On the day of Pentecost

6 June 2020

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and instituted a feast that remains for ever. The coming of the Spirit reconfigured the time of our life making it all into a feast, imparting grace to us that we may draw nigh unto God. The Holy Spirit came in the form of fiery tongues and imparted ‘the holy faith once and for all’.[1] The Holy Spirit permeated human nature, and continues to overshadow mankind, consoling, healing and regenerating us day by day.

Our joy consists in drawing closer to God and feeling the bliss of His presence. On the day of Theophany the third Person of the Holy Trinity appeared ‘in the form of a dove‘,[2] and at Pentecost He is present as flames of fire.[3] The Apostles began speaking with ‘other tongues’,[4] abandoning themselves to the sober drunkenness of the Spirit, and ‘many signs and wonders were done by them’.[5] The multitude heard them with surprise and wonder. Some supposed they must be intoxicated, thinking that only wine gladdens man’s heart.[6] They did not know that there is another wine, the sweetest wine, which does not just gladden the heart, but even transforms it into a temple of God.

When the Lord comforts and teaches His disciples during the Last Supper, He reveals to them that the Holy Spirit will remind them of His words. The Holy Comforter rekindles the sayings of the Word of God like hot coals in the heart. Left to himself, man ‘knows not how to pray as he ought’,[7] but when the Holy Spirit ignites these words as prayer, as unutterable groanings, they become a burning furnace, and he feels their indestructible power deep within the marrow of his bones.

After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Church were moved by the spirit in prayer,[8] and discovered the invocation of the ‘Name above all names’,[9] the Name of the Lord Jesus , through which ‘boundless horizons open before us’ and the personal God becomes ‘overwhelmingly evident’.[10] The gift of speaking in tongues was replaced by noetic prayer, which cultivates the heart in a very powerful way, that shakes all man’s being, yet it also occurs ‘in secret’,[11] so as not to lose the spirit of humility.

Man who is made of clay is powerless to call on the Name of the Lord Jesus without the gift of Pentecost. Furthermore, without the Holy Spirit he would not be able to raise his eyes to meet the humble and meek gaze of the eternal Judge, the beloved Christ, and this itself would be Hell eternal. When man bears the light within that allows him to stand in the presence of the Lord, he feels he is in Paradise. Only then he rejoices ‘with joy unspeakable and full of glory’,[12] seeing Christ ‘shining like fire unto salvation’[13] and beholding the beauty of His Countenance.

When the Holy Spirit came, He ‘made some apostles and some evangelists’[14] and from then on, ‘he made priests’,[15] imparting grace so man with a corruptible body might enter ‘through the veil into the Holy of Holies… and behold with his own eyes the Countenance of the Holy Offering’.[16] The Holy Spirit illumines both priests and faithful Christians so they may give and receive the peace of Christ that He Himself gave to His disciples.[17] By this the Holy Spirit brings great serenity to the hearts[18] of the light-bearing children of the Church.

The awesome mystery of spiritual fatherhood works by the Holy Spirit so that through their prayer and word, Spirit-bearing Fathers ‘beget’ children,[19]  making them the heirs of the gifts that they received through the mystery of obedience, and turning them into Fathers, who in their turn transmit the true faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who submit to the authority of their love with humility and surrender their entire heart to them.

The Gospel reading on the Day of the Holy Spirit emphasises that the gift of the Comforter will be made manifest in our relationship with our brother: ‘Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones’.[20] The Holy Spirit is ‘the breath and life, longing and comfort, glory and unending joy of the lowly soul’,[21] however, He is also a secret friend who is easily grieved.[22] In practice this is revealed in our relationship with our brother, he may be appear to be the least among us but in the eyes of God he is most precious, because ‘it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish’.[23] God seeks all of man’s heart, but He is infinitely greater than our heart[24] and cannot be limited by anything. If His creature offers Him only part of his heart, how can this not grieve His Spirit?

Wherever the Holy Spirit descends, it ‘purifies Apostolic hearts and renews a right spirit in the faithful.’[25] The grace of the Holy Spirit, which we attract when we strive to ‘cleanse our soul and heart from an evil conscience’[26] transforms all the time of our life into a feast. The fruit of Pentecost is the enlargement of the heart. When the illuminating and refreshing flame of the Comforter touches the heart, it scatters delusion and carves the Saviour Christ’s image deep within it. All who have the Lord as the shared content of their heart are spiritually united as He transmits within them His thoughts, knowledge and compassion for all men. He burns the heart with His spotless love and floods it with waves of gratitude. The fervency of this love expands the heart and begets the desire that the lot which has fallen to it, the ‘abundance of life’,[27] should be bestowed upon every soul. His love extinguishes every movement of jealousy, as when the Prophet Moses, led by the Spirit of God, desired to see everyone prophesying.[28] The prayer ‘with strong crying and tears’[29] of a man in the Spirit is always thus: ‘Save and sanctify all people!’[30] When the energy of the Spirit abides in the soul, all pain and suffering is transformed into sweetness and peace, and man feels that he is the child of the Heavenly Father and united as one with Christ, ‘hymning Him and His All-Holy Spirit’ unto all ages.[31]

[1]. See Jude 1:3.
[2]. See Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32.
[3]. Acts 2:3.
[4]. Acts 2:4.
[5]. Acts 2:43.
[6]. Ps. 104:15.
[7]. See Rom. 8:26.
[8]. See Anabathmoi Barus, Antiphon 2.
[9]. Phil. 2:9.
[10]. See We Shall See Him, p. 28.
[11]. See Matt. 6:6.
[12]. 1 Peter 1:8.
[13]. Matins of Pentecost, Troparion, Ode 4, Canon.
[14]. See Eph. 4:11.
[15]. See Vespers of Pentecost, verses of Lord, I Cry unto Thee.
[16]. See the Service of the Holy Unction, Prayer after the Fifth Gospel.
[17]. See John 14:27.
[18]. See Matins of Pentecost, Troparion, Ode 1, Canon.
[19]. Cf. Gal. 4:19.
[20]. Matt. 18:10.
[21]. See Symeon the New Theologian, Hymn 1, Συμεὼν Ν. Θεολόγου, Ὕμνοι 1, Εὐχὴ Μυστική, 22-23, ἔκδ. Johannes Koder, “Sources Chrétiennes”, τόμ. 156, Paris, 1969, σ. 152.
[22]. See Eph. 4:30.
[23]. See Matt. 18:14.
[24]. See 1 John 3:20.
[25]. Matins of Pentecost, Irmos, Fifth Ode.
[26]. See the prayer before the Cherubic Hymn.
[27]. See John 10:10.
[28]. See Numbers 11:29.
[29]. Hebrews 5:7.
[30]. Exaposilarion Pentecost.
[31]. See Matins of Pentecost, Oikos.
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