In his conversation with Nicholas Motovilov, St Seraphim of Sarov instructs that the aim of the Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit. Practising the virtues should not be the goal of our spiritual life; rather the virtues should be the means by which the goal is achieved.
He explained this through the parable of the ten virgins, showing that the five foolish virgins had practised the supreme virtue of purity, that is virginity, yet they had no oil in their lamps.
In their spiritual ignorance they assumed that Christian duty was only in doing good works, but had neglected the necessary fruit of virtue, which is acquiring the grace of the Holy Spirit. How then is it possible to practise virtue and not receive grace? St Seraphim notes that only good deeds done for Christ’s sake attract the Holy Spirit. Everything else we do, however good it may seem, if it is not done for the love of Christ, does not impart grace on us (e.g. fasting as a diet, or praying mechanically while the mind wanders). In the same parable, the market place, where the five foolish virgins were to acquire the necessary oil, is our present life.
The Saint urges us to trade wisely, not merely to buy and sell, but to trade in such a way that will generate the most spiritual profit by utilising the time we have to acquire the most abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit. Does fasting generate the most grace? Then fast. Does giving alms? Then give and do not hold back. Does teaching or chanting? Then do these and spend your time wisely in this market place so as to acquire as much Grace as possible before the door of the bridal chamber is shut, that is, before death finds us suddenly and we are locked outside the bridal chamber, the Kingdom of God.
The acquisition of the Holy Spirit may seem foreign to us, however St Seraphim explained that the Bible is full of concrete examples where the Holy Spirit guided, enlightened and advised the Prophets and Apostles in their everyday lives (Acts 13:2,4,9-11,52; 16:6-10; 21:4,11). This was demonstrated at the end of the conversation, where St Seraphim and Nicholas actually received the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
In this timeless encounter, both remained in complete soberness of mind, their hearts were filled with an extraordinary peace and sweetness, they were surrounded by an unearthly scent, and they both become all light, as though wearing a garment weaved by the Holy Spirit. What a wondrous goal indeed we have as Christians – to be living temples of the Holy Spirit! (1 Cor 6:19).
Source: Lychnos June/July 2016