Persons in Communion with God and One Another: Homily for the Feast of Pentecost in the Orthodox Church

Pentecost

Acts 2: 1-11

John 7:37-52; 8:12

On today’s great feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming upon the followers of the Risen Jesus, which is the birthday of His Body, the Church.  After the Savior’s resurrection, He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples so that they would not be cut off from the new life that He has brought to the world.  The Holy Spirit is, of course, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, fully divine and eternal as are the Father and the Son.  By being filled with the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s followers participate personally and communally in the unity, power, and blessing of the very life of God by grace.

Unlike the period before Christ’s Passion, the disciples now no longer think of themselves a students of a mere teacher, prophet, or king.  They no longer struggle to accept the good news of His resurrection.  Instead, they experience the new life of the Kingdom as “rivers of living water” flowing from their hearts.  By the Spirit, they participate by grace in the life of the Holy Trinity.  God is not remote, distant, or removed from them, but present in their souls. By God’s presence in their hearts, they become truly who He created them to be in the divine image and likeness.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles as a group who were gathered together in obedience to the Lord’s command.  The divine breath which first gave life to humanity comes upon them as a mighty wind.  The divine glory beheld by Moses in the burning bush now rests upon each of them personally as flames of fire.   The divided speech of the tower of Babel is now overcome by the miracle of speaking in different languages so that everyone can hear and understand the praise of the Lord.  Not the possession of any nation or group, this great feast manifests the fulfillment of God’s promises for the entire world and every human being.

God creates us all in His image with the calling to grow in His likeness, actually to become like Him in holiness.  As those corrupted by sin and death, however, fulfilling that vocation is beyond our ability.  Only God is God, and our only hope is to share by grace in His eternal life.  This glorious participation in the divine life is made possible to us at Pentecost.  Human distinctions of every kind become irrelevant here, for all that matters is that we respond with faith, humility, love, and repentance as we receive the Spirit poured out on the whole world and on every generation.

With the Holy Spirit present in our hearts, linking us together organically as one, our fallen, divided humanity is restored.  Just as Father, Son, and Spirit share a common life of love, unity, and holiness, we share a common life in Christ’s Body, the Church.   As particular people, we have the responsibility to believe, repent, and obey the Lord as we participate in the ministries of the Church and live faithfully each day.   As members of Christ’s Body, we are nurtured by worship, the sacraments, and spiritual instruction in our common life.   The holy Tradition of the Church is the presence of the Holy Spirit, guiding the Body into ever greater knowledge of and participation in the life of the Holy Trinity.

For we receive the Holy Spirit not as isolated individuals, but as persons in communion, in loving relationship with Christ and with one another in His Body, the Church.  The only proper way to celebrate Pentecost is to open ourselves as fully as possible to God’s healing, transforming power in all areas of our lives.  That is how we may become radiant with the divine glory as we celebrate this great feast of our salvation as living temples of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.

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