Have You Been Touched By The Great Affection?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/03/17/have-you-been-touched-by-the-great-affection/

NewBostonPost is publishing a regular weekly column by local religious leaders each Friday. This week’s article is below.


There has been a lot of web press on recent happenings at Asbury University, a small Christian evangelical school in central Kentucky. It seems the Holy Spirit is being poured out, as on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11), on the gatherings of students in the chapel of the college. For 16 days last month, students engaged in spontaneous and continuous praise and worship, weeping and rejoicing, offering testimonies of physical and emotional healings, and above all of a palpable sense of the presence of God, visiting and blessing his people.

None of this was connected with some course on religious revivalism or planned by the college chaplain or sparked by some visiting evangelist. It seems simply to be a sovereign and gratuitous visitation of the Spirit of God and a reminder of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus: “ the Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes” (John 3:8).

I have been in Christian leadership for more than 50 years, and I must confess in these last few years I have often struggled with a spirit of discouragement. The church has been in decline — all the churches, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or Evangelical. Religious faith in our culture is waning; much of biblical morality is rejected; secular assault on Christianity is aggressive and, quite frankly, very successful. And the corrosion and corruption is as much within the church as without.

But these surprising irruptions of the Spirit of God, as at Asbury, are to me a source of hope and a reminder that God is still God. His existence and sovereignty do not depend on our faith, nor are they hindered by our lack of faith.

I recall my own conversion as a young Episcopal priest. Having been nurtured in a very rationalistic and humanistic brand of liberal Protestantism, my faith was dramatically reoriented by an encounter with the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:  “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”(Romans 5:5). Such was true for me in this experience. I met the awesome merciful love of God in a supernatural mystical vision of the blood of Christ.

The structure of the Christian Faith is elaborate and multi-dimensional : a set of theological propositions about God and the nature of reality; a code of ethical principles and moral regulations; a rich body of spiritual disciplines and ritualistic actions. But the foundation of Christianity, “the chief cornerstone” to use St. Paul’s metaphor, is the encounter with the love of  God in the person of the risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is one thing to proclaim the message of the gospel:  ”God is love” or “God loves you.” But unless the Holy Spirit makes that love palpably real in the human heart, it is at best just a nice theory, and at worst a pathetic delusion in a cruel and heartless universe.

The testimonies of so many of those present at Asbury affirm this experience of being profoundly loved and accepted by God. In my study of Holy Spirit revival in the church throughout all the ages, this seems constantly to be the authentic core of revival movements, though other supernatural and miraculous manifestations may occur such as healings, deliverances, prophetic visions, glossolalia. “Have you been touched by the great affection?” was the question often heard during the great awakenings of American revivalism.

Have you been touched by the great affection?

How much people are in need of “the great affection”! How much this younger generation in particular needs a supernatural encounter with the love and grace of God. How much these young souls … sick with depression and anxiety and self-destructive behaviors, afflicted with self-loathing and identity confusion and disordered love, poisoned by a nihilistic and pornographic culture, deprived of healthy intact parental love, starved by the almost complete lack of even basic spiritual nourishment … how much they are desperately thirsty for the living God.

I end with the words of an old Pentecostal spiritual.


Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Melt me.  Mold me.  Fill me.  Use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me


Father Jürgen Liias served for forty years as an Episcopal priest in various churches in the Boston area.  In 2013, through a special provision of Pope Benedict XVI for married Protestant ministers, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston. He serves now as a senior priest on the staff of St. Patrick’s Church in Stoneham, Massachusetts.


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