Feast of Pentecost
Today is the finale of the feast of Pascha, it is the celebration of Pentecost, the Feast of the descent of our Lord, the Holy Spirit. It may interest you to know that the Jews also celebrated the feast of Pentecost. It was celebrated 50 days after their own pascha which was the first passover, while they dwelt in Egypt. The feast of Pentecost was the day on which it was believed that Moses received the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai, while they people were down below.
For us, it has been 50 days since we celebrated the day of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we top off this celebration with the final purpose for our Lord’s incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ became a man, suffered, died and then was resurrected that He might glorify us and make us acceptable and holy vessels of the Lord, the Holy Spirit. The divine One became human that through Him, the human ones might become divine. God loved us, the pinnacle of His creation to such a degree and to such a depth that He was not content simply to give us wonderful gifts, but to give us Himself, to give us a share and inheritance in His godliness. He has given us to be by grace, what He is by nature.
All of this happens through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is this Holy Spirit that is given to us in holy baptism. And this is a truly wonderful gift, in fact one of the great saints, St. Seraphim of Sarov says that “the true goal of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.” But hold on, what does that mean? I thought that we received the Holy Spirit in baptism. Yes, indeed, we did. What St. Seraphim is speaking of is living a life and becoming Christians who are infused with the Holy Spirit. Not having the Holy Spirit in name only, but in abundance and truth.
For the past few weeks we’ve been reading a fantastic little book called “The Indication of The Way Into The Kingdom of Heaven” by St. Innocent of Alaska. In this wonderful book he touches on many of the basic topics of our Christian faith and life and then he spends a good chapter of the book speaking about the Holy Spirit. Here is what he says
“The true and recognized means of receiving the Holy Spirit, according to the teaching of the Holy Scripture and the experience of great saints, are the following: (1) Purity of heart and chastity, (2) humility, (3) listening to the voice of God, (4) prayer, (5) daily self-denial, (6) reading and listening to Holy Scripture, and (7) the sacraments of the Church, and especially Holy Communion.”
and then St. Innocent continues writing,
“Every faithful soul is filled with the Holy Spirit, if she is cleansed of her sins and not encumbered or closed by self-love and pride. For the Holy Spirit always surrounds us and wishes to fill us, but our evil deeds that surround us like a hard stone wall are like evil guards that do not allow Him to come near us and keep Him away from us. Every sin can keep the Holy Spirit away from us, but bodily impurity and spiritual pride are especially repellant to Him.”
So this path is clearly laid out for each of us by the Bible and the fathers and saints of the Church. It is not enough that we celebrate the potential of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It is better that we recommit ourselves to making this the true aim of our lives. We do this by addressing what we ought to address and by working positively to make our souls open and fertile ground for the Lord, the Holy Spirit to enter and to bless our lives. St. Innocent says that if we do not want to lose the grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit then we are to follow the path laid out for us by the Church and observe the following practices of Purity, Humility, Attentiveness, Prayer, Fasting, Scripture, and Sacraments.
Imagine that someone offered you the most precious and valuable treasure on the planet. And then imagine that this same person then offered you a map with the exact coordinates to find this treasure. Now you understand what the Lord has offered to each of us through the Church. Not only a treasure but a way and a map to the treasure and He offers this treasure not for a moment or for a day or two. He promises that we can have this treasure within us and that we can keep it forever, even after our bodies fall asleep in the Lord. This inheritance of the Holy Spirit can never be taken away from those who are faithful and full of love for God and their neighbors. It can also be replenished and recharged by the grace of God, whenever we have fallen and are depleted of this gift. Let’s conclude by again hearing St. Seraphim who says,
In spite of our sinfulness, in spite of the darkness surrounding our souls, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, conferred by baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, still shines in our hearts with the inextinguishable light of Christ . . . and when the sinner turns to the way of repentance, the light smooths away every trace of the sins committed, clothing the former sinner in the garments of incorruption, spun of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. It is this acquisition of the Holy Spirit about which I have been speaking . . .” (Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation with Motovilov).
May we be vigilant to run this race and seek this treasure by the grace of Our Lord, the Holy Spirit, together with the Father and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. AMEN.