May 27, 2018 – “Celebrate the Day of Pentecost with us”

THE FESTAL ORTHROS GOSPEL

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint John 20:19-23

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the Disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the Disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

THE EPISTLE

The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11

When the day of Pentecost had come, the Disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

THE GOSPEL

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John 7:37-52; 8:12

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “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.’” Now this He said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. When they heard these words, many of the people said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over Him. Some of them wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him. The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Are you led astray, you also? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, who do not know the Law, are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our Law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee.” Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

ORTHROS

APOLYTIKION OF PENTECOST

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them Thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to Thee. (THRICE)

AT THE DIVINE LITURGY

POLYTIKION OF PENTECOST

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them Thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to Thee.

KONTAKION OF PENTECOST

When the High One descended, confusing tongues, He divided the nations. And when He distributed the fiery tongues He called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy Spirit.

Sermon on the Feast of Pentecost by St. John Chrysostom

Let us spiritually extol the grace of the Holy Spirit in spiritual hymns, since spiritual grace has on this day shown upon us from heaven. Though our words are too weak to express adequately the greatness of this grace, we shall praise its power and activity to the extent of our abilities; for the Holy Spirit probes all things, even the depths of divinity.

We are celebrating the day of Pentecost, the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, the day of the hope of perfection, the end of expectation, the longing for salvation, the fulfillment of prayer and the image of patience. Today the Spirit Who acted to scatter the nations in the time of Heber has formed tongues of fire among the Apostles. His action of old led to the confusion of the nations, in order to restrain the will of man from its brazenness and consequent chastisement; on this occasion, however, amidst fiery tongues, the deeds wrought by the activity of the Holy Spirit served to preserve us as recipients of preaching, in fulfillment of the will of God.

In the beginning the Spirit of God moved over the water, and later, in the time of Christ, the same Holy Spirit of God rested upon him. Then He moved, and now He rested, as being one in essence, equal in honor, ever-existent and unoriginate together with the Father and the Son. He Who by the flight of a dove over the waters of the Flood heralded fair weather to Noah, the same Holy Spirit, by the sight of a dove at the waters of the Jordan, showed the world the Sonship of Him Who was baptized. Moreover, the Lord had a terrifying answer for those who dared to utter blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: “Whoever speaks blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” David, declaring his desire for this Holy Spirit, prayed to God, saying: “Cast me not away from Thy presence, O Lord; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”

As is well known, where He is absent, every sort of corruption sets in. Thus, the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit entered into him, wherefore David said, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” This same Holy Spirit sanctified the prophets, instructed the apostles and empowered the martyrs. This same Holy Spirit consecrated Isaiah, taught Ezekiel and revealed the resurrection of the dead. As he says, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord.” This same Holy Spirit chose Jeremiah from his mother‟s womb, and raised up Daniel to deliver Susanna. As it is written, “God raised up by the Holy Spirit a young youth, whose name was Daniel.” David so loved the presence of this same Holy Spirit that he prayed to God, saving, “Thy Holy Spirit shall lead me in the land of uprightness.” This same Holy Spirit of God came to dwell in the holy Virgin Mary, embracing her with the communion of the Divine Word at the good pleasure of the Father, and making her the Theotokos. Elizabeth, being filled with this same Holy Spirit, understood that the Lord had come to her by means of the Virgin; wherefore she said, “And whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Zachariah, the father of John, was filled with the same Holy Spirit, whereby he declared that the son born to him would be the prophet and forerunner of the King Who was to come. John himself was also filled with the same Holy Spirit; the eyes of his intellect were given light, and he beheld the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit hovering over Him Who was being baptized, Him Who baptized with the Spirit and fire.

By the action of the same Holy Spirit, the Lord Himself, when He was giving His Apostles His teaching in detail and strengthening their minds for the time of His Passion, said to them: “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” Moreover, revealing to them the Spirit‟s consubstantial power, He said: “When the Holy Spirit is come, Which proceedeth from the Father, He will guide you into all truth.” The holy Apostles waited expectantly for the coming of the power of this same Holy Spirit; they waited together to be clothed with power from on high, according to the commandment of the Lord, Who had said: “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high; for, behold, I shall send the promise of My Father upon you.” And, as it is written, “when the day of Pentecost was fully come, all the holy Apostles were assembled with one accord in one place, and the Paraclete was sent to them under the appearance of tongues of fire.” Having received the abundant promise of the Father and the Holy Spirit, they were strengthened, and they manifested Him Who was sent to them, His grace and His power. The martyr and protodeacon Stephen, filled with the same Holy Spirit, Whom he received by the laying-on of hands of the Apostles, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Being full of the Holy Spirit, he saw the doors of heaven opened and the Only- begotten Son and Word of God standing in the flesh at the right hand of the power of God. Filled with this same Holy Spirit, Paul became the preacher of divine mysteries. As Ananias said to him: “The Lord, even the Savior, hath sent me to thee, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And Paul afterwards said with assurance: “And I think also that I have the Spirit of God.” The same Holy Spirit came to Cornelius and those that were to be baptized with him, and each of them spoke in his own tongue and magnified God. This same Holy Spirit came upon the Ethiopian eunuch after he went down into the water [of baptism], and he was filled with joy, and he went on his way rejoicing. This is the same Holy Spirit Who preached by the prophets, Who gave understanding to the apostles, Who spoke to men. He was given to them by the Lord, and all their adversaries were not able to gainsay or resist Him. For, as the Lord said, “It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father Which speaketh in you.” This Holy Spirit also ordains priests, consecrates churches, purifies altars, perfects sacrifices and cleanses people of their sins. This Holy Spirit abides with the godly, refines the righteous and guides kings. This same Holy Spirit preserved the soul of Simeon, lengthening the time of his life and reversing the rules of death, until the day when he beheld Him Who is the Redeemer of life and death; for it had been promised unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord‟s Christ. It was the same Holy Spirit Who gave strength to Elijah, and Whose power Elisha desired when he asked of Elijah: “Let there be, I pray thee, a double portion of thy spirit upon me.” This Holy Spirit enlightens souls and sanctifies bodies. It was the same Holy Spirit Who descended upon the Apostles and filled them with divine wisdom. Having received His gifts, they were all filled with the knowledge of God; not only were they given divine knowledge, but also spiritual gifts. Simon Magus, being a stranger to the Holy Spirit, fell to his perdition. As Peter said to Simon: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast desired to purchase the priceless grace of the Holy Spirit with money.” Therefore, beloved, let us strive to keep our bodies uncorrupted; for one who has acquired a new body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit, has become a true victor over the devil. What the Spirit of God has said, may it be done unto me. Moreover, Joseph, strengthened by this same Holy Spirit, desired not that his body be defiled by the vile deeds of this life; for he knew that the Spirit does not abide in a body that has commerce with sin; therefore, he attained a royal rank. This Spirit enlightened Bezaleel, so that he fashioned the tabernacle with all beauty and skill. Joshua the son of Nun, possessing the same Spirit, became a faithful heir to Moses and obtained the inheritance of the Promised Land for his people. As God said to Moses: “Take to thyself Joshua the son of Nun, a man who has the Spirit of God in him.” This is the Spirit of Whom the Lord, when He breathed upon His disciples after His Resurrection from the dead on the third day, said: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” And again, it is the same Spirit Who has vouchsafed to give eternal life to the faithful after the general resurrection from the dead. As it is written: “Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” Many are the gifts of the Holy Spirit; many and all-powerful are His gifts. As it says in a certain place: By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth. And Isaiah says: “The Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness.” And Paul adds, “The Spirit of adoption and of grace.” He Who is equally ever-existent, and equally unoriginate, and Who shares the throne and the honor of God, His Son and Word, called this Spirit the Spirit Who is our Comforter. David calls Him the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is sent by holiness; the governing Spirit, since He has dominion over all, because all things came from Him and are kept in existence by Him; and the good Spirit, since salvation and all kinds of goodness are from Him. And what does Isaiah call Him? The Spirit of God, because He proceeds from God the Father; thus does God Himself speak of the Spirit of God as proceeding, in the words, Which proceedeth from the Father. Isaiah further calls Him the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, because all wisdom and good understanding have been given through Him; and the Spirit of counsel and strength, because He is able to bring to pass that which is desired; and also the Spirit of knowledge and godliness. Ezekiel, a man of the spirit, says: “And I will give you a new heart and a new Spirit.” He is one in essence, one in principle and one in counsel with the Father and the Son. Wouldst thou believe? Listen to what the Scriptures say of Him: “When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him.” The prophet further says: “The Lord, and His Spirit hath sent me.” Lest anyone think, from what was said, that this new Spirit would come from any creatures living or yet to come, or from any other person, He says: “And I will put My Spirit in you;” inasmuch as He said, “A new Spirit.” In the Acts of the holy Apostles, this was expressed in commandments: “The Holy Spirit said, „Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.‟” And again, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us; ”even as it had been said, “I will put My Spirit in you.”

Would you demonstrate that this was indeed His coming, as was foretold in parables, and that it was His grace acting upon the holy Apostles? Will you believe what was said? Listen to St. John the Evangelist, who says: “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Paul called this Spirit the Spirit of adoption and the Spirit of grace, inasmuch as in the waters of the baptismal font men are born again of water and the Spirit, and we receive the adoption of sons. In the same way, the Lord said to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thus, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of sonship and the Spirit of grace; for grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, for those who have been born by the power of God. Moreover, the Spirit is called the Comforter, because He is also our advocate with the Father. And not only is He with the Father, but He is always with us also as a gift. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever,” comforting your hearts and making them steadfast in divine patience and trust in Christ. Whereas the holy Apostles received this testament after Christ‟s holy Rising from the dead, and were sent forth to teach and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and whereas we have already been vouchsafed this true washing by the Holy Spirit, let us strive to keep our souls and our bodies undefiled as we glorify the Most holy and consubstantial Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

A profitable Word

After the Saviour’s Ascension into the Heavens, the eleven Apostles and the rest of His disciples, the God-loving women who followed after Him from the beginning, His Mother, the most holy Virgin Mary, and His brethren-all together about 120 souls returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. Entering into the house where they gathered, they went into the upper room, and there they persevered in prayer and supplication, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, as their Divine Teacher had promised them. In the meanwhile, they chose Matthias, who was elected to take the place of Judas among the Apostles.

Thus, on this day, the seventh Sunday of Pascha, the tenth day after the Ascension and the fiftieth day after Pascha, at the third hour of the day from the rising of the sun, there suddenly came a sound from Heaven, as when a mighty wind blows, and it filled the whole house where the Apostles and the rest with them were gathered. Immediately after the sound, there appeared tongues of fire that divided and rested upon the head of each one. Filled with the Spirit, all those present began speaking not in their native tongue, but in other tongues and dialects, as the Holy Spirit instructed them.

The multitudes that had come together from various places for the feast, most of whom were Jews by race and religion, were called Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and so forth, according to the places where they dwelt. Though they spoke many different tongues, they were present in Jerusalem by divine dispensation. When they heard that sound that came down from Heaven to the place where the disciples of Christ were gathered, all ran together to learn what had taken place. But they were confounded when they came and heard the Apostles speaking in their own tongues. Marveling at this, they said one to another, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” But others, because of their foolishness and excess of evil, mocked the wonder and said that the Apostles were drunken.

Then Peter stood up with the eleven, and raising his voice, spoke to all the people, proving that that which had taken place was not drunkenness, but the fulfillment of God’s promise that had been spoken by the Prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that I shall pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28), and he preached Jesus of Nazareth unto them, proving in many ways that He is Christ the Lord, Whom the Jews crucified but God raised from the dead. On hearing Peter’s teaching, many were smitten with compunction and received the word. Thus, they were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added to the Faith of Christ. Such, therefore, are the reasons for today’s feast: the coming of the All- holy Spirit into the world, the completion of the Lord Jesus Christ’s promise, and the fulfillment of the hope of the sacred disciples, which we celebrate today. This is the final feast of the great mystery and dispensation of God’s incarnation. On this last, and great, and saving day of Pentecost, the Apostles of the Saviour, who were unlearned fishermen, made wise now of a sudden by the Holy Spirit, clearly and with divine authority spoke the heavenly doctrines. They became heralds of the truth and teachers of the whole world. On this day they were ordained and began their apostleship, of which the salvation of those three thousand souls in one day was the comely and marvelous first fruit. Some erroneously hold that Pentecost is the “birthday of the Church.” But this is not true, for the teaching of the holy Fathers is that the Church existed before all other things. In the second vision of The Shepherd of Hermas we read: “Now brethren, a revelation was made unto me in my sleep by a youth of exceeding fair form, who said to me, `Whom thinkest thou the aged woman, from whom thou receivedst the book, to be?’ I say, `The Sibyl.’ `Thou art wrong,’ saith he, `she is not.’ `Who then is she?’ I say. `The Church,’ saith he. I said unto him, `Wherefore then is she aged?’ `Because,’ saith he, `she was created before all things; therefore is she aged, and for her sake the world was framed.”‘ Saint Gregory the Theologian also speaks of “the Church of Christ … both before Christ and after Christ” (PG 35:1108-9). Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus writes, “The Catholic Church, which exists from the ages, is revealed most clearly in the incarnate advent of Christ” (PG 42:640). Saint John Damascene observes, “The Holy Catholic Church of God, therefore, is the assembly of the holy Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, and Martyrs who have been from the very beginning, to whom were added all the nations who believed with one accord” (PG 96, 1357c). According to Saint Gregory the Theologian, “The Prophets established the Church, the Apostles conjoined it, and the Evangelists set it in order” (PG 35, 589 A). The Church existed from the creation of the Angels, for the Angels came into existence before the creation of the world, and they have always been members of the Church. Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome, says in his second epistle to the Corinthians, the Church “was created before the sun and moon”; and a little further on, “The Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning” (II Cor. 14).

That which came to pass at Pentecost, then, was the ordination of the Apostles, the commencement of the apostolic preaching to the nations, and the inauguration of the priesthood of the new Israel. Saint Cyril of Alexandria says that “Our Lord Jesus Christ herein ordained the instructors and teachers of the world and the stewards of His divine Mysteries … showing together with the dignity of Apostleship, the incomparable glory of the authority given them … Revealing them to be splendid with the great dignity of the Apostleship and showing them forth as both stewards and priests of the divine altars . . . they became fit to initiate others through the enlightening guidance of the Holy Spirit” (PG 74, 708-712).

Saint Gregory Palamas says, “Now, therefore … the Holy Spirit descended … showing the Disciples to be supernal luminaries … and the distributed grace of the Divine Spirit came through the ordination of the Apostles upon their successors” (Homily 24, 10). And Saint Sophronius, Bishop of Jerusalem, writes, “After the visitation of the Comforter, the Apostles became high priests” (PG 87, 3981B). Therefore, together with the baptism of the Holy Spirit which came upon them who were present in the upper chamber, which the Lord had foretold as recorded in the Acts, “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5), the Apostles were also appointed and raised to the high priestly rank, according to Saint John Chrysostom (PG 60, 21). On this day commenced the celebration of the Holy Eucharist by which we become “partakers of the Divine Nature” (II Peter 1:4). For before Pentecost, it is said of the Apostles and disciples only that they abode in “prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14); it is only after the coming of the Holy Spirit that they persevered in the “breaking of bread “that is, the communion of the Holy Mysteries-“and in prayer” (Acts 2:42).

The feast of holy Pentecost, therefore, determined the beginning of the priesthood of grace, not the beginning of the Church. Henceforth, the Apostles proclaimed the good tidings “in country and town,” preaching and baptizing and appointing shepherds, imparting the priesthood to them whom they judged were worthy to minister, as Saint Clement writes in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (I Cor. 42)