Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
It has been with longing that we have finally, so it seems, come to the Day of Pentecost, to the Great and Holy Day of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the Church, in the Church, and for the Church. Unlike other years, we have had to work harder to get to this day and this feast though all is not yet “normal.” Like those souls assembled together with one accord there in the Upper Room, we, too, have been waiting, though our waiting wasn’t necessarily in response to our Lord’s command to tarry in Jerusalem awaiting the Father’s promise (Lk. 24:49; Ac. 1:4). Still “the Day of Pentecost [is now] fully come” even for us who have been waiting and yearning for the Father’s promised power from on high sent by the Son of God!
Great and Holy Pentecost is, for us, for the Church, the capstone of our liturgical pilgrimage, the culminating event in our salvation history. Another critical chapter unfolds in the grand scheme of God’s salvation and in our experience of the Godhead. For the Feast of Pentecost is the revelation the Holy Trinity fully present in the work of our salvation from sin, death, and the devil, and in our sanctification. Thus, the liturgical cycle of the Church is a true living out of all things salvific, a true and actual participation in the Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ Who was sent by the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is we who enter into its eternality. Therefore, to participate in the liturgical life of the Church is to participate in the fullness of the Godhead: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Cr. 13:14).
No longer do we have to wish to go to the Holy Land – where Jesus and His Apostles once walked – to follow in His holy footsteps, to sit where He once sat, to dip ourselves into the waters of the Jordan where He was baptized. Because of Pentecost, we do so here in the Church, in this place, in this sacred gathering of souls in one accord. Ours is not a mere triggering of an ancient but dormant memory suddenly brought to life by sights and sounds and smells. Ours is not an intellectual or cognitive recalling of a story once told but forgotten until now. Ours is, in fact, a true and real and actual participation in the live or living event that is eternally present to us and for us in the Church! This is part and parcel, beloved, of the Mystery of the Church, its divine origin in the flesh of human beings, whereby God and His grace – His divine power, His divine energy – is communicated to us mere flesh and blood men through the Church which is in truth the Body and fullness of Christ Himself in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cr. 12:27; Ep. 1:22-23)! The Church, then, is both the vessel of the Holy Spirit and the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit is given, received, and bestowed. So, the Church sings, “We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity Who has saved us.” In the Divine Liturgy, we receive what we have come for – Christ God in the Holy Spirit. In every Liturgy, then, we enter into the fullness of salvation – into the very saving events themselves – because every Liturgy is a participation in God’s salvation history and its saving and sanctifying work! And none of this would be possible at all if not for the “Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, . . . .” The Church is the Tabernacle of the Shekinah Glory of God because it is the Temple of the Holy Spirit Who is that Glory! “Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!”
It is the Holy Spirit Who is ever present, overshadowing creation at the beginning to bring forth God’s Garden and Paradise wherein God and man (Adam) shared in a rich and fertile communion until sin despoiled that sweet and holy communion of Paradise (Gn. 1:1-3:24). It is the Holy Spirit Who overshadows the most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos, and Ever-Virgin Mary to conceive in her untouched womb the Son of God and Word of the Father made flesh, uniting in His Person both God and man in order to restore that which our father, Adam, had lost – that paradisiacal communion (Lk. 1:26-38). And, it is the Holy Spirit Who, on the Day Pentecost was fully come, overshadowed the Church gathered liturgically in prayer, and there in that house of worship He effects the communion with God, making the Church the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, that
in the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be glorious, . . . And many nations shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will tell us His way, and we will walk in it; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem’ (Ps. 67 :15; Is. 2:1-3; 25:6-10; 40:9; Ek. 20:40; Mc. 4:2).
The Holy Spirit is Himself God. He is divine Mystery and divine grace Whose work is like that of the wind as our Lord once said elsewhere in this Gospel (Jn. 3:8). So often, however, He is treated as lesser, reduced to a mere “feeling,” an emotion or movement in the soul. But, He is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity “ the Lord, the Giver of Life, . . . ,Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified” (Nicene Creed). The Holy Spirit makes possible the Presence of the living Christ in His Church. What the soul is to the body, so is the Spirit to the Church. He transforms and transfigures the Church to become the very Body of Christ here in the midst of the world, to be Christ present to the world offering God’s salvation! The Church in the Holy Spirit is the extension of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in this world ever since He ascended to sit at the right hand of God the Father (Nicene Creed). As Christ’s virginal Body and Bride, she is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit making her the incarnational Presence of God in this world: the assembly of apostolic believers at prayer making Eucharist. Believers of every tribe, language, and nation “continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of Bread, and in the prayers” (Ac. 2:42). “’He who hears you hears Me,’” Jesus says. “’He who rejects you rejects Me, . . . .’” (Lk. 10:16; Jn. 13:20). It is the Holy Spirit Who enables the Church on behalf of her Lord and Master to forgive or retain sins. “’If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (Mt. 16:19; Jn. 20:22, 23).
And, if you are able to bear it, the Holy Spirit is the Kingdom of God in the Church, the Bearer of the Kingdom of God making the Kingdom of God present in us and to us and for us so that we can be partakers of every grace (Rm. 14:17; 2 Pe. 1:4; Irenaeus of Lyons; Ambrose of Milan). This whole Divine Liturgy, which is at the heart of the Church, the Church’s source and summit, is to call down the Holy Spirit, not only upon the Bread and Wine upon the Altar, but upon us – each and every one gathered in the Spirit of our God – that we may commune in the Holy Spirit and thereby become what is upon the Altar in our eating and our drinking the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (Epiclesis; Priest’s Secret Prayer). The Holy Spirit is Who makes the Church the Church – the living Body of Jesus Christ Himself in this time and place.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, . . . .
St. Irenaeus tells us, “Where there is the Church there is also the Spirit of God; and where there is the Spirit of God there is also the Church and every grace.” It is the Holy Spirit in the Church Who unites us to Christ God so that we commune in the divine nature of our Lord. The Holy Spirit is the “Guarantee of incorruptibility, [the] Confirmer of our faith, and the Ladder of our ascent to God” (Irenaeus of Lyons). It is for the Holy Spirit we implore Almighty God, “Take Him not from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee.”
And so, the Church, gathered with one accord, prays:
O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings, and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Jn. 7:37-52; 8:12
Nm. 11:16-17, 24-29