Melkite Greek Catholic Church
AS THE TIME FOR THE Lord’s passion neared, Jesus tried to prepare His followers for what was to happen. He warned them about His impending arrest, their flight, and about His ultimate death. He also made a promise: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth…” (John 14:16).

The word Paraclete comes from the world of civil law. In the Roman system, a Paraclete was an advocate, a counselor who advised and encouraged people in the courts. It was the Paraclete who would provide the first Christians with their defense when they were brought before a worldly judge.

Jesus identified this Paraclete as the Holy Spirit, advising His disciples, “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11, 12). The Holy Spirit would be their advocate when any authority challenged their preaching.

After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus repeated His promise, this time with an additional dimension. Prior to His Ascension He told His followers: “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) “…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). The Paraclete, the promised Holy Spirit, would come, bestowing heavenly power on those who received Him.

The Promise is Kept

This bestowal of the Holy Spirit would come a few days later, on the day of Pentecost. This term, from the Greek word for fifty, referred to the Jewish feast of Shavuot or “Weeks,” when the first-fruits of the grain harvest in Israel were to be offered in the temple. Shavuot was observed fifty days after Passover as one of Judaism’s pilgrimage feasts, when men were supposed to go to Jerusalem to make their offerings.

What took place during that feast is described in the Acts of the Apostles: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).

Peter, the senior apostle, interpreted what had happened as the outpouring of the Spirit prophesied in Joel 2:28-32 for the start of the messianic age (the “last days”). He proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and called on his hearers, attracted by the commotion, to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:38, 41, 42). This outpouring of the Spirit thus marked the beginning of a new community built around the apostolic faith, common prayer and the “breaking of bread” (communal meal/Eucharist).

The Spirit as a Sign of Authenticity

For most of human history communication was by writing, delivered by a messenger. You knew the message was authentic because it was sealed. The message was sealed with hot wax into which the writer’s seal or signet was then stamped. The seal was the stamp guaranteeing the authenticity of the message.

Other seals were identifying marks branded on animals or even slaves. All Jewish men were sealed by circumcision, to demonstrate that they were members of God’s people, Israel.

When the Lord Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Father’s voice bore witness to Him, calling Him beloved Son. “And the Sprit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truth of this word” (troparion). The Spirit was the seal on Christ, demonstrating that He was the Son of God.

The same Spirit, who descended on the disciples of Christ, confirmed the truth of their words, the Gospel message. His presence, at work among them and in the Church of every age, is the seal demonstrating the divine origin and truth of the Christian faith.

St Paul affirms that every Christian has been sealed with the Holy Spirit. Writing to the Corinthians, he teaches that the Holy Spirit is within us: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). He expresses this mystery of the indwelling Spirit as an anointing and a sealing: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22). We are, in fact, called Christians (anointed ones) because this sealing has confirmed our union to the Anointed One, the Lord Jesus.

In our Church this anointing is given to each newly baptized Christian in the mystery of Chrismation. As the priest anoints the newly-baptized, he announces “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The visible seal of the Chrism signifies the inner sealing of our hearts.

The Spirit marks each Christian as being in Christ, the eternal High Priest and, therefore members of the royal priesthood (see 1 Pt 2:9). Thus, when we join in the worship of the Church, we are acting in union with Christ the High Priest. We also are gifted by the Spirit in particular ways to help build up the Church. Thus every Christian has an individual gift, meant to be used for the good of all.

At Pentecost the Spirit energized the apostles in a remarkable way. The same Spirit works that way today as well, but only in some, generally those whom we call saints. Although not every saint is a wonderworker, each of them reflects the presence of God is some discernible way. Each saint is the “face of the Holy Spirit,” making visible the presence of the Spirit within.

The Spirit as a Promise of Eternity

In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St Paul teaches that we are confirmed in the assurance of our union with Christ through our faith in Him and by being sealed with the Holy Spirit. “In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood… In Him also we have obtained an inheritance… In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth…in Him also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:9-14).

St Paul calls the Spirit “the Spirit of promise,” who assures us of our inheritance to come. If we have been given the Spirit to dwell within us now, how great a gift will be ours in the age to come.

St Cyril of Jerusalem on Chrismation

“With this unction, your forehead and sense organs are mystically anointed in such a way that, while your body is refreshed with the visible oil, your soul is enlivened by the holy life-giving Spirit.” (Catechesis 21, 3)
IN AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES the end of the harvest means that the workers could relax, celebrate and give thanks. In Judaism this is marked by the Feast of Sukkoth (tents or tabernacles), which celebrates God as the One who provided for the Israelites in the wilderness and who continues to provide for His people to this day. While the Temple stood, Sukkoth was one of the “pilgrimage feasts,” occasions when Jews were expected to visit Jerusalem and make their offerings at the temple.

One of the ceremonies performed daily in the temple during this feast celebrated how God provided water in the desert for the Israelites fleeing Egypt. A golden decanter of spring water would be brought in a joyful procession from the Pool of Siloam to the temple and poured by a priest into a precious vessel which drained over the altar.

This ceremony was accompanied by prayers for a fertile year ahead. People also prayed for the coming of the Messiah for, as Isaiah prophesied, on that day “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). What a shock it must have been to the fervent Jews taking part in this ceremony to see Jesus call attention to Himself: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying,‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink…’” (John 12:37). As God had provided water in the wilderness, so Jesus would quench the thirst of those seeking salvation. As we sing on the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, “As a river of divine glory, the Lord gives streams of goodness to all and calls out: ‘All who thirst, come to Me and drink deeply, because I am the Fountain of compassion and the Ocean of mercy’” (Sticheron at Vespers). 2Rivers of Living Water Jesus’ next words would have been even more startling: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (v. 38). Water was never abundant in the Middle East; nevertheless, both Jews and Christians emphasized that for religious purposes fresh, running (“living”) water was the most fitting image, as standing water was not life-giving. Thus the first-century book of Church order, the Didache, instructs: “After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Didache 7:1).

In our era people used to Biblical citations assume that the Lord Jesus is quoting some Scripture verse in v. 38 cited above. But, as St John Chrysostom and other Fathers pointed out, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” is not a verse from any Biblical book. Rather the Lord is referring to a whole range of Scriptures which make numerous references to the Messiah as the source of the life-giving Spirit.

During the exodus from Egypt Moses brought forth water from a rock at God’s command, an event remembered and celebrated in both the Torah and the Psalms. St Paul would say that this was the Word of God, even before His incarnation, who was caring for his people: “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).

The prophets Isaiah, Joel, Ezekiel and Zechariah all looked forward to the Messianic age when rivers of living water would spring forth from the temple or from the Holy City to water all creation. Isaiah in particular connected this flowing of water with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:2, 3). “You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

The water that quenches the thirst of the people is the Holy Spirit whom the Lord Jesus, the source of the Holy Spirit, sends into the world. This is what Christ says to the people in the temple, just as He told the Samaritan woman whom He met by the well at Sychar: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” (John 4:13, 14).

Are You Thirsty?

There is one final element in Christ’s teaching here on which we must reflect. Water quenches the thirst of those who are thirsty; those who are not thirsty will not appreciate it. Similarly the Living Water which is the Holy Spirit is for those who are thirsty (see John 7:37) and are tired from trying to quench their thirst with brackish water (see John 4:13-15). When the Holy Spirit came upon the first followers of the risen Christ at Pentecost, they were refreshed because they were thirsty: they had been waiting for the Messiah and had found Him in Jesus. Those who were not thirsty were untouched by the Spirit or, rather, the Spirit convicted them for their lack of faith in the present work of God.

Taking the Spirit for Granted

There is always a temptation for us to celebrate Pascha and Pentecost with all the richness our Tradition has to offer and then to go back to our daily routines, assuming that we are living the life of the Spirit to the full. Russian theologian Paul Evdokimov described it this way: “We have become mere spectators or hearers removed from the context, the life and the presences evoked by the liturgical texts. In one of his studies on the Liturgy, Fr. Zacharias mentions the song that ends the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, ‘We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit,’ and he asks: ‘Have we really seen anything? Did we really receive the Holy Spirit? Or have we fallen into the habit of acting like the characters in Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes by pretending to see what we do not see?’” (Women and the Salvation of the World, p. 15)

To help us stir up our awareness of the Spirit who dwells in us, the Church takes us from the festal season to a time of fasting, the Fast of the Apostles. All the Fasts are meant to shift our focus from the distractions of everyday life to the relationship we have with God. Shifting our attention from feasting to fasting, the Church is asking us the same question which St Paul asked the Corinthians: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) Through the practices of the Fast (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) – which are the basic practices of the Christian life – we strive to recover our awareness that we have indeed received the heavenly Spirit. As we grow in our Christian life, the promise Christ made to the Samaritan woman will become personally true for us: that the Holy Spirit whom we have received will become in us “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4: 14).

He stood in the center of the temple, the infinite God – God in essence, yet become incarnate for our sakes, taking upon Himself the limits of the flesh – and offered to everyone the living water of His word, saying: Come, and purify your hearts and quench the heat of your passions. Let no one be deprived of drink. The water that I give is the grace of God by which you partake of the better and eternal life. Whoever drinks of it will share with Me, the Creator, the kingdom and the glory of God.
IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN Jesus is depicted as offering this prayer for His disciples shortly before His arrest. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are... Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:11,17-19). What does it mean to “sanctify” oneself and others?

“To Sanctify” in the Scriptures

The word sanctify literally means to make holy. In the Scriptures holiness is the characteristic quality of God. He is unique, set apart from any other creature. He is, as we regularly say at the end of vespers and orthros, “the Existing One,” the only One who truly and definitively “is.” To sanctify someone or something means to set them apart for the Lord, to consecrate them for His use. In the Torah priests were thus set apart for the service of God. The priest “… is holy to his God. Therefore you shall consecrate him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I the Lord, who sanctify you, am holy” (Leviticus 21:7,8). Not only priests but everything used in worship was sanctified, first of all by being set apart. Vestments, for example, were designed to be different from ordinary clothing: “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2). When the priest wore them he was thereby set apart for the service of God. Priests and those objects permanently set apart for the Lord were anointed with a mixture of oil, myrrh, cinnamon, cassia and other spices (cf., Exodus 30:22-25). Anointing with this ointment became the most solemn sign of consecration to the Lord. Our Church uses a similar mixture (holy chrism) to anoint churches, altars, antimensia and some other sacred items. In the Old Testament many other things were sanctified as well. Days and seasons, too, were set apart from time to for the service of God time as feasts and fasts. Particularly at these times the very people of God would be set apart as well. “I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).

Christ’s Prayer Answered

Christ’s prayer that the Father sanctify His disciples was answered when the Holy Spirit came down upon His followers on the feast of Pentecost. They were anointed – not with any material ointment but by being filled within by the Holy Spirit. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4). And so the union for which Christ prayed takes place at Pentecost: an interior union of the disciples with God. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” we are told: the presence of the Spirit within them united them organically with God. The first Christians were thus sanctified, becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The Greek Fathers would later describe this process of coming into union with God as theosis or deification. It begins with God bestowing His Holy Spirit on man. But because human nature includes the capacity to grow, deification is not a one-time or static gift. Rather, as St Paul said, it is a process of transformation to God-likeness. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The apostles went forth as Christ had commanded and, in turn, sanctified others by uniting them to Christ in baptism through the Holy Spirit. Again Christ’s prayer is answered as believers become one with Christ in the mystery of His death and resurrection (baptism) and filled with the Holy Spirit in the mystery of Pentecost (chrismation). Baptism is not simply a rite of admittance to the Church; it makes the believer holy by uniting him or her to the Holy Trinity. As St Paul would tell the Colossians, “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) and would remind the Corinthians that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Consequences of Our Sanctification

“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). These words are repeated almost verbatim at the climax of our Byzantine rite of Christian initiation to this day. If we have been baptized and chrismated then we too have been sanctified, set apart, and this has results for our lives. First of all it means that we have a purpose. St Peter defined that purpose for us when he wrote, “[you are] a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God… that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Our purpose is to be successors to the priests of the Old Testament, set apart for worship, to glorify the mystery of God’s plan for us, making present every day the salvation which was accomplished once and for all by Christ. One way in which we exercise this priesthood is by “sanctifying time,” setting it apart and offering it back to God in our divine services and prayers throughout the day as well as in the specific observances (feasts and fasts) of the church year. We sanctify time not only by prayer or worship, but also by the godly manner in which we live our lives. “He who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

The Fruit of Sanctification

Secondly, when we continually sanctify our lives through these spiritual sacrifices, it bears fruit. We come to reflect what St Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (cf., Galatians 5:22): the love, joy and peace which comes from living in light of the union with God which we have been granted. Metropolitan Anthony Bloom once recounted the following story, showing how even the most trying circumstances cannot prevent us from sanctifying whatever corner of the world we have been given. “I met a few years ago in Russia an elderly priest who had spent 36 years in prisons and concentration camps. He sat opposite me with eyes shining with joy and gratitude and he said, ‘Do you realize, can you imagine, how infinitely good God had been to me? The Soviet authorities did not allow a priest either into prisons or into camps; and He chooses me, a young, inexperienced priest and sends me first to prison and then to camp to look after his lost sheep.’ “There was nothing in him but gratitude and joy. And that joy, that kind of gratitude against the history of his life was truly an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”
Let us reverently sing to the All-Holy Spirit who sanctifies the universe and cry out to Him in faith: “By the grace of the Father, You have come into the world! Be not far from us who venerate Your Divinity. Make us temples of Your ineffable goodness and sanctify the faithful who sing to You!”
FIFTY DAYS AFTER PASSOVER Jews observe the Feast of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, which originated as the conclusion of the Spring harvest season in Israel. Between Passover and Shavuot barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates and lastly wheat would be harvested. According to the Biblical command (Deuteronomy 8:8) growers would bind the first fruits of each together and bring it as an offering to the temple. At the time of Christ it was one of the three “pilgrimage festivals” when Jews would come in great numbers to observe the temple rites for the feast. Greek-speaking Jews called this festival Pentecost, the “fiftieth day.” According to Jewish tradition enshrined in the Talmud, Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. Thus contemporary Jews often decorate their homes and synagogues with greenery on this feast because of the tradition that Mount Sinai blossomed when the Law was given to Moses. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how, in the midst of this festive atmosphere, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). Our Christian festival, also called Pentecost, remembers this event as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and of Christ’s promise before His death and resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles records that, immediately after this manifestation, Peter addressed the curious passers-by by citing Joel 2:28-32 (“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh…”). After recalling the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter went on to say that this prophecy is now fulfilled: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). It was this outpouring of the Spirit which Christ had promised: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37). More especially in the Byzantine Churches the Feast of Pentecost celebrates the ultimate manifestation of the Holy Trinity. At the Theophany at Christ’s baptism the Father’s voice bore witness to Christ, confirmed by the presence of the Spirit in the form of a dove. At Pentecost the Father’s gift of the Spirit is manifested within those who received Him. No longer observers of the Spirit’s presence, they became temples of the Holy Spirit “who is in you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

They Speak with Other Tongues

A much-discussed element in the story of the Spirit’s descent is the so-called gift of tongues: that the apostles “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). A number of today’s Pentecostals and Charismatics see speaking in tongues as a sign (if not the sign) of a truly living faith. The Church Fathers saw this gift in a different light: given “that it may be advantageous to the salvation of unbelievers” (Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Constitutions). St Cyril of Jerusalem marveled, “What a contrast to their long ignorance in time past to their sudden, complete, varied and unaccustomed exercise of these languages” (Catechetical Lecture 17.16). Theodoret of Cyr noted that this gift “… was given to preachers, because of the diversity of languages, so that one who was going to the people of India might bring the divine preaching in the language used by them. And again, when discoursing with Persians and with Scythians, with Romans and Egyptians they would preach the evangelical doctrine in the languages used by each” (Commentary on 1 Corinthians). The fourth-century scholar and Bishop of Homs, Eusebius of Emesa thought that this gift also enabled the writing of the New Testament: “[God] gave literary ability to ignorant men so that they could write the Gospels; … He also gave the Roman tongue to Galileans and the languages of the world to His apostles for the teaching, admonition and exhortation of the nations of the world” (Eusebius of Emesa, Discourse 9). Thus the consensus of the Fathers is that the gift of tongues was given to enable the spreading of the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit Guides Us

When the Lord Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit He indicated that this Spirit “…will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26) and that “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). In our day these simple words have been interpreted to mean something very different from what was intended. Since the Renaissance we have been living in a very individual-centered world. This has enabled us to develop the values of personal freedom and justice we cherish. It has also meant that we see our faith in individualistic rather than in communal terms. While the Scriptures and the historic tradition sees the believer relating to God in the community of the Church, modern man has dismissed the community as being superfluous to an individual believer’s life with God. In terms of the Pentecost event, many American Christians tend to see the promise of the Holy Spirit as an assurance that God is guiding me. This leads some people to believe that God is calling them personally to serve Him, without that feeling being confirmed. They start their own churches or “ministries” and develop their own following. In their personal life they see themselves as “guided by God” when it is their own inclinations and desires that they are pursuing. The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit guides us, but it means that He is preserving and leading the Church rather than leading me. We may well pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit but should expect to see that guidance manifested through the Church. This is why it is so important for committed believers to have a spiritual guide who is well-grounded in the Tradition. With such a guide we can experience the Spirit in the Church in a more personal way.

The Holy Spirit and Us

Many Christians have a fuzzy idea of the Holy Spirit. We can relate to God as Father, which is a human image. We can relate to the Son who actually became human in the Virgin’s womb. But how do we relate to the Holy Spirit ? Many American Christians have no answer to that question. According to the Ligonier Ministries 2014 online survey of 3000 Western Christians, three-quarters of the respondents (Catholics and Protestants alike) agreed that “the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being.” Perhaps our frequent use of the Creed, the Sign of the Cross and the prayer “O Heavenly King” will keep firm in our hearts the truth that the Holy Spirit is truly our personal God: “the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”
“ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK we pray standing, but everyone does not know why.” This issue, raised in the fourth century by St. Basil the Great, may be just as timely today. In most Eastern Churches standing is the most appropriate posture for prayer. Sitting is always in order for those who are physically weaker (due to sickness, age, pregnancy, etc). Kneeling, however, is not considered proper on Sundays or during the Paschal season, which ends today. St Basil gives two reasons why we should pray standing on Sunday: the first is that it is the day on which Christ rose from the dead. St Peter of Alexandria (+311) notes that this practice was already a tradition in his day: “…on Sunday we celebrate a day of joy because of Him who was raised from the dead on that day, during which time we no longer kneel according to the tradition we have received.” St Hilary of Poitiers, a Western father, wrote in his commentary on the psalms that this tradition was of apostolic origin.

Is Kneeling Ever Allowed?

The first Christians followed the practice they inherited from Judaism: standing for prayer. The Lord’s own words confirm this: “And when you shall stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25). One of the earliest images of Christian art shows the Holy Virgin standing at prayer, with her arms outstretched, a practice many follow today. But there were occasions when the Jews knelt for prayer. Repentance was such an occasion – to this day Jews kneel in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. They also knelt to emphasize the particular intensity of their prayer. Thus the Lord Himself, during His agony in the garden after the Last Supper, “knelt down and prayed” (Luke 22:41). Kneeling expressed the powerful emotion in His prayer at that moment. The Eastern Churches kneel for the same reasons. Kneeling is especially appropriate as a sign of repentance, such as during the Fasts or in the mystery of Confession. Whenever we are praying intensely, as for a special intention, kneeling is also appropriate, except… on Sundays. Proclaiming our faith in Christ’s holy resurrection trumps our personal concerns. St Basil gives another reason why we pray standing on Sundays: it is the “eighth day,” the foreshadowing of eternity and our own resurrection. He writes, “…we not only remind ourselves by standing during prayer of the grace that was given to us on this Day of Resurrection, but also that the first day of the week seems to be somehow the image of the eternity to come. “During all the fifty days after Pascha we are reminded of the anticipated resurrection …during this time the customs and orientation of the Church have taught us to prefer the standing position in prayer, thus transposing our minds from the present to the future by this outward physical reminder” (cited in a 6th-7th century canonical collection). The First Council of Nicaea extended this practice to the whole Church newly embraced by the Roman Emperor. The twentieth canon of that council states: “Seeing that certain people kneel on Sunday and during the Pentecost season, so that there might be the same practice in all the communities, it has been decided by the holy council that prayers should be addressed to the Lord standing.”

The “Kneeling Service” of Pentecost

In the evening of Pentecost, after the last and greatest day of the Paschal season has concluded, we kneel again for the first time since the end of the Great Fast. Three prayers of supplication, said kneeling, are added to the rite of vespers when the deacon invites us, “Again and again on bended knees let us pray to the Lord.” The first prayer, addressed to the Father, is a prayer of repentance. The priest prays “…on bended knees and with heads bowed because of our sins and the unawareness of the people… recall our souls from the captivity of sin and accept us who kneel down before you.” The second prayer, addressed to Christ, adds a note of intense supplication: “Guide my life along Your ways… Show me the road that I must walk… Let me be constantly aware of Your presence and of Your future coming in glory… and strengthen me in the hope of the treasures to come.” The final “kneeling prayer” is a prayer of supplication for our departed brethren “imprisoned in Hades.” We ask that the all-merciful Lord “establish then in peace and joy in the mansions of the just.” With the end of the Paschal celebrations, repentance and intercession – and, therefore, kneeling – are once again our daily tasks. There is another aspect to our ordinary Christian life which is emphasized at this service: the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, His temple. Once again we hear the prayer “O heavenly King,” which begins most of our services and formal prayers. We invoke the Holy Spirit, “present in all places and filling all things,” that He may enliven by His divine power our worship and all that we do in Christ’s name. The Church, which received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, continually prays that the power of this Spirit remain active in our midst. “Master, who at the third hour sent Your Holy Spirit upon the disciples, take Him not away from us but renew Him in us, we pray.”

Pentecost and the Holy Trinity

The third kneeling prayer also introduces a theme which became particularly prominent in the Slavic Churches: that Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Trinity. The priest prays: “On this last day of the feast of Pentecost, You have revealed to us the mystery of the Holy Trinity, one in essence, co-eternal, undivided and yet distinct.” We know that the Church celebrates the Theophany at Christ’s baptism as a manifestation of the Trinity in the world. As we pray in the troparion, “The Father’s voice bore witness to You, calling You His beloved Son and the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truth of this word.” The Church also sees the Trinity revealed at Pentecost. The Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, is sent by the Son to rest on the apostles and, through them, on all who would believe. The famous Trinity icon by St Andrei Rublev has been interpreted as portraying this moment in the history of our salvation. The Son, pointing to the Spirit (on the viewer’s right) looks to the Father for His blessing. The Spirit bows His head in acceptance of His mission of revealing the Son to the world. Today the Apostles of Christ have been strengthened by Power from on high. The Comforter has renewed them. He has placed in them a new knowledge of the Mysteries which they proclaim to us, teaching us to worship the compassionate God, Three Persons in one simple and eternal nature. Illumined by their preaching, let us adore the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, praying that we may be saved.
Come, all you nations of the world: let us adore God in three holy Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Three in One. From all eternity, the Father begets the Son, equal to Him in majesty and eternity, equal also to the Holy Spirit glorified with the Son in the Father – Three Persons, and yet a single Power and Essence and Godhead. In deep adoration, let us cry out to God: “Holy is God who made all things through the Son with the co-operation of the Holy Spirit! Holy the Mighty One through whom the Father was revealed to us and the Holy Spirit came to this world! Holy the Immortal One, the Spirit, the Counselor, who proceeds from the Father and reposes in the Son! All-Holy Trinity, glory to You!”

Stichera at the Kneeling Service

SEVERAL HYMNS OF PENTECOST allude to promises made by Christ concerning the coming Holy Spirit. He would be “another Paraclete” (Comforter or Advocate), Jesus Himself being their first Paraclete. The Holy Spirit, being immaterial, would “abide with you forever” (John 14:15). He would be “everywhere present and filling all things,” as we say in the hymn to the Holy Spirit which begins most of our services. The Lord Jesus, took on our humanity to be like us in all things except sin. His earthly life, like ours would be limited to a certain time and a certain place so that we could be glorified like Him forever in His glory According to Christ the first work of the Holy Spirit would be to help Jesus’ followers understand God’s plan for us. “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). “He will testify of Me” (John 15:26), guiding you “into all truth” (John 16:12).

More than Understanding

The Scriptures read at the Divine Liturgy on this feast show us another dimension of the Spirit’s presence among us. He would impart spiritual power to the Church by His presence. Before His ascension Christ promised His followers, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This power would give the courage to speak the Good News of Christ to men who, before the Spirit’s coming, had been hiding in an upper room for fear of the Jewish authorities. The Spirit’s presence brought clarity to their message as well as the boldness to transmit it to their disbelieving countrymen. The Acts of the Apostles gives several instances of how the Holy Spirit’s power worked among the apostles. It lists:
  • The Gift of Tongues (Acts 2:4-11) – The ability to proclaim the Gospel and to be understood in a number of languages otherwise unknown to the speaker.
  • The Gift of Teaching (Acts 2:14-36) – The ability to express the mystery of the Gospel with clarity despite their humble background and lack of education.
  • The Gift of Healing (Acts 3:1-10) – The ability to heal the physical illness of people and even, as in the case of Tabitha, to raise the dead.
  • The Gift of Discernment (Acts 4:36- 5:11) – The ability to distinguish between spiritual truth and delusion, as when Peter detected the deceitful hearts of Ananias and Sepphira.
  • The Gift of Passing on the Spirit (Acts 8:14-17) – The ability to confer the Gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying-on of hands.
  • The Gift of Exorcism (Acts 16:16-18) – The ability to drive out evil spirits.
All these gifts have been manifested throughout the life of the Church over the centuries with the exception of the first of these gifts, the multiplicity of tongues. According to St Augustine and St John Chrysostom, the purpose of the gift of tongues was to affirm “that the Gospel of God was to be proclaimed over the entire earth in all languages” (St Augustine, Homily on 1 John 6:10). That universal proclamation began almost immediately, fulfilling the purpose of the gift of tongues which ceased. Other gifts were bestowed upon the growing Church, as described in the epistles of St. Paul. Some of them are celebrated in a hymn repeated frequently during this feast: “The Holy Spirit provides every gift: He inspires prophecy, perfects the priesthood, grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the organization of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, equal in nature and majesty with the Father and the Son, glory to You!”

Releasing the Spirit’s Power

The fruit of these gifts have been with us foe centuries. The result is often that we take them for granted and fail to see the power in them. The Lord does not try to scare us into faith by brandishing these gifts in our faces. Rather He waits for us to seek a relationship with Hum in the Holy Spirit. Then the power in these gifts will be revealed. In 1968 the late Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius IV, addressed these words to a meeting of the World Council of Churches. Quoted time and again since then, they testify to the Spirit’s power in these gifts, released when we seek to know Him, the Giver of them all.
“Without the Holy Spirit: God is far away, Christ stays in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is simply an organization, authority – a matter of domination, mission – a matter of propaganda, the liturgy – no more than an evocation, Christian living – a slave morality. “But in the Holy Spirit: The cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth-pangs of the kingdom, The risen Christ is there, The Gospel is the source of life, The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity, Authority is a liberating service, Mission is a Pentecost, The liturgy is both memorial and anticipation, Human action is deified.”

The River of Living Water

It is with an understanding like this that Christ describes the Holy Spirit in terms of living or flowing water:” “’If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit whom those believing in Him would receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39). This living water – the Holy Spirit – is not meant simply to remain in the heart of the believer but to flow out to others. He quenches the thirst of the believer but also goes forth to nourish others. Our celebration of this feast, then, is a reminder that we are conduits, vessels for the Holy Spirit. With-out the Holy Spirit we are empty vessels – with the Holy Spirit we water the world.
Behold, we celebrate today the Feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of the Promise and the realization of Hope. How noble and awesome is this great mystery! Wherefore, O Lord and Creator of All, we cry out, “Glory to You!” (Sticheron at “Lord I Cry” tone 1)
On this feast of fulfillment, O faithful, let us joyfully celebrate Pentecost, which is the end of the feast and the fulfillment of the promise of Christ. For today the Fire of the Paraclete comes down to earth in the form of tongues, enlightening the Apostles and making them wise in the things of heaven. Behold the Light of the Paraclete, making the world radiant! (Kathisma Hymn, tone 4)
The Power coming down upon us today is the Holy Spirit, the Goodness and Wisdom of God. The Spirit which proceeds from the Father through the Son is revealed to us, the faithful: He communicates holiness to those whom He inhabits. (Troparion from the Canon, Ode 5)
FROM TODAY TO PASCHA NEXT YEAR practically every church service and formal prayer in our Tradition will begin with the invocation, “O Heavenly King.” The presence of the Holy Spirit, whom the first Christians received on Pentecost, is called upon whenever we pray – whenever we do anything as Church, because the Spirit is the “soul” of the Body of Christ. The Spirit is the “living water” promised by Christ to refresh and enliven believers as we live our lives in service to the Lord. In the Gospel of St. John we see Christ saying as His passion was about to begin, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete to be with you always: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept since it neither sees Him nor recognizes Him…” (John 14:16-17). In this promise the Spirit is called by another image. The Greek world paracletos meant a helper or an advocate, specifically someone who could guide you through the maze of the Roman legal system. This word is sometimes translated as comforter or consoler, a specific type of helper leading the believer along the path of this life. This image appears in the prayer mentioned above: “O heavenly King, Paraclete, Spirit of truth…” The Spirit is portrayed as “another Paraclete,” implying that there is a first one whom we know. That Paraclete is the Lord Jesus who was the guide and advocate of His followers on earth and is our advocate before the throne of the heavenly Father. Because Christ was the Son of God incarnate, His earthly presence was limited. He lived in a certain place, in a specific time and His earthly life came to an end. The Holy Spirit, however, is not incarnate. His presence is spiritual and so not bound by those earthly limitations. He is, as the prayer we have been quoting says, “present in all places and filling all things.” From the beginning of creation God’s plan was to dwell with His creation forever. This goal was frustrated by the fall, but not defeated. The incarnation of Christ was God’s response to His broken creation. The Son of God becomes man so that mankind can be divinized. As St. Athanasius the Great is to have said, “God became man so that we might receive the Holy Spirit.” Now, with the coming of this Spirit Paraclete, that plan has been fulfilled insofar as is possible in this life. Our experience of the Holy Spirit is not the end of the story, however. The Spirit, says St. Paul, “…is the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made His own, to praise His glory” (Ephesians 1:14). The Holy Spirit as we experience Him now is merely a down-payment of the experience of God we are meant to have in glory.

How Does the Spirit Enliven Us?

When the first believers received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost there were some dramatic results: where before they were afraid, they now preached Christ boldly. They spoke in tongues, they healed the sick, they gave their lives rather than deny Christ. But the Spirit also worked – and still works – in individual believers in less spectacular but equally remarkable ways. The Scriptures indicate several ways in which the Spirit of God activates our Christian life by His presence:
  • Our Ability to Believe – “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
  • Our Ability to Pray – “The Spirit too helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech” (Romans 8:26).
  • Our Confidence in God’s Love – “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…The Spirit Himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16).
  • The Growth of Our Inner Selves – “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity” (Galatians 5:23).
  • Our Ability to Serve in the Church – “There are different gifts, but the same Spirit; there are different ministries but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one the Spirit gives wisdom in discourse, to another the power to express knowledge. Through the Spirit one receives extraordinary faith; by the same Spirit another is given the gift of healing, and still another miraculous powers. Prophecy is given to one; to another power to distinguish one spirit from another. One receives the gift of tongues, another that of interpreting the tongues. But it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
When we were chrismated at our baptism we were anointed with the anointing of Christ, becoming sharers in His royal priesthood. As Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, because He is penetrated by the Spirit of God, we too become other christs – other anointed ones – when we are chrismated. We believe that we received the gift of the Holy Spirit then as the Fathers teach. St Cyril of Jerusalem, for example, insists, “See that you do not mistake the chrism for mere ointment. For just as the Eucharistic Bread is not ordinary bread after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, so also this holy chrism is no longer simple ointment after the invocation, but the gift of Christ, bringing about the presence of the Holy Spirit by a divine operation” (Mystagogic Catechesis 3, 3). Nevertheless, as the years go by we must still ask ourselves if and to what degree this relationship with the Holy Spirit has become a conscious focus in our life, for it is possible to have received this gift of the Holy Spirit and never to have truly realized the greatness of that gift or to have lived in His light. Thus St. Simeon the New Theologian maintains that the greatest misfortune which can befall us as Christians is not to know consciously that God is truly living within us. Many believers, he asserts, “say they have the Spirit of God without experiencing Him and believe that they possess the Spirit within them from Holy Baptism and will argue that they have this treasure, knowing that in reality they are utterly devoid of the Spirit.” In fact, he says, they do not know what it means to have this gift. Simeon compares the believer who has been filled with the Spirit to a woman pregnant with a child. Both must surely be aware of what has taken place within them. Like many of the Fathers, St. Simeon recognizes that the gift of the Spirit is given when we are christened, but also that we must develop a conscious awareness of the Spirit’s presence in our own life. Those who truly radiate the life of the Spirit are those who are deeply aware of His inner presence. It is for each of us to pray regularly that our hearts be open to the presence of the Spirit, that we be receptive to His guidance and that we be moved to act in accordance with His leading.
O Master, who at the third hour bestowed Your Holy Spirit upon Your disciples: take Him not away from us but renew Him in us, we pray.
Troparion at the Third Hour
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Sermon preached by H. B Patriarch Gregorios III in San Fructuoso, Compostela

on the Occasion of the Pilgrimage of the Order of Saint Lazarus to Santiago de Compostela

Pentecost May 23, 2010

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Today it seems appropriate to ask whether we are in Jerusalem or Compostela, since the Lord Jesus promised:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18: 20)

After his resurrection in Jerusalem, the apostles were glad when they saw the Lord.

Today we are gathered around the risen Lord and his apostle, Saint James of Compostela here in this pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is one of the most striking aspects of Christian worship. Down the ages, pilgrimages have been a way of communion and communication, of spiritual sharing of faith, culture, art, commerce and humanity – and a factor for living together in peace.

Saint James of Compostela, the Lord's brother, first Bishop of Jerusalem, unites us today as members of the Saint Lazarus Order, and as pilgrims from many nations.

This pilgrimage to the apostle's tomb also unites us to Jerusalem, mother of all Churches, and to the Church of the Resurrection, the supreme place of Christian pilgrimage.

We are joining the millions of pilgrims to Compostela and Jerusalem. We pilgrims are members of the Order of Saint Lazarus, which is deeply linked to the story of Jerusalem and to pilgrimage to the holy places, since the Order worked to make the pilgrims' way easier and to render humanitarian service to them and to the inhabitants of the holy places.

We wish and pray for the Order's social and health service to develop more and more in each country where the Order of Saint Lazarus is present, particularly with respect to the Holy Land, and to the projects of the Patriarch, since he is the Order's Spiritual Protector.

Here I would like to express my profound gratitude to the Order on my own behalf and on behalf of all those helped by the Order's work, with my affection, prayers and blessing. Thank you also to our hosts, the Grand Priory of Spain and to those who have worked so hard to organise this event, particularly to Chevalier Cayuela and his team for making it so enjoyable and successful. Agradable y hermoso!

We thank the Lord for having brought about the unity of the Order in Manchester in 2008 and for our splendid, active Grand Master, Don Carlos, who is always so friendly, approachable and enthusiastic.

As Protector of the Order, I call upon all of you to work for deeper unity within the Order in every one of your countries.

I would like now to add a few spiritual words drawn from our Eastern Liturgy for the three feasts of the Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. In the hymn of the Ascension, we read, "Lord, thou hast filled thy disciples with joy, by the promise of the Holy Spirit and thou didst confirm them with thy blessing: and having thus united things of earth and of heaven, thou didst say to thy disciples, ′I am with you and no-one shall be against you. Await the fulfilment of the Father's promise.'"

Today, we are celebrating the Feast of Pentecost: once again we are living the descent of the Holy Spirit during this Divine Liturgy. We sing the hymn of the feast, which is the Church's birthday and that of the unity of all Christians in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. As Jesus told his disciples, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit," so he tells us during this Liturgy and pilgrimage, "Receive the Holy Spirit, who will call to mind the teachings of my Gospel."

Dear friends, brothers and sisters, today in this pilgrimage and on this Feast of the Holy Spirit,

be strengthened by the Holy Spirit you received at baptism and who is in you, enabling you to act.

May the Holy Spirit be with you, enabling you to move forward!

May the Holy Spirit be with you, enabling you to be witnesses for Jesus in the world, in your countries, in the Order and through the Order's works and in your own professions!

Be filled with the Holy Spirit, who will be your Counsellor and Guide.

And as, through investiture, you put on your capes, so put on the Holy Spirit of Christ, in order to work for peace and to be in this world of ours, which is God's, salt, light and leaven in the lump of humanity, bringing the world to fruition and creating a civilisation of life and love.

And may the blessing of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you all, now and forever.


Gregorios III

Ed. V. C.

Icon of Pentecost

". . . God will do the Rest"

Homily for the Sunday of the Pentecost

By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros

Sunday of the Pentecost

A bishop in Canada told this story: He had celebrated a liturgy of confirmation (we call it in the Byzantine tradition "Chrismation") to children. After the ceremony he saw a child outside the church and asked him: "were you happy with this sacrament of confirmation?" He said: "yes. I was very happy. "What does it mean to you to be confirmed? The bishop asked. The child answered: "to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to help me to live like Jesus, who was filled with the Holy Spirit." "Excellent, said the bishop, but suppose you have died before being confirmed, could you be confirmed in heaven?" - "No!" – "Why?" – "Because there are no bishops in heaven!"

Of course I hope that there will be bishops in heaven, but there will be neither confirmation nor any other sacrament, since in heaven we will see God face to face.

The sacrament of Confirmation is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, as we say when we confirm in our byzantine tradition: "Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" What does the Holy Spirit mean? In the Creed we start by proclaiming our faith in God the Father: "I believe in one God creator of heaven and earth…" Then in one Lord, Jesus Christ, then in the Holy Spirit giver of life…; So God the Father is the creator, the source of all life, Jesus is the Son of God and the Word of God, which means the expression of God's mind, and the revealer of God's will. The Holy Spirit is the power of God which enables us to do God's will.

In the Old Testament people knew God's will through the Law, but they had no power to fulfill the Law. The prophets promised that with the coming of the Messiah this power will be given. Jesus had the fullness of the Holy Spirit: He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; He taught and did his miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. And he rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in his last speech to his disciples during the Mystical Supper, He promised them that he will send them the Holy Spirit: "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

With the Holy Spirit in us we are enabled to do God's will. This life St. Paul calls it: The life in the Spirit. What does he mean by that? As human beings, we have to choose between 2 ways of life: a life according to the flesh and a life according to the Spirit, a self-centered life, or a God-centered life. Christianity is not a mere belief in ideas; it is a way of life; and it is a way of life, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. It is a way of life in which we fulfill our true being, the image of God in which we were created.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, explains the difference between these 2 ways of life: the life according to the flesh and the life according to the Spirit. He says: "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Then he enumerates the acts of the flesh: "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like".

Then he goes to the acts of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace; patience, kindness, goodness; faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. And he concludes: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit." (Gal. 5:16—25)

If the world today is in bad shape: wars, murders, divorces, immorality, it is because people live, not according to the Spirit, but according to the flesh. We reap what we sow. Do you want to have peace, love, joy, live according to the Spirit of God, follow the way of the prince of peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is "the way, the truth and the life. Be filled with the Spirit of Christ. Let the Holy Spirit be the principle of your life. As the sound tree produces good fruits, so the Holy Spirit who fills our heart produces in it good fruits. By dwelling in us, the Holy Spirit becomes the principle of our actions, God's will becomes our own will, and God's desire our own desire. We become, as Paul says, a "new creature," (1 Cor 2:15).

This will not happen without suffering and death. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus, says Paul, have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:16-24). This is not easy; it is the work of our whole life. But let us remember that Jesus Christ saved us by shedding his blood on the cross, and told us that if we want to follow hi, we have o take up our cross every day and follow him. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we can grow in love, in faith and in hope. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).

They told that one day the devil put his tools on auction. But he said: "there is one tool I will never sell: It is the discouragement!" Never give up; never lose your trust in God's grace, which is the Holy Spirit himself.

There is a story about a man who passed away and went to heaven. He was met at the gate by St. Peter, who said, "It will take one thousand points for you to be admitted. The good works you did during your lifetime will determine your points." The man said: "Unless I was sick, I attended church every Sunday, and I sang in the choir." "That will be 50 points", Peter said. "And I gave to the church liberally", the man added. "That is worth 25 more points", said Peter. The man, realizing that he had only 75 points, started getting desperate. "I taught a Sunday school class", he said, "that is a great work for God!" - "Yes", said Peter, "that's worth 25 points." The man was frantic. "You know", he said, "at this rate the only way I am going to get into heaven is by the grace of God." Peter smiled: "That's 900 points. Come on in!"

Never give up, never be discouraged, it is enough for us to do our best, with full trust in God's grace, and God will do the rest.


"The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit"

Homily for the Sunday of the Pentecost

By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros

Sunday of the Pentecost

John (7:37-52, 8:12)

"The Outpouring for the Holy Spirit"

Today is the feast of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him "without measure" (John 3:34).

We read in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus came to Nazareth, and went to the synagogue; and there he was given to him the book of Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4: 18-19). The Holy Spirit is the power of God to do all the good works in the world.

This fullness of the Holy Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people, as we heard in the address given by Peter to the crowd referring to the Prophet Joel: "And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind".

On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. During the Mystical Supper, he told them: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Consoler, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you" (John 14:15-17).

And before his ascension to heaven, he told them: "John Baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8)

This promise he fulfilled on Easter Sunday, according to the Gospel of St. John, and then more strikingly on the day of the Pentecost, according to St. Luke. We read in St. John: "In the evening of that same day… Jesus came and stood among the disciples and said to them: 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. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, for those sins you retain, they are retained" (John 20:19-23).

On Easter the disciples were baptized by their union to the risen Lord. On Pentecost, which is a Greek word that means the fiftieth day after Pascha (Easter), they were confirmed by the descent of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles so that they started speaking in several languages "telling the mighty works of God" and preaching, without fear of the Jews, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This fiftieth day after the Passover was, for the Jews, the remembrance of the Sinai Covenant in which God gave the Law to Moses and to the Hebrews. After the Resurrection of Jesus we are no more under the Law: the ancient Law was replaced by the Holy Spirit. In this descent of the Holy Spirit lies the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We read in the Prologue of St. John: "The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The grace is the Holy Spirit Himself given to us through the Sacrament of Chrismation (called in the Western Church Confirmation).

What does mean, for us today, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? It means a radical change in our mind and in our deeds; it means to be a new creation, to have a new mind according to God, not according to the flesh, and to act according to God's will, not according to our sinful egoistic will. God is Love, and His Spirit is the Spirit of Love. When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, all our deeds must be filled with love. St. Paul says to the Galatians: "Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh ... Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like." And he adds: "I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God". Then he describes the fruit of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace; patience, kindness, goodness; faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires". And he concludes: "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another" (Gal. 5: 16-26).

How must be our relationship with the Holy Spirit? Our vocation as new creatures is to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to become spiritualized, divinized. Our Eastern Spirituality is a spirituality of divinization. We are not afraid to use this term. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to divinize us. There are two phrases in St. Paul which summarize our relationship to the Holy Spirit. In I Thessalonians he writes: "Do not quench the Spirit", and in another translation: "Do not restrain the Holy Spirit", or "Do not stifle inspiration" (5:19). When we hear God speaking to us, and the Holy Spirit inspiring us to do good and to shun evil, let us not close our ears. Otherwise the words of Isaiah will be applied to us; "This people's heart has groan dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed" (Mt. 13:15). That is quenching the Holy Spirit.

Another expression Paul uses in his Letter to the Ephesians is also worthy to keep in mind in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He says: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (5:30). We grieve the Holy Spirit by our sins. This reminds us of Jesus weeping on Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused! Behold, your house will be left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:37-38). Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by our sins, let us not cause Jesus weep on our house, the house of our soul, which will be destroyed if we "do not know the time of our salvation" (Luke 19:41-44).

Before every office and at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy we pray to the Holy Spirit to come and sanctify us. Let us pray every day this prayer:

"Heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of truth, present in all places and filling all things, the treasury of blessings and the giver of life, come and dwell in us, cleanse us from all stain and save our souls, O Good One".

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