In the Church’s annual liturgical cycle, Pentecost is “the last and great day.” It is the celebration by the Church of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the end – the achievement and fulfilment – of the entire history of salvation. For the same reason, however, it is also the celebration of the beginning: it is the “birthday” of the Church as the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, of the new life in Christ, of grace, knowledge, adoption to God and holiness. Continue reading
Category Archives: Pentecost
On this day we recall that just 50 days after the Glorious Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the Holy Apostles and all those gathered with them in a new and different way. For the first time, the Holy Spirit actually took up residence within the human soul. Continue reading
Ascending in Holiness Through the Body of Christ: Homily for the Sunday of the After-Feast of the Ascension and the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
We are now in the season of the Ascension in the Orthodox Church, when we celebrate our Lord’s ascent into heaven forty days after His resurrection. It is easy for us to pass over this feast without paying much attention because it comes between Pascha and Pentecost. The danger of doing so, however, is that if we do not attend to the importance of uniting ourselves to Christ as He ascends into heavenly glory, we will have a very impoverished understanding of how to share in the eternal life of our Saviour even as we remain in the world as we know it. Continue reading
Matthew 10: 32-33, 37-38, 19: 27-30
Saints are models of transformation. They are people just like all of us, who lived in this world. They show us it is possible to follow Christ, to be a Christian, even fully united to and transformed by Christ in this world, in our lifetime – despite the world and the times we live in! Continue reading
When the day of Pentecost had come, they 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.
Acts 2:1-4 Leave-Taking of the Ascension
Many of us are familiar with the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, as told in Genesis 11. We read in that account that all of the people of the earth had one language and few words. And they decided to come together to build a tower to the heavens. So, God descended on Babel and created languages, in order to confuse the people so that they could not build a tower to heaven. Because the way to heaven was not going to be a man-made tower, it was going to be our Lord Jesus Christ. The Tower of Babel marked the creation of all the languages of the world, and with the diversity of languages also came a division of peoples, for people only associated with those who spoke the same language.
In the time of Christ, there was a great division of languages and cultures. Jews and Samaritans did not like one another. No one liked the Romans. And Gentiles were considered barbarians by the Jews. So, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples on Pentecost, He gave them the ability to speak in all the languages of the earth. And all those who were gathered in Jerusalem heard the Good News of Christ in their own language.
At the time of the Ascension, when Jesus “commissioned” the Disciples to “baptize all nations,” (Matthew 28:16-20) they must have felt very inadequate when thinking about this daunting task. For not only would they need to travel to foreign lands and encounter foreign customs, but they would also have to be able to articulate the Gospel in foreign languages. The grace of the Holy Spirit, again defined as that which heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking, the Godly quality that makes ordinary extraordinary, empowered the simple fishermen to be able to speak in all the languages known to men. Not only were they able to utter words in these languages, they were able to speak with eloquence and conviction. Think about that. These men who had had doubts and fears throughout the earthly ministry of Christ, were not only enabled to speak in all the languages but to speak with such boldness and confidence that three thousand people converted to the faith on that very first day. (Acts 2:41) The Lord, who had once divided the nations at Babel, now through the Holy Spirit, united the world by allowing every person of every nation to hear the Gospel in his or her own language.
The Holy Spirit comes into each of us, as He did for each of the disciples. As the flames came on each disciple, bringing them a specific language to speak and eloquence with which to speak it, the Holy Spirit has come into each of us. The Spirit comes into each of us. He gives to each of us a talent by which to glorify Him and to serve one another. Some are doctors, some are farmers, some are mechanics and others are teachers. There are thousands upon thousands of different and unique talents, all of which are needed for our world to work.
The other thing that the Spirit does is that it gives each of us a unique and special way to proclaim the Gospel. A few are called to be priests and serve the church as their life’s work. But it is not just the priests who are called to share the Gospel. Each of us has a talent to proclaim the Gospel. Some can do it as Sunday school teachers, others can sing in the choir, some can be greeters, and others can visit the sick. Any and all of us should cultivate the ability to pray for others and to pray with them. There are hundreds of way to express the Gospel.
As important as it is to cultivate our talents so that we can maintain a vocation, it is equally as important to cultivate our unique talent by which we further the message of the Gospel. And it is really important that we remember this as we prepare for our careers and as we advance in our careers. It is important that we also continually advance in our knowledge of the Gospel and of spiritual things, and it is important that we strive continually in ways large and small to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. None of us are likely to see tongues of fire on our heads, the way that the Holy Spirit came on the Apostles. But all of us have tongues of fire in our hearts, the light of the Holy Spirit burning in us. It is up to us to stoke the fire and spread the message.
When the Most High God came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations. When He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity. And with one voice we glorify the all-Holy Spirit.
(Kontakion, Pentecost, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Let the “fire” of the Holy Spirit burn in your heart and inspire your life today!
Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis
Pentecost was one of the major feasts of the Jews, the Feast of Weeks, a harvest festival celebrated fifty days after Passover. Pentecost literally means “the fiftieth day.” It was a feast of joy and thanksgiving for God’s protection and His rich provisions. The whole community presented itself before the Lord as a “holy convocation” (see Lev. 23:15-22). The first fruits of the wheat harvest and loaves baked from the new wheat crop were offered to the Lord. The people worshipped God, the source of life. They thanked Him for His great acts of deliverance in history and His gift of the Promised Land. Continue reading
In the middle of the feast, O Saviour, fill my thirsting soul with the waters of godliness, as Thou didst cry unto all: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! O Christ God, Fountain of life, glory to Thee! (Troparion)
On the Wednesday of the Paralytic, we celebrate the Feast of Mid-Pentecost. Continue reading
John 7:37-52, 8:12 ~ Save and sanctify all who know You as God
I will try to say a few words to analyse this sublime line taken from the hymn for this great day of Pentecost.
In Cyprus, the suffering island, where Greek Orthodox identity is more purely, fully and faithfully upheld, they call this day ‘the day of the flood’. Which means that the heavens and God Himself flooded the world – not with threatening waters, as when the world was destroyed in the time of Noah. Instead, He has flooded the world with endless gifts, which the life-giving death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, has opened up for all of us on earth.
‘But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’ (John 14:26).
What practical meaning have these words other than that we must pray every day that the Holy Spirit be sent to us, just as we pray every day for Our daily bread?
God is willing every day to send us the Holy Spirit, but He seeks from us that we pray every day for Him to be sent to us. For as, with regard to bread, there is sometimes abundance and sometimes dearth, so it is with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and leaves us according to our good works and our patience. Therefore the Church has ordained that the first morning service in church begin with the invocation of the Holy Spirit: ‘O heavenly King, O Comforter, Spirit of truth – come!’, and after that comes the prayer: ‘Give us our daily bread.’ Why? Because, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot even make use of bread in the way that we must for our salvation.
‘He shall teach you all things.’ That is: every day and every night, according in the situation in which you find yourself, He will instruct you, advise you and direct you in what you must think, say and do. Therefore, ask God only for the Holy Spirit, and He will Himself bring all that you need in any given moment. When He has descended upon you, you will know all things and be capable of all that is needful.
‘And bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you’. That is: do not fear that you will forget My teaching and My words. The Holy Spirit knows all that I know; so, when He is present with you, then all My teaching will be present in you together with Him.
O Lord the Holy Spirit, be pleased to descend upon us, not according to our merit but according to the merit of the Lord Jesus, and according to Thine endless goodness. To Thee be glory and praise forever.
St Nikolai Velimiroviċ, The Prologue from Ochrid
On the Feast of the Ascension, the Orthodox Church does not merely commemorate an historical event in the life of Christ. On this day, the Church celebrates Christ’s physical departure from the world and His glorification with God the Father.