The Feast of Pentecost
The Orthodox Church justly can claim to be the original “Pentecostal” Church. She is the Church of the Holy Apostles, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended, as our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ promised, on the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after His Death and Resurrection. As members of the household of God, St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:20, we have been built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in Whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Furthermore, the Orthodox Church continues to live and act in the power of Pentecost to the present day, having kept, by the grace of God, this treasure given to her. Or, putting it another way, the Holy Spirit has kept the Orthodox Church in the Truth and Life of the Triune
God, as our Lord Jesus Christ promised (John 16:13). The Grace of the Holy Spirit continues in the Church in her bishops through succession from the Apostles, in her Holy Mysteries or Sacraments administered by those bishops and the priests ordained by them.
The Holy Spirit also continues in the Orthodox Church in her on-going apostolic mission to gather all peoples in Christ, in her Saints, and in the hearts and lives of her individual members, who are recipients of the Holy Mysteries, and are thus in the process of sanctification through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in those Mysteries. The
Orthodox Church has been described as “a new life with Christ and in Christ, guided by the Spirit.”3 Her Holy Tradition has been explained as “the life and voice of the Holy Spirit in her midst.” Her worship and prayers have been described as “the breathing of the Holy Spirit.”
Those who are united with Christ in His death and resurrection through Baptism are members of his Body, the Church, and “have all been made to drink of the one Spirit” (1st Corinthians 12:13), who is sealed in the faithful by the Sacrament of Chrismation which immediately follows Baptism. This Spirit, in which we share, is the same Spirit Who anointed Jesus Christ at His baptism, and remained upon Christ in all fullness. He is the same Holy Spirit Who eternally proceeds from the Father, Who is one in essence with the Father and the Son, glorified with them, Who spoke through the prophets.
One of the church fathers describes the meaning of Pentecost with clarity and power:
“When our Lord Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection, vouchsafed to complete the work of our salvation, He sent to his apostles that breath of life which Adam lost, and He gave the grace of the Holy Spirit back to them. On the day of Pentecost, he bestowed on them the power of the Holy Spirit, which entered them in the form of a mighty wind and in the appearance of tongues of fire, filling them with the strength of his Grace. This light-filled breath, received by the faithful on the day of their baptism, is sealed by the rite of chrism on the members of their body, so that it becomes a vessel of grace. That is why the priest accompanies the anointing of the
chrism with these words: “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”. This grace is so great, so necessary and life-giving, that it is never withdrawn . . . “.
Pentecostal grace thus abides in the Church and in each baptized and chrismated member of the Church. However, the Church does not presume upon this grace; instead, she ever guards and nourishes it and entreats the Father to continue this grace and to renew it in each of the Church’s actions and in each of her members.
When Pentecost becomes fundamentally continuous in anyone’s life, that person has come to the fulfillment of his spiritual journey. May God grant us the grace to become aware of the continuing Pentecost which flames forth in the whole of the life of the Orthodox Church, the continuing Pentecost which burns within each of us. May He help us to allow that Pentecost
within us to be continually expressed in every word and deed and expression through our wiling submission to Him. May He grant us perseverance, zeal, patience faith, hope, and love in our journey into His life, through union with the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit!