Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52; 8:12
People look for unity in many different places. By identifying ourselves as fans of athletic teams or members of ethnic groups or political factions, we can gain a sense that we are part of something powerful, substantial, and fulfilling. That is more appealing than feeling weak, anonymous, and alone in the world. No wonder, then, that there is so much division between different groups and that many people seem to enjoy defining themselves over against those they consider their enemies as they make themselves deaf to anything those on the other side have to say.
On today’s great feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the healing of what lies at the very root of our alienation from one another. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon on the Apostles as they are gathered together in obedience to the Lord’s command. The same divine breath which first gave us life from the dust of the earth now comes as a mighty, rushing wind. The divine glory beheld by Moses in the burning bush now rests upon each one 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. This great feast manifests the fulfillment of God’s gracious promises for the entire world and every human person in the Body of Christ, the Church manifest at Pentecost. Today we celebrate the restoration of our true unity in God.
By the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, the common life of humanity is now healed. We are no longer isolated individuals choosing sides over against one another due to the fear of death, but persons in communion linked together organically as members of the one Body of Christ. The Persons of the Holy Trinity share a common life of love, unity, and holiness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit we participate by grace in Their eternal communion. Our journey to theosis calls us to become united in and with God such that we become radiant with the divine energies in every dimension of our being, like an iron left in the fire of holy glory. As those who bear the divine image and likeness, we become both more truly human and more like God as we find healing from the passions that divide and separate us, and instead embrace our life together.
The Lord said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’” He uses the image of living water to describe what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, even as He did with St. Photini, the Samaritan woman at the well. Our ascended Lord did not send mere theological ideas, moral instructions, or spiritual practices to His followers. He did not limit His salvation to any particular group of people. After His Ascension, the Savior sent the Holy Spirit to quench the deep thirst of all the fallen, corrupt people of the world to share personally in eternal life, for nothing else can fulfill us.
Wind, fire, and water are powerful images of realities beyond our full control and which we certainly did not create. The Holy Spirit is truly God and it is through Him that we share from the depths of our hearts in the divine life in ways that transcend our full understanding and definition. We do not encounter Him as isolated individuals using religion to achieve an earthly goal of whatever kind, but as members of a Body who are together finding restoration and fulfillment that transcends what the petty false gods of this world can provide.
Instead of defining ourselves in light of groups or agendas that simply serve to divide humanity further and inflame our passions, let us celebrate Pentecost by opening ourselves as fully as possible to the sanctifying and transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. We will do so as we live faithfully each day through the spiritual strength that we gain from participating fully in the sacramental and ascetical life of the Church. The Holy Spirit came upon Christ’s followers as they were gathered together in obedience to the Lord’s command, and we must never fool ourselves into thinking that the spiritual life is an individualistic endeavor that caters to our preferences, plans, or feelings, no matter how noble we think they are. Pentecost calls us to get over the pride that divided the tongues of humanity in the first place and to gain the humility to find our true personhood as members of the Body of Christ, where the distinctive beauty of our souls will shine evermore brightly as we partake of the same living water as did the Apostles. Instead of fueling our divisions from one another, we must enter into the unity that is truly the gift of God and the salvation of the world.