Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Without doubt the miraculous occurrences on the day of Great and Holy Pentecost – when that day had fully come – get our attention, as they did all those souls in Jerusalem that day: the sound of a mighty rushing wind, the cloven tongues of fire, the multi-varied languages. But, perhaps, just as importantly, though overlooked, is the transformation of timid disciples into lions of the Faith! These signs recall other divine manifestations such as those on Mt. Sinai that terrified all those assembled at the base of that mountain waiting for the Prophet Moses to return, who had ascended the mountain into the thick enveloping smokey cloud punctuated with thunders and lightnings (Ex. 19:16-25). St. Peter links these great signs with the prophecy from Joel in his now famous Pentecost sermon that converted 3,000 souls (Ac. 2:14-41). We note in the Acts account that the Holy Spirit does not simply fall upon those gathered in the Upper Room with one accord, but that the Spirit of God Himself “filled” them like receptacles so that they were “full of the Holy Spirit.”
Herein just may be what gets forgotten in this fit for a movie dramatic effects: the Spirit of the living God now comes to dwell, just as our Lord promised, not just with the Church, but in the Church, in the hearts and souls of the baptized faithful (Jn. 7:37-52; 8:12). The hearts and souls of believers are now made chalices in which the inebriating Spirit of God is poured, filling all with His warmth of faith “full of the Holy Spirit” (Divine Liturgy; Rm. 5:5). Some of the Fathers speak of the “sober inebriation” of the Holy Spirit, recalling the Apostle’s words that we are not to “be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ep. 5:18). The crowds derided the Apostles for being drunk so early in the morning, but their inebriation is that of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, Whose indwelling brings joy and peace and righteousness and a sobriety of soul unlike that of the intoxicating effects of wine if imbibed in to excess (Rm. 14:17). The Spirit of God communicates the very Presence of the true and living God so that we “partake of His divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:4). The Holy Spirit is the true Wine of the true Vine which is Jesus Christ (Jn. 15:1-17). If we become drunk on the wine of this world, we become worse than the irrational creatures. We may achieve giddiness, but it will only be temporary, linked to this world. But, if we become intoxicated on the Holy Spirit it leads us to a heavenly and divine encounter that transcends this world so that the joy we receive lasts unto the ages of ages. This new wine of the Spirit of God puts to death sin in us and grants us Eternal Life – God’s own divine Life, now and in the world to come.
There is another characteristic present in this passage from Acts that plays second fiddle to miraculous manifestations. It is emphasized again and again in the New Testament Epistles, something we should not fail to take note of. And it is this: those gathered in the Upper Room “were all with one accord.” That means there was no division nor disunity in the Church. We hear this phrase, and those akin to it, over and over in the Epistles, drawing our attention to the enormous importance being of one mind is for us as Christians. Unity is a hallmark of the Spirit of God in Whom there is nor can be division or disunity. It is something the Apostle constantly reminds his people of. Endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit,” he implores, because there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all (Ep. 4:3-6; Pp. 2:1-11). To be sure, this unity preceded the coming of the Holy Spirit and acted as a pre-condition for it. However, the coming of the Holy Spirit also sealed this as a fruit and marker of the Presence of the Spirit of God. Where a church is divided, the Spirit of God cannot be present nor can the Kingdom of God be present. And if the Kingdom of God dwells within and the Spirit of God is present (as He must be in the Kingdom), unity is utmost.
One final thought – Pentecost, so often dubbed the “birthday of the Church,” is more. In some ways, this designation falls short both Biblically and theologically. The Holy Spirit has always been in the world working and creating and sanctifying. He was present there in the beginning brooding over the creation (Gn. 1:2). However, this doesn’t mean that He’s always been recognized just as our Lord goes unrecognized (Jn. 7:37-52; 8:12). The Church was born from the riven side of our Lord from which flowed blood and water (Jn. 19:34) – the fundamental elements of life and the constituting elements of the Church. From the open side of Adam, Eve is given “birth,” if you will (Gn. 2:18-25). From the pierced side of the Second Adam, His Bride comes forth. Great and Holy Pentecost is now more of coming out than it is a birthday, more of a manifestation and showing forth of God.
Beloved, 10 days ago at His Ascension, our Lord promised the Church “’power from on high” to be sent from His Father at His behest (Lk. 24:49; Ac. 1:8). Today, the fullness of that promise has been fulfilled. God imparts to us divine power to transform our hearts and souls, and to bear Him witness unto the ends of the world (Ac. 1:8; 2 Tm. 1:7). The Spirit, the Comforter, the heavenly Spirit now resides in the Church, and if we yearn to be full of the Spirit of God – which I hope you do in the spirit of our venerable father St. Seraphim of Sarov who wisely counsels us to acquire the Holy Spirit – if we yearn to be full of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, then we must be full of Christ God. We must be fully and wholly within the Church, the Mother of us all and the Tabernacle of the Spirit of God, by partaking of her offerings and Mysteries. It is for good reason, then, that St. Jude tells us to “pray in the Holy Spirit,” that is, in the Church and with the Church where the Spirit of God is acquired, as the way to preserve us in this world for the age to come (Ju. 1:20).
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!
VIGIL PROPERS: PROPERS:
Nm. 11:16-17, 24-29 Ac. 2:1-11
Jl. 2:23-32 Jn. 7:37-52; 8:12