Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Devotional thoughts for The Feast of Pentecost

by Rev. Fr. Dr. VC Jose Chemmanam

Scripture: Acts chapter 2

1. "Pentecost" which means "fiftieth" was second of the most three important of the annual feasts in the jewish calendar. It occurred seven weeks after the "Passover", and was primarily a feast of thanks-giving for the "harvest": The first-fruits of the wheat crop were offered to God on that day. (Ex 23:16, 34:22, Num 28:26 )The feast was also called the 'day of First fruits 'and "the feast of weeks''. By the time of Christ, some circles identified it with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai and others with renewal of the covenant. Interestingly, both these find their fulfillment and meaning in the New Pentecost.

2. All jewish men were expected to come to Jerusalem, to the temple, for the feast. Hundreds of jews from outside Palestine also came, the city was usually full and overflowing. Therefore this was very fitting that this feast day was chosen for the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Christian religion was to be universal and the gift of the tongues showed its universality. The law given by God was for the jews only, the new law given by Jesus confirmed by the Holy Spirit, was for all men.

3. Gen 11:1-9 contains the story of the 'tower of Babel'. It records the tragic fragmentation of human race following the sin of Pride. This fragmentation was symbolized by a diversity of languages. But on Pentecost, the very opposite happened. As the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2 reveals -the first Christians became one in spirit, prayed in one accord and were empowered to understand diverse tongues speaking in praise of God. Moreover, from the Tragedy of Babel, confusion resulted. From Pentecost, courageous unity was born.

4. On the day of pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon each of them in the form of Wind, Fire and Tongues. That is, the Holy spirit is compared to these three symbols: Let us meditate on these 3 symbols.

A) The Holy Spirit descended in the form of Wind or Air.

a) Air, food and light are essential to human life. We can forgo food and light for sometime but not air for a minute, just as fish can not live without water. A true Christian can not lead a spiritual life without the help of Holy Spirit. It is the breath of his life. The Holy Spirit was the life-line of the disciples. St. Paul says this truth in Romans 8:9 "But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, If so be that spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to Him." That means a Christian without the Holy Spirit is not a follower of Christ. He is like the dead man. So Holy Spirit is the breath of our spiritual life.

b) Wind or air is a carrier of sound according to science. The Holy Spirit does a similar function. He carries our prayers to God and He will bring back the will of God and thus creates our fellowship with God.

c) The wind or air is invisible. We can feel its movements. So also with the Holy spirit. We can observe the functions of the Holy Spirit through the lives of true Christians.

B) The Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of Fire:

a) Fire gives light which is essential for human, animal and plant life. It is impossible for us to live in this world without light. Darkness disappears when there is light. The Holy Spirit gives us Spiritual light. The disciples were in the darkest hour of their lives. But when they received the Gift of Holy spirit, they experienced the presence of spiritual light that guided them through out their lives. They did not fear the darkness of the world there after.

b) The fire has a purifying power. Metals like gold, silver, iron are purified by means of fire. Surgical instruments in hospitals are sterilized before they are used. The Holy Spirit has the power of purifying the true followers of Jesus. The disciples had their own weaknesses. But they were spiritually purified.

c) Fire has the capacity to change any substance into its own image. Suppose, we put a piece of wood or metal into fire and those substances will look like fire after sometime. The Holy Spirit does a similar function too. When Apostles received the Holy Spirit they became completely changed and The Holy Spirit changed them into the likeness of Christ. That is why they were able to over turn the world.

C ) The Disciples received the Holy Spirit in the form of Tongue.

a) The function of the tongue is to taste. The disciples after receiving the Holy Spirit in the form of tongue, were able to taste spiritual food, heavenly bread Jesus Christ all the more.

b) The second function of the tongue is that it enables us to speak. Without this we can not impart our thoughts to others. The disciples of our Lord were illiterate. Never studied in schools and colleges. They got only a few years of training when they moved around with their Master. But on the time of their Master's departure they received the great promise of a Helper, Guide and Comforter " -God the Holy Spirit "And when they were blessed with this "advocate" they came out of their hiding place and started preaching vehemently in the city of Jerusalem, in the midst of the enemies of our Lord. They began to speak other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance. People were amazed and moved to hear the message in their own languages. That was the work of the tongue of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spoke through them.

5. Without the Grace of the Holy Spirit there is no salvation, no true Christianity. The gift of the Holy Spirit is imperative in the life of Christians. Our Lord said "Truly Truly I tell you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he can not enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, that which is born of spirit is spirit. (St. John 3 : 5-6) It is through the sacrament of Chrismation, Orthodox Christians experience their personal pentecost.

6. Every Holy Qurbana becomes a pentecost - through the descent of the Holy Spirit on the faithful and the gifts (bread & wine) transforming them into the body of Christ. Let us pray............

Come, Holy Spirit, come
Come as the fire, and burn
Come as the Wind, and cleanse
Come as the rain, and soothe,
Come as the Light, and reveal
Convict, convert, comfort
consecrate us to do your will.

See Also:

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost
by Charles Henrickson

Pentecost Sunday
St. John's Orthodox Church

Devotional Thoughts for the Feast of Pentecost
by Rev. Fr. Sam Mathew Kavumkal

Devotional thoughts for Meditation on Pentecost Sunday
by Rev. Fr. Alexander J. Kurien

Devotional Thoughts for the Sunday of Pentecost
by Rev. Fr. Dr. George Pulikkottil

Devotional Thoughts for Pentecost Sunday
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Sermons and Bible Commentaries for Pentecost

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