by Rev. Fr. Dr. George Pulikkottil
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One true God for ever and ever; Amen.
The word Pentecost literally means – the fiftieth. In Christian Tradition it refers to the fiftieth day of the Great and Glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It happened on the tenth day after the Victorious Ascension of our Lord, according to the scripture; and the Holy Spirit came upon the Holy Apostles and all those who had gathered there in prayers (Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2). This event is happened according to the Will of God; and it was foretold by Christ as well (St. John Chapter 16).
Usually, when we have a feast day, the primary reading will be from the Gospel, in terms of the content of the feast. But the event of Pentecost is described in the Acts of the Apostles, which is the account of the continuation of the history of Salvation and hence it is included in the New Testament, giving next importance to the Gospel. The Ascension of our Lord, the Descending of the Holy Spirit and indwelling in the Church, and the early history of the Church are described there. The book is hence also called the ‘Work of the Holy Spirit.’ The event of Pentecost is the link between Gospel and other part of the New Testament. It shows that the Church is the Church of Triune God; continuation of Creation, redemption in Christ and growing in Spirit.
Why the liturgy of this Feast is like what a demonstration of the Holy Trinity, why there are three parts for the order of Service of the Feast of Pentecost?
We worship the Triune God – The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of our prayers starts and ends in the name of Triune God – "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Living Holy Spirit, One God for ever and ever." No doubt, we believe in One True God - "The Father who by His grace created the world, the Son who by His precious suffering redeemed the world and the Holy and Living Spirit who fulfills and perfects all that has been and all that will be." The above quoted liturgical passages are the most meaningful explanation why the One True God is worshiped in three Persons. He is the One manifested in three. He is the One who bestowed upon us in three Persons– Creator, Redeemer and Indweller for fulfillment and perfection. This is why He is understood and being referred by the Church in an integrated Triune form – the Holy Trinity. (In classical Hinduism the soundest philosophical definition for God follows: “Sat-Chit-Anatam Brahmam.” Here Sat is the Pure Essence of Creation, Chit the Pure Consciousness of Redemption and Anatam the Pure state of Intelligence – indwelling for fulfillment and perfection. So for an Indian mind it will be much easier to understand the philosophy of One God in Three Persons.)
All these three phases - creation, redemption and indwelling - are there from the start of the world itself. It is, however, revealed to humanity, as according to Christian Faith, as the Work of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgical year of the Church, which is a depiction of the history of Salvation, these phases could trace as following: The start of first season begins with Sanctification of Church (Koothos Etho), the Redemption through the Incarnation of Christ- the second to fourth seasons- and the Indwelling of the Holy and Living Spirit- starts from the fifth season. This third and final phase starts on the day of the Feast of Pentecost. This could be the reason why the Fathers of the Church decided to use this wonderful occasion to demonstrate the Holy Trinity. To show and explain it so clearly and to become part of it, they have designed it in three services of absolute meditation on the Holy Trinity. The history of Salvation is well presented in this canonical liturgy referring to each historical, prophetical and evangelistic writings from the Word of God; with high theological explanations, philosophical reasoning and contemplative meditation. One could see a finite expression of Eastern Orthodox liturgical worship on the Feast of Pentecost.
Why the Kneeling down and Sprinkling of water on the Feast of Pentecost in our Church?
As it is very clear in the message of Christ, repentance is the only way to attain the Kingdom of God. Receiving the renewal of Holy Spirit is the sign and expression of becoming a member in the Kingdom of God. In Eastern Church kneeling down and crying Kurielaison - Lord, have mercy upon us - is the most genuine and powerful expression of real repentance. There is no other way to invocate the Holy Spirit than our real repentance and confession. (Outward expressions like making terrific sounds and instructing Holy Spirit to come down and so on are not a sign of repentance, but of arrogance and ignorance of divine wisdom. Apart from some physical exercise no internal meditation may be possible there.)
Sprinkling of water is considered in the Church as a symbolic expression of receiving the power of Holy Spirit. Christ said, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink," and He said, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The Apostle John tells us that this refers to the Holy Spirit. "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." The Holy Spirit is available to us, if we really thirst for Him. We must have thirst; thirst for righteousness, thirst for Christ. Then, out of the belly of the Church, through the holy sacraments, shall flow rivers of living water. The flowing water represents the continual activity and purity. It scours the ground, and cleans, takes waste away, continually flowing and purifying and cleansing. This is what happens in the heart of a man, but only if we thirst. We must thirst for this water, the water that Christ promised to the Samaritan woman at the well. If one thirst, then indeed, s/he will receive the living water.
Now, the Holy Spirit is also fire. Not just water, but also fire; now these are two things that in Nature do not exist together – one destroys the other. But according to God, these things can coexist. Fire burns away that which is trash, that which is unclean. Fire purifies. Fire softens. Fire warms. And we need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn away impurity in our soul, and we need the warmth of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. He is called Comforter - He comforts with fire; He comforts by warming our hearts, by giving us sure and certain hope. And He is water, eternally giving us life, refreshment, invigorating us; a spring that never, ever ends. A drought will never come upon he who has the Spirit; fire and water in the soul of a Christian, each doing their part, each from the same Spirit.
The Holy Spirit abides in a Christian. Until the promise was given, the Holy Spirit did not live in men; all the things that were accomplished by the Spirit outside. Even the prophets who spoke by the Spirit: the Spirit did not live in them. He inspired them, and they were still unable to accomplish perfection. But now the Comforter is given to us, and we can become perfected. Anything that is impure, anything that is temporal can all be changed, can become perfected, can become clean, and can become light, life. Today when we celebrate the fulfillment of the Resurrection in man the Lord has given us everything now we need.
He lived on the earth and showed us the way of life that is perfect; the way of life that leads to eternal life, to true happiness, no other kind of happiness is possible. Only by following the will of God can we truly be happy. He showed us this. He showed us the way to live, of having priorities, to follow the commandments. But showing this would not do us any good, unless He also made us capable of doing what He shows us, because we were not capable of following His examples; we are strangers and aliens as the apostle said, far from God, unable to follow the commandments, not completely, not so that we could have rivers of living water in our belly springing out; not so that we could be completely perfected, have nothing ever that is corruptible in us. So He died, and resurrected Himself so that our bodies can be resurrected, can defeat corruption.
But even this is not enough. How many people live in the Resurrection? We still see sin, suffering, unbelief, sadness in the world. The Resurrection is for all men, but not all men are able to apprehend it, to clasp it to their bosom. We need a Comforter, a Guide, a Helper; that is the Holy Spirit. He is given so that we can live in the Resurrection; so we can apply the lessons the Lord has given us - and continues to give us on a moment by moment basis – of how to live, how to think, how to be, how to feel. All these lessons can be applied because the Comforter tells us in groaning that can not be uttered. Most of what the Holy Spirit does for us we do not see, or feel, or even know, but he does enlighten, and He does change, and He does make alive, Without the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection would only be a painting on the wall inaccessible to us, beautiful to be sure, but not something that belongs to us. The Holy Spirit makes it belong to us, because we can be changed. We do not have to live with incorruption.
May the Holy and Glorious Triune God bless and enable us to understand the meaning of the Feast of Pentecost and indwell in us as He does in case of the Apostles and Saints.
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Sermon for Pentecost Sunday
by St Leo the Great
Sermon for the Day of Pentecost
by Charles Henrickson
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 Pentecost Sunday
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril
Sermons and Bible Commentaries for Pentecost
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