On Pentecost Sunday, Fr. Irineos reflects on the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and the founding of the Church. He also discusses how, though the Spirit may lead us into all Truth, this is only possible through the guidance of the Light of Christ.
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Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today is Pentecost Sunday! The Holy Spirit has descended and filled the Apostles. This is the founding of the Church of Christ – the Orthodox Church, which has preserved the faith since that day in 33 AD. This is the day the Apostles received the gift of the Spirit and began to preach the Good News that Christ came to save sinners, so that all who believe on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life! Today is that day.
On this day, we are told the Spirit descended on the Apostles and sat upon them as with tongues of fire. And the Spirit descends even to this day – not marking us with fiery tongues, but filling us in the mystery of Holy Baptism and being sealed in us with Holy Chrismation. The spirit descends upon the altar, not in a flaming column, but making the bread and wine the True Body and True Blood of Christ. Perhaps there is a reason in our Post Communion prayers, we pray “Thou Who art fire, and dost consume the unworthy,. Scorch me not, O my Maker.” In healing unction, in the marriage rite – the Holy Spirit is present with us.
The Holy Spirit quickens the Church and every believer within it. Every Orthodox service begins with the recitation of the prayer “O Heavenly King” – sometimes by the chanter in reading the Hours, othertimes by the priest before invoking the blessing. But every single service (except for those held between Pascha and Pentecost – where we await the Ascension and the sending of the spirit) pronouncing the same prayer
O Heavenly King . . . .
We read in John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said
In this vein, St. Cyril of Alexandria notes:
“Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), and that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily present among them. The Saviour does not say that they would no longer as before need the light of His guidance, but that when they received His Spirit, when He was dwelling in their hearts, they would not be wanting in any good thing, and their minds would be filled with most perfect knowledge.”
And truly St. Cyril speaks the truth, but it is a dangerous truth.
It is a dangerous truth because although the Spirit is everywhere present and fillest all things, fallen man does not always receive or recognize this Holy gift. And St. Cyril touches on that, reminding us that Christ does not say we no longer need his light. Christ is the Head of the Church which is his body. And as the 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us, it is the Church which is the pillar and ground of the truth.
And if we truly believe Christ is the head of the Church, that the Church is the body of Christ, there can be no other answer. Nowhere is scripture does it proclaim the Bible to be the pillar and ground of the Truth. Nor the pope. Nor Pastor Bob. Nor Father Irineos for that matter. You see brothers and sister, if I were to preach anything other than what the Church has believed and taught in all places, and from all times, then I am to be accursed, as the Apostle Paul tells us. There is one faith, once delivered and guarded by the Church founded this very day so many centuries ago.
St. Macarius the Great preached that ““As the Lord put on the body, leaving behind all principality and power, so Christians put on the Holy Spirit, and are at rest.” With the Holy Spirit in our hearts, with the light of Christ shining forth from his body, we can come to the perfect knowledge promised, we can be taught all things. But if we depart from the Church, if we rely on our fallen human instincts, believing ourselves to not need the light of Christ to discern what the spirit teaches us, then we fall into delusion. We fall into pride. We fall into an idolatry of self.
This is a disease rampant today in our culture. We see people distort the holy gift of tongues – the ability to speak so as to be understood in the language of others – into babble baby talk nonsense that those hearing cannot comprehend – the precise opposite of what occurred on the day of Pentecost where “every man heard them speak in his own language” of “the wonderful works of God.” And this distortion the attribute to the Holy Spirit.
This is not rest. And I could go on with a myriad of examples of those who have left the Church for their own conception of God and the distortions of scriptural and apostolic practices that accompany each and every one of those departures. But you know this.
After communion we will sing the Hymn “We have seen the True Light. We have received the Heavenly Spirit.” The opening of that hymn encapsulates the teaching of St. Cyril. Christ the True Light enlightens our hearts and minds, and having received the Holy Spirit, we can come to knowledge of the True Faith, guiding us surely toward salvation. This is the miracle of Pentecost, as surely as if we were given tongues of fire upon our heads. Brothers and sisters, as we return to this Liturgy may we be filled with Christ’s light and illumined by the Holy Spirit.
May the Holy Spirit of God direct and enlighten our lives, as He did those of the Apostles and martyrs over the centuries. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Glory to Jesus Christ