Sunday of Pentecost, May 31, 2015
Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
On this great feast of Pentecost, the “last feast” of the Paschal mystery which began for us with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee four months ago, we experience the final fullness of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came here as our Redeemer to rescue us from the corruption and death of our sins. He revealed the Father to us. He brought the Holy Spirit with Him, for the Spirit rested upon Him throughout His ministry. He taught. He healed. He suffered. He died. He was buried. He rose on the third day. And He ascended into Heaven and sat down at the right hand of His Father. And today, He completes that revelation to us with the sending of the Holy Spirit.
This Pentecostal moment is the one predicted in the prophecy of Joel 2:28: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”
This pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is described for us by the Apostle Luke in the second chapter of Acts, in a passage appointed for this feast. There is a detail here which I would like to focus on today as we meditate upon Pentecost—the sound that happens when the Holy Spirit comes. Listen to that detail again:
And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Now, this is a very interesting detail. To understand it, we should remember another detail from the creation of mankind in Genesis chapter two. There in the seventh verse, we read this:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
First, God forms man out of dust, but he is not yet alive. And then God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” That is also sometimes translated “a living soul.” Man becomes alive, he becomes a living soul when God breathes into him.
What does this have to do with the sound of the mighty rushing wind that is heard as the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in Acts 2? To understand this, we need to do a little bit of language study.
In both Greek and Hebrew, the primary languages of the Scriptures, the word for “breath” and “spirit” and “wind” are all one word—pneuma in Greek and ruah in Hebrew. So when we read any of those words in English, we should recall that they are closely associated in the Biblical languages, that they are one word.
Thus, we hear a wind at Pentecost. We are hearing the Spirit. We are hearing the breath of God breathing into that room where the disciples are gathered.
And it is that same Spirit which is breathed into Adam when he becomes a living soul. This same language is used in Psalm 104, which we hear at the beginning of Vespers: “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit and they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth.” The Holy Spirit is sent forth, and creation happens. Renewal happens.
So why is the Spirit being sent forth? Why is the breath of God being breathed as a mighty wind into that room? It is for the purpose of creation.
The mission of the Lord Jesus Christ was to redeem His people out of the slavery and exile of sin and corruption, to bring them to the Edenic Promised Land, to raise up Israel, to raise up Adam, to raise up all mankind and loosen them from their captivity. It was, in short, to re-create mankind and even the whole cosmos, to begin the act of creation again.
But while it is a new creation, it is not a creation of some other thing. We are still ourselves. The earth is still the earth, and the heavens are still the heavens. But all creation is renewed by a new act of creation, the act of sending forth the Holy Spirit once more, that same Holy Spirit that hovered over the face of the waters while the earth was still formless and void (Gen. 1:2).
Thus, when the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost, it is a cosmic act that re-creates the disciples of Jesus Christ, who have followed Him through death and resurrection to be re-created with this pouring out of the Spirit once more, a pouring out that is actually mightier than it was when the Spirit was breathed into Adam and made him a living soul.
Christ is the New Adam, the last Adam, and so therefore those who are in Him are also a new creation. In I Corinthians 15:45, Paul explicitly sets up this parallel between Adam and Jesus, saying that the first Adam became a living soul when the Spirit was breathed into him, but the last Adam is Himself “a life-giving spirit.” Jesus is the One Who gives the Spirit, the Spirit of life.
What does this mean for us on this day of Pentecost? How are we to apply this to our own lives?
Life in the Spirit of God means that we are being re-created. An authentic spiritual life will always be about change. Saying, “Well, this is just who I am” is not good enough for a Christian. That sort of fatalism is fine for pagans and atheists, but we are receiving the Holy Spirit, the Spirit Who, when He is sent forth, “creates” and “renews the face of the earth.”
And He has indeed been sent—not just at the creation of man or on the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago or in our mystical presence there on Pentecost today. He has been sent for each of us and to each of us—at our chrismations, whether at baptism or in reception into the Church later in life. That is our own Pentecost, when the Spirit is sent into us for our own re-creation.
A Christian can never give up hope in his ability to change, because he has been given the Holy Spirit by Christ, given the Comforter Jesus sent. We cannot despair, because God has not despaired of us. God has hope for us, and therefore we have hope for ourselves—hope that we can love more as God loves, hope that we can grow in knowledge and wisdom, hope that we can become more humble and more giving.
One who has the Holy Spirit can never despair. And he can also never be satisfied with where he is. He presses forward in this beautiful and life-giving process of being re-created by the sending forth of the Spirit.
We have been inspired—a word that literally means “breathed into.” The Spirit has been breathed into us. The Spirit has inspired us. The mighty rushing wind has blown the Spirit into us. And if we are filled with the Spirit, if we are inspired, that means the mission of the redemption of Jesus Christ is at work in us. Every part of us is being bought back from exile, set free from slavery.
To be filled with the Spirit is eminently practical, because it means that we are motivated by something different than what motivates the world. We are motivated by re-creation. We are being created anew by Christ. We are growing in love. We are growing in humility. We are growing in courage, in strength, in boldness for Christ. These are all things that are visible and knowable in ourselves and in others.
Pentecost for us is now. Right now, we are receiving the life-giving breath of God, the creative Spirit, sent forth to re-create us and to renew all of mankind and indeed the whole creation.
To our Lord Jesus Christ therefore be all glory, honor and worship, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.