revolution, which follows shortly after being published by Nicholas Motovilov in a 1903 issue of Moscow Gazette.

The above publications are our main source of Sarov’s experiences. They are recorded as a conversation one of Motovilov’s visit in November 1831.[18] The climax of this conversation is a moment of transfiguration of both Sarov and his guest. The glory of the Lord was visible as light. This was explained as grace viewed through eyes of flesh. The experience was accompanied with odours and “joy inexpressible.”[19] This encounter is analogical to the experiences “untold ecstasy” and sweet smell portrayed by Pseudo-Macarius and Symeon the New Theologian.[20] Sarov further related the transfiguration experience as what Pseudo-Macarius claimed to be the fullness of the Spirit. It is interesting to notice, that the pneumatic experiences Sarov had were not only a preservation of the experiences of pneumtaics prior to his time, but also a reflection of his present political and economical surroundings.

[1] Burgess, 67.

[2] Milcho Lalkov, Rulers of Bulgaria (Sofia: Kibea Publishing Co., 1995), 21.

[3] Carmino J. deCatanzaro, Nicholas Cabasilas: The Life of Christ (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 106-7.

[4] Burgess, 71.

[5] Ibid.

[6] John Meyendorff: Gregory Palalmas: The Triads (Ramsey: Paulist Press, 1983), 88.

[7] Ibid., 52-53.

[8] Burgess, 77.

[9] deCatanzaro, 107.

[10] Ibid, 77-111.

[11] Fragment 5, PG 7:col. 1232.

[12] On the Resurrection 1.

[13] Letter 234, PG 32:col. 869.

[14] Against Eunomius 12 PG 14:col. 960.

[15] On the Divine Names 2.7, PG 3:col. 645.

[16] To Nikandros, PG 91:col. 96.

[17] Burgess, 79.

[18] Valentine Zander, St. Seraphim of Sarov, trans. by Gabriel Anne and Boris Bobrinovsky (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1963), 83-94.

[19] Ibid. 95.

[20] John Cassian, Collationes 4.5, PL 49:col. 589.

Bulgaria once again on the verge of early elections

June 25, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, News

After the first successful vote of no confidence in Bulgarian history has become a reality, the county is now governed by a cabinet in resignation and a parliament torn apart by inter-party attacks. The National Assembly and the government can remain operational but attention must be paid to temporary majorities formed in plenary hall. However, adopting the budget update with its anti-inflation measures, which a large part of the Bulgarian population depends on, is in question, political analysts warn.

The vote is now over, but many questions remain unanswered.

“None of us who often commented on the objective difficulties, the contradictions in the coalition and the clash with the opposition could imagine that this government would be toppled so easily and so quickly,” sociologist Boryana Dimitrova, head of Alpha Research, said in an interview with BNR. “The economic stalemate, inflation and tense geopolitical state of affairs have led to a situation when no one is particularly eager to take power. Analysts have already pointed out that the lack of a political force that feels ready to take power prolongs the life of this government.”

After the cabinet was brought down, it turned out that solving the political puzzle is not so easy. The inability of the National Assembly to make decisions after the withdrawal of one of the coalition partners – “There is Such a People” is more than obvious and this will lead to early elections, analysts say.

Despite the difficult situation, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that “We Continue the Change” party, which is the largest political force in parliament, would accept the mandate of President Rumen Radev to form a government and would try to find 121 independent MPs. However, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev is pessimistic and forecasts that the country is heading towards new elections in the autumn.

“Seeking support from several MPs while it is unknown what mechanism can be used for them to join in and how sustainable their vote would be is either a tale for naive people or a dangerous political delusion,” Boryana Dimitrova says.

In this situation, the speed with which the parliamentary roulette will be turned is important. This depends on the Bulgarian President and there are constitutional deadlines, but the process can be faster or slower enough to update the budget – an extremely serious topic for many Bulgarians. The update envisages pension hike from 1 July, tax cuts for working families with children, support for the business to deal with high energy prices. Minister of Social Affairs Georgi Gyokov called on MPs to “show some common sense” and to support the social and anti-inflationary measures specified in the update.

“There is a lot of appetite towards the budget and discussions are heated,” sociologist Boryana Dimitrova says. “On the one hand we are told that various demands can be met, while others claim that this is a time bomb that would explode next year. It is difficult to find the truth, but in any case we need a serious conversation and a purposeful budget update. Whether this will happen and what proposals will be made between the first and second reading of the document in the National Assembly is an important political question that will give us signals whether we can think about future coalitions or overlap of opinions at least when it comes to basic economic principles.“

Government Elections in Bulgaria (2005-2022):

2005 Parliamentary Elections
2006 Presidential Elections
2007 Municipal Elections
2009 Parliamentary Elections
2009 European Parliament elections
2011 Presidential Elections
2011 Local Elections
2013 Early parliamentary elections
2014 Early Parliamentary Elections
2015 Municipal Elections
2016 Presidential election
2017 Parliamentary elections
2019 European Parliament election (23-26 May)
2019 Bulgarian local elections
2019 Municipal Elections
2021 March National Parliament election
2021 Second National Parliament election
2021 Third National Parliament and Presidential elections

The White House announces new US ambassador to Bulgaria

June 20, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

US President Joe Biden has nominated Kenneth Merten for new ambassador to Bulgaria in place of Herro Mustafa, who has been ambassador to Sofia since 2019. The nomination must be approved by the Senate in Washington. Kenneth Merten has acted as Special Coordinator for Haiti and he was also Ambassador to Croatia from 2012 to 2015 and Ambassador to Haiti from 2009 to 2012. Merton was also an economic adviser at the US Embassy in France. He speaks Haitian Creole, French, German and Spanish languages.

The East Syrian (Assyrian) Church

June 15, 2022 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Dony K. Donev, D.Min.: Eastern Pneumotology Lectures

Eastern Orthodoxy can be expressed in one word: theism. The purpose and meaning of life is to become more like God. Deification is pursued by all means of human existence. This quest for divine likeness often includes the typical for the Eastern Church, speculation on the divinity and humanity of Christ, traditions on the doctrine of the Trinity and non-traditional mystical experiences. They appear in the context of both physical and spiritual characteristics in individual and corporate ecclesiastical environment. The role of the Spirit in the process of deification is threefold and involves: creation, re-creation and theism. Eastern Pneumotology follows the graduate process of theism development. The Spirit is involved in the original creation of the world as well as the new-birth experience. His work however, does not end there, but continues throughout the process of personal deification of the believer.

The East Syrian (Assyrian) Church

The Assyrian Church is viewed in direct connection with the Jacobites.[1] The church grows in the context of Nestorianism and Assyrian practices.[2] Yet, the literature of the Assyrian Church is full of pneumatologay including symbolic language and profound spirituality.[3] For example, Narsai’s (413-ca. 503) pneumatology is strictly in the boundaries of liturgical and sacramental practices. An immediate contrast, however, is Isaac of Nineveh (7th c.), who, during sacraments, would suddenly fall on the floor, repeatingly rising up and kissing the cross.[4]

For Narsai the Spirit sanctifies and edifies the church through baptism.[5] In a similar manner, Hazzaya (d. ca 690), another Assyrian writer, views the Holy Spirit not only as Edifier, but also as Perfector of the Church.[6] As such, He brings transformation in the life of the believer.[7] This state is reached with beyond the conscious prayer.[8] It is accompanied with sweet odors,[9] tears of joy[10] and sound of glorification heard in the soul of the individual.[11] This description fits the previously discussed experience of Symeon the New Theologian.[12] Isaac of Nineveh also describes the ecstasy in the Spirit in the means of tears of joy[13] and “a state of drunkenness.”[14]

The above is strictly a personal experience.[15] In a corporate, ecclesiastical context, the union of individual experiences builds the Kingdom of God. In this sense the Kingdom is an already-not-yet reality, in which the direction of the Holy Spirit is essential. [16]

The gifts are essential for the life of the Kingdom. According to Narsai, the they are received through laying on of hands.[17] Healing is obtained through a similar ritual.[18] Isaac claims that they are bestowed in a time of prayer.[19] They are accepted in humility out of which comes as burning compassion for the creation.[20]

Hazzaya, furthermore, gives five practical signs for recognition of the works of the Holy Spirit: (1) love of God burns within the heart of the believer, (2) growth in humility of the soul, (3) kindness to all people, (4) true love and (5) vision of mind. His main tool to recognize demons and demonic visions from God and divine revelations is the peace of heart, which follows the heavenly presence.[21]

Peace can be also reached through reading of Scripture. According to Isaac of Nineveh, Scripture delivers us from every evil thought and turns our minds to good.[22] Scripture is to be read not by chapters, but a passage at a time with prayerful desire for understanding.[23] This is one of the first recorded attempts explaining the connection between pneumatic experiences and Scripture.

[1] Burgess, 85.

[2] Ibid., 88.

[3] Ibid., 89.

[4] A. J. Wensinck, Mystical treatises of Isaac of Nineveh, trans. From the Bedjan  Syrian text (Amsterdam: Koninklijke akademie van wetenschappen, 1923), 95-96.

[5] R. Hugh Connolly, The Liturgical Homiletics of Narsai, Studies and Texts 8 (Cambridge: University Press, 1909), 46, 49-50.

[6] Alphonsi Mingana, “Joseph Hazzaya: The Shortest Path that Leads us to God,” Early Christian Mystics, Woodbroke Studies 7 (Cambridge: W. Heffer and Sons, 1934), 148.

[7] Ibid.,149.

[8] Ibid., 171.

[9] Ibid., 148-49.

[10] Ibid., 183.

[11] Ibid., 183.

[12] Disc. 3329.5, 313.

[13] Wensinck, 330.

[14] Ibid., 253.

[15] Mingana, 157.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Connolly, 8, 21, 34, 40, 49, 53, 63.

[18] Ibid., 35, 44.

[19] Wensinck, xxxix, 116-17.

[20] Ibid., 388.

[21] Mingana, 173-74.

[22] E. Kadloukovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, Early Father from the Philokalia (London:  Faber and Faber, 1954), 242.

[23] Wensink, 84.

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