A Homily on Pentecost by the Joyous Pustinnyk
1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”
The Day of Pentecost was a day of wonder. The assembled disciples were gathered together and we are told that they had a unity – they were of one accord and agreement and in one place. They were not divided as God had divided those who tried to scale heaven with the tower at Babel in Genesis 11. God divided their tongues (their languages) and confusion reigned in Genesis- here we have the reversal of that command.
Suddenly, we are told, there comes a rushing mighty wind which filled the whole house. Imagine the scene, those seated are amazed by this sudden phenomenon. The wind of God, the breath of God which breathed life into mankind at Creation moves with mighty power amongst them. This is followed immediately by tongues as of fire, alighting on the heads of the assembled gathering. John the Baptist had foretold that the Christ would come and Baptise them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Luke 3:16. This fire is a manifestation of the uncreated energy of God which brings illumination of the mind to man. It rested on the assembled and empowered them to speak in different languages. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, the One who brings knowledge and power. Here is fulfilled then the prophecy of the Prophet Joel.
“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.” Joel 3:1 This is significant because in the Old Testament the gift of the spirit (the ruach), had only been given to a few- Patriarchs, Prophets and some of the Judges but now to all those who will receive Him.
As Christians our hearts should be aflame with the Holy Spirit. We should not” quench the Spirit” ( 1 Thess 5:19) It is possible to kindle the flame of the spirit with acts of love strengthened by divine Grace. The spirit is quenched by distractions that take our focus away from Godly virtues, by indulging in worldly matters and the fleshly and material things. God lights the grace of the Holy Spirit in our souls at Chrismation and His presence glows brighter and clearer when we we have zeal for God’s statutes and reflect His mercy and compassion to others. The spirit is relit through repentance.
Recently we have enjoyed good weather, despite the terrible pandemic and as our bodies are warmed through the sunshine and heat; likewise our hearts are warmed when we bathe in the energies of the Son’s Light. Of course this requires a sacrifice of time on our part, allotting a space each day to prayer and to water this seed in our heart through acts of kindness. Then, like the basil that grows on my window sill- the seed will germinate and grow. One very effective and simple way to promote this is through saying the Jesus Prayer throughout the day. The flame in our hearts is kept alive through fuelling it with prayer, as the combustion engine requires petrol so our souls require prayer and then zeal will follow.
Wind, smoke, fire, earthquake, the dove, these are likenesses, manifestations, symbols as it were of the Holy Spirit each metaphor carrying a particular characteristic attribute. We do not write any Icon of the Holy Spirit- the only icon would be a saint in whom the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.
Our Lord teaches us that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us and St Paul tells us that our body is indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit. The flame burns so that we shine as lights in the world. Light does not draw attention to itself but brings light to everything else.
The Holy Spirit gave the apostles and disciples the ability to speak in different languages and for those present to hear them speaking in their own language.
Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
Communication is restored! God speaks and the world comes into being. God speaks through the prophets: “Thus says the Lord” and they foretell the future; God speaks in the Law eg.“Do not steal” and His statutes are made, but now God speaks in all those who through Grace have been given the Holy Spirit. St Paul reminds us that we should not worry what to say if called to account. The Holy Spirit will speak for us because He is the counsellor and the advocate. Indeed, we cannot pray unless the Spirit prays with us and in us.
So if prayer is “petrol” for the engine, here is some “fuel” for your journey. It is a beautiful prayer which I say at the beginning of each day. It is from the Optina Fathers:
“O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, and Yourself, pray in me. Amen.”
It is a blessing that, although unworthy, we are afforded the saving word in our own languages to hear the wonderful works of God. Those who heard the message of salvation were amazed and perplexed saying to one another: “Whatever could this mean?” Perhaps it means that we, who are drawn from North and South and East and West may hear the word of God and keep it and so enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We see in the events of the Tower of Babel Gen 11:1-9 how human pride tried to scale the heights of heaven and resulted in division; we see at Pentecost Acts 2:1-12 how the descent of the Holy Spirit opened the way to unity with the Most Holy Trinity.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean….and blot out my iniquities….Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence; and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Ps.50: 7,9-11