More Powerful than Water, Wind, and Fire: Homily for the Great Feast of Pentecost in the Orthodox Church

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 Lord Jesus Christ, 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 Him and the new life that He brought to the world.  The Holy Spirit is 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 share personally and communally in the unity, power, and blessing of the very life of God by participation in His gracious divine energies.

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

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles as a group gathered together in obedience to the Lord’s command.  The same divine breath which first gave life to the human person 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 as a sign that everyone is invited to share in the life 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, which means to become like Him in holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit poured out at Pentecost.   Human distinctions of every kind become irrelevant here, for all that matters is that we respond with faith, humility, love, and repentance.

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 Holy 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 and obey the Lord as we seek to live faithfully each day and participate fully in the ministries of the Church.   As members of Christ’s Body, we are nurtured by worship, the sacraments, and spiritual instruction in our common life.   Through the Church, the Holy Spirit brings us into ever greater participation in the life of God.

We receive the Holy Spirit not as isolated individuals living on our own terms, 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 our life together in a way that overcomes all worldly distinctions.

No area of our lives is off limits from the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, unless we refuse to open it to Him.  That would be tragic, of course, for because of Pentecost we may become radiant with the divine glory as His living temples in every dimension of our existence. That is how we too may experience “rivers of living water” that quench the thirst of our dry, parched souls.  This Pentecost, let us all become wide open to the healing power and presence of God, Who alone can satisfy our deepest desires and make us shine brilliantly with the light of His eternal glory.

 

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