Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Pentecost Special
Volume 6 No. 349 May 13, 2016
III. Featured Articles on Pentecost

The First Pentecost

by Alfred McBride, O. Praem

The Greek traveler stood bewildered in the Jerusalem crowd. What was happening? All about him Jews from many nations milled excitedly and pointed to a group in the center of the square.

The traveler had heard that the Jerusalem holidays were exciting, but he was not prepared for this. The crowd was electrified. What was that group up to? He tried to weave his way closer.

"You are drunk!" someone shouted at the group.

The traveler heard one of them, the big man with the gray-streaked hair, respond: "We are not drunk. We are stunned with joy because we have had an experience like Israel had at Sinai."

The Greek traveler wondered what he meant by that.

"Why not own up?" heckled another. "You've been to the wine bottle once too often."

Then the big man raised his hand for silence. The crowd fell quiet.

"Do not judge by appearances," he began. "Listen to our words. At Sinai, God called Israel to be a community of faith. God called our ancestors there to be a holy nation. That meant they should form a community that would worship God and live a worthy life. God also summoned them to be the light of nations, that is, to be a missionary witness helping all people to know God."

"I think I can agree with your first point," ventured a Pharisee in the crowd, "but I don't really believe God wanted us to be missionaries."

"My friend, you have forgotten the meaning of the story of Jonah," the big man remarked. "He was a preacher told by God to go on a missionary trip to Nineveh. Recall that Jonah resisted the call at first until God overcame him. Jonah was an example of how Israel, too, resisted the call."

"Who is that man?" the traveler asked of no one in particular.

"His name is Peter," a tradesman replied.

"He is their leader," said a woman nearby.

A young woman in the crowd, moved by Peter's sincerity, asked, "How is it you were speaking in a language we all could understand when you burst upon us here in the square? How did you manage to unify all of us who speak so many different tongues?"

"Perhaps I can explain this best to you," Peter answered, "by comparing this to the old story of the Tower of Babel. That was a tower of human pride that resulted in a breakdown in communications. The people at Babel could not understand each other.

"Our Master, Jesus, asked us to spend time in prayer to await his Holy Spirit. We followed his word and meditated for nine days in the Upper Room. Into that tower of prayer this day came the Holy Spirit, whose greatest work is to bring all people to unity in Christ. At Babel, people babbled. Here we speak a message that will unify people in mind and heart."

"Is that why you said you've had an experience like that which Israel had at Sinai?" asked an elderly man.

"Exactly," replied Peter. "The difference is that what happened at Sinai was but a shadow of the promise and reality that has happened here today. It is because of Jesus, who died and rose for us, that it has happened. Because of him and his Spirit, we really can be a community of faith and a light for the nations."

"How can we have this experience?"

"Is there any hope for us?"

"Go on, tell us more."

"As I look out over the vast crowd in this square," answered Peter, "I think of a world full of dead bones. I know that my comrades and I must go into this valley of the dead and bring life. Don't you remember the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones?"

[God] said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "Lord GOD, you know."

Then he said to me: "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!…I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin,...and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD."

The traveler listened to Peter's voice as it carried over the square. It is like a wind, he thought, bearing good news to the world.

On that Pentecost day, Peter asked the people to repent, to change their way of life, to seek a new life in Christ. And they did respond. The Holy Spirit of Jesus moved into the valley of dry bones and brought three thousand to life.

A new Church began!

"Your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams," Peter exclaimed.

That's what happened. The young let loose a flood of heart-expanding ideals across the earth. The old suddenly realized that their dreams of a happier tomorrow were no longer foolish thoughts, but a reality come true.

From the book The Story of the Church: Peak Moments from Pentecost to the Year 2000

About The Author:

Norbertine Father Alfred McBride teaches theology at Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. His books include A Retreat With Pope John XXIII: Opening the Windows to Wisdom and Images of Mary, both from St. Anthony Messenger Press.

The Service of Pentecost as Renewal And Hope for a Spirited Tomorrow

by Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu

Come Holy Spirit, dwell inside us
Come Holy Spirit, renew us
Come Holy Spirit, make us a channel for your grace
Come Holy Spirit, may we accomplish the unthinkable

The service of Pentecost gives us the opportunity to renew the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. We have gained the Holy Spirit through the commitment of baptism. The bending of our knees is an acknowledge of our short comings and sinful nature and an invitation to God through the Holy Spirit to work inside us. Such opportunities are less in life.

The sprinkling of water is a cool breeze and energy of faith that splashes onto us the commitment to work hard for God and be blessed by God in return. The fact is that God never forsakes us. Jesus tells his disciples that when he leaves them, the Holy Spirit will come to guide and lead them. As the father God inspired him, he will inspire the Holy Spirit to guide us. He informs the disciples in St. John 14:1-3 that he will ensure a space for them in his father’s house. The one who works for God will never be let alone to wither away but will be send springs of grace to grow and become whole. No matter what, I am there for you, says the Lord God!

Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit also reminds us from St. John 15:15 that Jesus comes to the point of accepting his disciples and followers as his friends and as his equals in ministry. It is a call to them of their responsibility rather than a feeling of accomplishment of their elevation. He tells them that him calling them his friends also means that from now on they share the responsibility of working for the kingdom of God. Jesus says that this kingdom cares for the poor, nourishes the sick, looks after the elderly, accepts the outcasts, stands with the wrongly accused, and offers good governance for all which leads to just and equal prosperity for all. Jesus just does not elevate them but puts the glorious burden of ministerial responsibility on them. In St. John 15:13 Jesus says that no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. Ministry is a calling to see others as our friends and to go the extra mile for them, unto the point of even laying down our life for them.

Pentecost reminds us of team work and unity. There obviously cannot be various Holy Spirits and various views of the one Holy Spirit. What that means is that any difference of opinion of or about the Holy Spirit means a difference of opinion of people on how they see and experience the Holy Spirit and one another. So the service of Pentecost reminds us that we have to work together overcoming our differences. This cannot happen overnight but this is also not impossible. Responsibilities should be equally divided and given in a way that no one feels left out and the gifts of all are used. A call for unity is not to crush the spirit of diversity but to say that God in the form of the trinity is united and it is humans who bring about division. God cannot be divided from God’s own front but is divided by the narrow understanding of human beings.

The bending of knees and prostration during the service is an act of humility and repentance. It is to say that we are willing to unite under the wings of God. It is painful and difficult but it leads eventually to a wonderful unity which will do away with the pain and difficulties involved in kneeling. Accepting our differences and the fact that our difference of opinion is also a difference in understanding of one true reality is indeed painful but not wrong. The kneeling process makes us accept the pain and the knowledge that the pain will become happiness soon. It is indeed happiness that makes us arise in one accord and receive the droplets of water symbolizing the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is a great happiness of having being accepted into a single fold of children, women and men. In St. Mark 1:40 a leper comes, kneels before Jesus and says that "if you choose, you can make me clean." Kneeling is a very inherent act of accepting from our very high positions that we are after all children of God and not beyond God.

The incident at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9 were confusion springs upon an over confident people, and the occasion of the Pentecost in Acts 2 when each understood in their own language what the disciples spoke, are contrasting in their approach. In the first case the people have figured out everything and they forget that an ambition of a few does not stand for the many. In the second instance the people do not know each other but are brought together by the Holy Spirit. One does not know where the spirit goes and how it leads. We bow before the Holy Spirit to be blessed with showers of blessing which become legible and understood by multiple sections of people.

The Pentecost is thus a time of renewal of our commitment to be filled by the Holy Spirit, to stir us to action always making us bow before God. Being accountable to no one and living a life beyond and above everything cannot make us members of a community who cares for one another. The Holy Spirit gives peace, assurance, guidance and happiness. The Holy Spirit also gives the strength to bow down and rise in expectation and hope that God is present inside us and whenever we bow before God, we will be raised from the ashes.

The service of Pentecost thus becomes a cool wind in the midst of testing times, problems, expectations, doubts and half truths. It is a washing of the body and soul. A sign that whatever has happened in our lives, we have God in the presence of the Holy Spirit to carry on with strength and hope. When the representative of God announces "Stand up by the power of God", it is a nudge and a help to now get up and be assured that God is with us.

As is said in one of the prayers during the service of Pentecost "We pray You, 0 God, the comforter Spirit, by this sweet incense, beseeching the abundance of Your incomprehensible richness, that even now You be pleased to renew unto us Your divine gifts, and to rest upon us as You did upon the holy disciples in the Upper Room, divide among us Your heavenly presents, fill us with Your divine wisdom and with the doctrines of Your divine mysteries, make us temples for the dwelling of Your glory, grant us to drink to the full of the abundance of Your grace, satisfy us with the sublime richness of Your bright light, grant to us that we live to You and yield ourselves to You that we may, in purity and holiness, worship You, 0 God, the Comforter Spirit. Through You and by You we worship the hidden God, from whom You proceed, and the Son of Whom You take, now and forever. Amen"


About The Author:

Fr. Jerry Kurian Kodiattu is Lecturer, Department of Communications, United Theological College, Bangalore-46

The Fire Next Time - A Homily for Pentecost

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

What a wondrous and challenging feast we celebrate at Pentecost! A feast like this challenges us, because it puts to the lie a lazy, sleepy, hidden, and tepid Christian life. The Lord Jesus said to the Apostles and still says to us, "I have come to cast a fire on the earth!" (Luke 12:49). This is a feast about fire - about a transformative, refining, and purifying fire that the Lord wants to kindle in us and in this world. It is about a necessary fire, for as the Lord first judged the world by fire, the present heavens and the earth are reserved for the fire. Since it is going to be the fire next time, we need the tongues of Pentecost fire to fall on us to set us on fire and bring us up to the temperature of glory.

The readings today speak to us of the Holy Spirit in three ways: the portraits of the Spirit, the proclamation of the Spirit, and the propagation by the Spirit. Let's look at all three.

I. The Portraits of the Spirit

Acts 2:1-11 speaks of the Holy Spirit using two images: rushing wind and tongues of fire. These two images recall Psalm 50, which says, Our God comes, he does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, round about him a mighty tempest (Psalm 50:3).

Rushing Wind

Notice how the text from Acts opens: When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.

This text brings us to the very root meaning of the word "Spirit." For "spirit" refers to "breath," and we have preserved this meaning in our word "respiration," which means breathing. So the Spirit of God is the breath of God, the Ruah Adonai (the Spirit, the breath of God).

Genesis 1:2 speaks of this saying, the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And Genesis 2:7 speaks even more remarkably of something God did only for man, not for the animals: then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

So the very Spirit of God was breathed into Adam! But as we know, Adam lost this gift and died spiritually when he sinned.

Thus we see in this passage from Acts an amazing and wonderful resuscitation of the human person, as these first Christians (120 in all) experience the rushing wind of God's Spirit breathing spiritual life back into them. God does CPR and brings humanity, dead in sin, back to life! The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us once again as in a temple (cf 1 Cor 3:16). It has been said that Christmas is the feast of God with us, Good Friday is the Feast of God for us, but Pentecost is the Feast of God in us.

Tongues of Fire

The text from Acts says, Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

The Bible often speaks of God as fire, or in fiery terms. Moses saw God as a burning bush. God led the people out of Egypt through the desert as a pillar of fire. Moses went up onto a fiery Mt. Sinai where God was. Psalm 97 says, The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries round about. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory (Ps 97:1-6). Scriptures call God a Holy fire, a consuming fire (cf Heb 12:29), and a refining fire (cf Is. 48:10, Jer 9:7, Zec 13:9, Mal 3:3).

And so it is that our God, who is a Holy Fire, comes to dwell in us through His Holy Spirit. And as a Holy Fire, He refines us by burning away our sins and purifying us. As Job once said, But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

And He is also preparing us for judgment, for if God is a Holy Fire, then who may endure the day of His coming or of our going to Him? What can endure the presence of Fire Himself? Only that which is already fire. Thus we must be set afire by God's love.

So in the coming of the Holy Spirit, God sets us on fire to make us a kind of fire. In so doing, He purifies us and prepares us to meet Him, who is a Holy Fire.

II. The Proclamation of the Spirit.

You will notice that the Spirit came upon them like "tongues" of fire. The reference to tongues is no mere accident. For notice how the Holy Spirit moves them to speak and ultimately to witness. The text says: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."

So behold how the Holy Spirit moves them to proclaim, not just within the safety of the upper room, but also in holy boldness before the crowds who have gathered.

Notice the transformation! Moments ago these were frightened men who gathered only in secrecy, behind locked doors. They were huddled together in fear. But now they go forth to the crowds and proclaim Christ boldly. They have gone from fear to faith, from cowardice to courage, from terror to testimony!

And how about us? Too many Christians are silent, dominated by fear. Perhaps they fear being called names or not being popular. Perhaps they are anxious about being laughed at, or resisted, or of being asked questions they don't feel capable of answering. Some Christians are able to gather in the "upper room" of the parish and be active, even be leaders. But once outside the "upper room" they slip into "undercover mode." They become "secret agent" Christians.

Well the Holy Spirit wants to change that, and to the degree that we have really met Jesus Christ and experienced his Holy Spirit, we are less "able" to keep silent. An old Gospel song says, I thought I wasn't gonna testify, but I couldn't keep it to myself, what the Lord has done for me. The Holy Spirit, if authentically received, wants to give us zeal and joy, and burn away our fear so that testifying and witnessing are natural to us.

Note also how the Spirit "translates" for the Apostles, for the crowd before them spoke different languages, yet each heard Peter and the others in his own language. The Spirit, therefore, assists not only us but also those who hear us. My testimony is not dependent only on my own eloquence but also on the grace of the Holy Spirit, who casts out deafness and opens hearts. Every Christian should remember this. Some of our most doubtful encounters with others can still bear great fruit on account of the work of the Holy Spirit, who "translates" for us and overcomes many obstacles that we might think insurmountable.

III. The Propagation by the Spirit

In the Great Commission, the Lord said, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matt 28:19ff). He also said, as we have noted, I have come to cast a fire on the earth and How I wish the blaze were already ignited (Luke 12:49).

Happy feast of Pentecost! Don't forget that the basic image is very challenging, for it means getting out of the "upper room," opening the doors, and proclaiming Christ to the world. Let the Holy Spirit light a fire in you and then you can't help but spread light and heat to a cold and dark world.

Let the evangelization of the whole world begin with you.

Working of Holy Spirit: Newness, Harmony and Mission

by Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.

But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven "like the rush of a violent wind", and filled the house; then the "tongues as of fire" which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, "all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit", who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all "began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability".

A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: "We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language". And what is it that they are they speaking about? "God's deeds of power".

In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences.

This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own.

Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust:

  • Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved;
  • Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand;
  • Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom;
  • the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel.

This is not a question of novelty for novelty's sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfillment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good.

Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to "God's surprises"?
Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit?
Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God's newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?

2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony.

In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – "Ipse harmonia est". Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity.

Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous!

When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church's teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?

3. A final point.

The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward.

The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures.

The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever" (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the "Comforter", who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?

Today's liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out:"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!" Amen.

Source: Radio Vaticana

Veni, Sancte Spiritus - Come Holy Spirit

Ascribed to Stephen Langton,
Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 1228)

Holy Spirit, Lord of Light, From the clear celestial height.
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come, with treasures which endure;
Come, thou Light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, Light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die;
Give us life with thee on high;
Give us joys that never end. Amen.


Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
grant that by the same Holy Spirit
we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations,
Through Christ Our Lord,


Hymn - All Hail, Adored Trinity
All hail, adored Trinity!
all hail, eternal Unity!
O God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, ever One.

To thee upon this holy day,
we offer up our thankful lay;
thou hearest in thy love’s great wealth,
and praising thee is all our health.

Three Persons praise we evermore,
our only God our hearts adore;
in thy sweet mercy ever kind
may we our sure protection find.

O Trinity! O Unity!
Be present as we worship thee;
and with the songs that angels sing
unite the hymns of praise we bring.

"All hail, adored Trinity" by Keble College Choir;
Words: Unknown author, 11th Century (Ave! Colenda Trinitas);
Translated from Latin to English by John Chandler, Lauda Syon, Part 1, 1857.


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