8th SUNDAY OF PASCHA: HOLY PENTECOST: FEAST OF THE HOLY TRINITY. Holy Apostle Jude, the brother of the Lord (ca. 80). Ven. Barlaam of Shenkursk (1462). Martyr Zosimas the soldier at Antioch in Pisidia (2nd c.). Ven. Paisius the Great (5th c.). St. John the Solitary of Jerusalem (6th c.). Ven. Paisius of Chilandari (Bulgarian—18th c.). Repose of St. Job, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus (1607). (Note: The service for St Jude is transferred to June 20.)
Epistle: Acts 2:1-11
Gospel: John 7:37-52, 8:12
Holy Tradition is the voice of the Holy Spirit leading the Church, according to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, “into all truth.”
Church history is as the record of the work of Holy Spirit glorifying Christ, declaring Him to the world and giving to us, His disciples, all the belongs to the Father (see John 16:13-15). And it is through the Holy Spirit that we who were scattered, geographically (because from many places) and spiritually (because of our sins), are “gathered together” (Didache, 9.8) and made “one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5). In the Holy Spirit the divisions that plague the human family are overcome and we are made able to love one another (John 13:34-35) by the grace of He Who first loved us 1 John 4:19).
We will sometime hear that the Feast of Pentecost is the “birthday” of the Church. While well-intentioned strictly speaking true this isn’t true. The Church has existed from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
Today is the day on which—as we hear in the Synaxarion—“we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the holy Disciples and Apostles in the form of tongues of fire.”
Today is the day those “who followed the Master gathered in Jerusalem in the upper room of a house to await the Lord’s promise to send the Holy Spirit.”
Today is the day that, “At about the third hour of the day, there came a sound from Heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the house. Cloven tongues immediately appeared, like as of fire, and sat upon the head of each of them. The Apostles began to speak, not with the languages of their ancestors, but with other languages with which the Holy Spirit supplied them, as He inspired them.”
Today is not the birthday of the Church but of the “priesthood of grace,” “the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus Christ, and the completion of the undefiled hope of the Apostles” because today in Jerusalem the Holy Spirit came “into the world.”
But not only in Jerusalem.
The same Holy Spirit that inspires the Apostles and Disciples on that first Pentecost and Who guides the Church in this life, causes Christ to come to dwell in our hearts. At Holy Baptism, in Holy Communion and in all the Mysteries of the Church, the Holy Spirit comes and rests upon us and Christ makes His home in each of us personally.
Everything done in the Church is done by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit because it belongs to the Holy Spirit to reveal the hidden wisdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16) and grant to us the gifts of “faith, hope and love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). And how could it be otherwise?
We are, after all, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”
We are God’s “own special people” set apart from the human family not for our sake but for theirs to “proclaim the praises” of God Who calls all His creatures “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (see 1 Peter 2:9).
We are, in other words, both priests and prophets of God.
As prophets, we are called by God to proclaim the Gospel, to call others to an obedience born of love; we are charged by God to call all men to repentance.
As priests, we are called to build on our preaching of the Gospel and assist others in being reconciled with God; God has called each of us to lead others to know and love Him.
We ought not to underestimate the importance of what God has called us to do. Without reconciliation, the call to repent is simply cruel even as reconciliation without repentance is a fraud. Both are need, each compliments and fulfills the other even as one, without the other, cripples us.
As I said a moment ago, the Holy Spirit guides the Church and causes Christ to dwell in us. This means that, through the Holy Spirit, the Tradition of the Church is in our hearts. My, and yours, task is to lay aside our sinfulness, quiet our lives—that insistent inner chatter—so that we can hear the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit pointing us to Christ.
The cultivation of this inner quiet, a prayerful attention to Christ, has been a central goal of our lives these many weeks.
The Sunday of Zacchaeus, the “bright sadness” of the Great Fast, the joy of Pascha, all have led us to this one moment. Not to receive the Holy Spirit—since we have already done so—but to help us hear anew what Christ would say to us and have us do.
All our prayers these last several months, our feasting as much as our fasting, our rejoicing and our repentance, have lead us to this day. Today is the day that we renew of our vocations as disciples of Christ and apostles of His Resurrection.
Today, “rivers of living water” well up and are ready to burst the dam sin creates in our hearts!
Today, “tongues of fire” come to rest on our heads, to make us priests and prophets of the Most Holy Trinity!
My brothers and sisters in Christ!
We fasted with Christ during Great Lent, suffered with Him during Holy Week, rested with Him in the Tomb on Holy Saturday and rose with Him on Pascha! And today?
Today is the day we are called to proclaim the Gospel to the world!
We have no need to fear or hesitate!
The Holy Spirit Who inspired the prophets, strengthened the martyrs, made the Fishermen wise and guided the Church through the generations, has been given to us!
The Holy Spirit that caused the Son to become incarnate of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary now causes Christ to dwell in our hearts as well.
She became the God-Bearer, we Christ-Bearers!
She becomes the Mother of God, we His brothers and sisters!
She gives birth to God in the flesh, we give birth to God through good works and wise words!
Looking at that to which we are all called, I wonder, how can I do this? Except by the grace of God I can’t. And when, even having received His grace, I would draw back, I need to remember what I am told.
Jesus tells me, tells us, not to “worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matthew 10:19-20).
God is faithful to His promises to us. Let us likewise be faithful to Him Who today has given us His Spirit!