O Heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art in all places, and fillest all things, Treasury of good things, and Giver of life, come, and dwell in us, and cleanse us from every impurity; and save our souls, O good One.
Dear brothers and sisters, с праздником! Happy Feast!
Greetings to you all on this feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the sending-down of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles with the physical manifestation of God’s power.
The Acts of the Apostles described this descent of the Holy Spirit as being as or like a rushing wind, and flames of fire.
This is as close as the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke could come to describing the descent of the Holy Spirit in human language, as ultimately, this outpouring was beyond the descriptive capability of human language.
Just as Ezekiel had to resort to using as and like to describe an attempted approximation of his vision of God on the heavenly chariot-throne; as Daniel had to do likewise in describing the Ancient of Days; as St John the Theologian did in describing his vision of the Son of Man – so St Luke can only look for the nearest earthly things to describe the experience of the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
Nearly two thousand years later, in celebrating the feast, in our services we return to the wonderful prayer “O Heavenly King…” calling upon the same Holy Spirit that descended upon the apostles “as of a rushing mighty wind” and in “cloven tongues like as of fire” to come and abide in us, and if it were not for our baptismal union with Christ, this request would be daring to the point of audacity.
How can we humans – mere creatures – address the Holy Spirit thus: the same Holy Spirit that we encounter in the dramatic events of today’s Gospel?
Of course, in prayer, we ask God for many things – for mercy, for protection, for the healing of the sick, the relief of the suffering, and for the repsose of the departed, for jobs, material necessities, and many other things… but we now go much further than these prayerfull requests.
We have called the Holy Spirit Heavenly King, yet we His servants and creatures ask the “Comforter, the Spirit of Truth” to come and dwell in us – for the Paraclete to actually stay and abide within us fallen and weak human beings – hardly palatial dwellings for the Heavenly King – and to “cleanse us of all impurity and save our souls.”
We can only understand the boldness and even the possibility of this audacious request through the grace, calling and promise of our baptism and chrismation, by which we have already been cleansed, enlightened and sealed by the operation of the Holy Spirit (no matter what we have done since that spiritual rebirth), having been set aside for God as we were anointed with holy chrism in “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”.
When the Saviour ascended, He promised to send another Comforter, and this came to pass on the day of Pentecost – but this outpouring of the Spirit is not one that only anointed the apostles and the newly founded apostolic Church, but one which is continually poured forth upon the individual members of the Body of Christ: especially in the Holy Mysteries of the Church, which the Saviour has given us.
The Holy Spirit not only recreates us in the Holy Mysteries, but initiates us into the Christian mystery and leads us to Christ, through Whom we are brought to the Father
In our Christian lives, we may not see dramatic signs as on the day of Pentecost, but Christ’s promise of the presence of the Holy Spirit neither ceases nor fails, and it is through the quiet working of the Holy Spirit in our community and individual lives that the gift of Pentecost continues.
The same Holy Spirit which descended upon the upper room on the day of Pentecost has descended upon the baptismal waters in which the new members of our community have been immersed over the last half-year, and was equally the sanctifier of the waters of our own baptism: the Holy Spirit who makes each of us a new creation, in Christ.
The same Comforter sanctified the holy chrism with which each of us received in “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” after baptism. Though we may nor experience supernatural signs, this sealing is our own personal Pentecost, in which we receive the same gift and outpouring that the apostles received in the upper room.
During the consecration at the Divine Liturgy, we pray, “O Lord, Who at the third hour didst send down Thy Most Holy Spirit upon Thine apostles: take Him not away from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray to Thee…” that through the same Holy Spirit, the Holy Gifts may become the very Body and Blood of the Saviour, who promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples.
In the Mystery of Holy Unction, the same Holy Spirit, sanctifies the ‘oil of gladness’, with which we are anointed for the “healing of soul and body”, becoming not only a sign or a symbol, but the spiritual means by which we receive Grace and healing.
The same Holy Spirit works in Holy Matrimony to join husband and wife as one flesh, uniting them in prayer and Faith, transforming them in a new relationship with one another, with God, and with the Church. Through the Grace of the Holy Spirit, they are called to grow together in love, leading one another to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Through confession and the mystery of repentance, the same Holy Spirit transforms, cleanses and purifies the human heart, as the gift of God’s forgiveness and Grace restores and renews His image in each of us, who were clothed in Christ in the Mystery of Baptism.
Through the operation of the Holy Spirit, this repentance is not simply a remedial act of spiritual reorientation or correction after we have sinned and fallen, but the entire way of Christian-living, leading to our transformation and transfiguration, in which the human heart and mind are illuminated and raised up to God.
Through the laying-on of hands by the bishops, as successors of the apostles, and by the operation of the same Holy Spirit, the life of the Church is preserved by the ordination of its ministers to Holy Orders – as bishops, priests and deacons.
Thus, through each of these Holy Mysteries, the Holy Spirit that descended on the apostles on the day of Pentecost, continues to work in the Church and in each of us, quietly, in what is for most of us is a hidden but nevertheless real way.
This presence requires neither signs nor wonders as a mark of validity or authenticity, and whilst the gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament include supernatural and miraculous charisms that we continue to see in the lives of the saints, the fruits of the Holy Spirit of which St Paul the Apostle speaks are the simple characteristics of a Christian life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
But, for the fruits of the Holy Spirit to grow and strengthen within us, we need to be active in the podvig of Christian living – labouring to make ourselves worthy receptacles of God’s grace, and worthy temples of the Holy Spirit.
When addressing the Church in Ephesus, St Paul wrote, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It is by walking in the manner worthy of our calling that the fruits of the Holy Spirit will multiply in us, with such an overflowing abundance that they benefit all around us, united with one another in the bond of peace of which the apostle speaks.
Let each of us labour as individuals, and together as Christ’s Church, to cultivate spiritual lives in which the quiet indwelling of the Holy Spirit transforms us by Divine Grace.
Embracing the holiness and goodness to which God calls us, we must each be oriented to Him, in lives in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel, saturated with prayer, in simplicity, moderation and sobriety, lived in the Church and as the Church – as the community of faith sanctified and confirmed on the feast of Pentecost. And, in all of this, let us support, sustain and help one another, as fellow strugglers and co-workers for the Holy Spirit.
With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark
“All of us, my friends, participate in this effect of the life-giving goodness of the Holy Spirit in various experiences of our spiritual rebirth, renewal and sanctification. The means by which the Holy Spirit is communicated to us are fervent prayer and the Church sacraments. Our whole life, my friends, from beginning to end is accompanied by the great gifts of the Holy Spirit; and yet, in all its actions it must consist and be lived under the influence of the blessing, sanctifying and life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit.
Call on the Holy Spirit – always keep your hearts pure so as not to drive away the Holy Spirit from them but to attract Him.”
St. Alexei Mechev