Pentecost ( 07.06.2009 )
Ascension into Pentecost
Children, surely you remember when, interpreting the Gospel reading about the Samaritan woman, I told you this: The water the Godman Christ gives us, having which we will never thirst, is the grace of the Holy Spirit in our heart. This grace in us can also become a fountain of grace that leads us to life eternal provided we purify and open our heart. Also: the springing up of grace i.e. the acquisition and discovery of living water, manifested as mind-and-heart prayer, is a gift of God.
Today, when we participate once again in the holy Pentecost, we are given the same confirmation by the Godman Jesus Christ Himself and from His Gospel: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).
This last sentence has inspired me to say a few words on the Ascension of the Godman Christ and on the descent of the Lord Holy Spirit on the Apostles, on this biune event in the entire God the Father’s Dispensation of our salvation.
Had not the Son of God descended on earth among us, neither could we, at the Little Entrance of the Holy Liturgy of the Church, ascend and stand before God’s throne. Had He not been baptized, neither could we be dead to sin and alive to God in Him. Had He not proclaimed His Good News about the Kingdom of God, neither could we, at the Holy Liturgy of the Church, read from and preach about His New Testament. Had He not sacrificed Himself on the Cross for us and our salvation, neither could we, at the Great Entrance of the Holy Liturgy, offer ourselves and our whole life on the holy throne of God through the gifts we offer on it. Had He not ascended and sat on the right hand of the Father, neither could the Lord Holy Spirit have descended on the Apostles, and through them and through the Holy Fathers on us to present-day, in the Church. The Second Coming of Christ and the Judgment Day could neither be already and not yet. And, if the Holy Spirit had not descended on us, of no meaning to us would be all that the Godman Christ had done for our salvation. A part of the human nature in its wholeness indivisibly, unconfusedly, inseparably, and unchangeably united to the Divine nature in the one Hypostasis of Christ would have been glorified to seating on the right hand of the Father, just as the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, Who experienced Her personal Pentecost at the moment of the Incarnation of the Son of God, and that would have been all.
However, this is merely theologizing, an assumption, just to see the significance of the descent of the Holy Spirit. And indeed, the Holy Spirit, the Lord, descended on the holy Apostles and in the assembly of the Church, and ever since, in the Holy Liturgy of the Church, every time again has made it possible for us to become participants in the entire Trinitarian Dispensation of our salvation. Still, the descent of the Holy Spirit along with its sacramental and catholic-personal meaning to us, has also deep personal-catholic i.e. internal meaning to us. Without us having received the Holy Spirit in the Church, neither could our heart become our spiritual center, nor could we know about the place of the heart, nor could our healed mind—that is, the energy of our mind united with its essence in the heart—be prayerfully illumined staying in the grace of the Holy Spirit, nor could we serve God at the altar of our heart, nor could we see the whole Church embraced in our heart, nor could we behold the uncreated light of God, nor could out of our heart flow rivers of living water, so that our fellowmen, too, could quench their thirst.
As it was usual after Christ’s preaching there was a division among the people because of Him. Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him. Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed” (John 7:43-49).
Do you see, children, how the chief priests and the Pharisees testify for themselves that they had fed their mind only with bare knowledge, yet not their heart, too, with good deeds: “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” You recall now that in the homily A Hardened Heart I pointed out to you how dangerous it is if we feed only the mind i.e. the reason, and this with reading and focusing on knowledge. Also: many are there today who make this error. Also: this kind of knowledge brings pride, delusion, and destruction. Also: we should better pay more attention to nourishing the heart with good deeds, since through that we will also nurture the mind with true knowledge. And, this time I would like to add that it is better for a man not to know anything and live by his own conscience, than to think he knows something. Empty knowledge, delusion, separates us from the Godman Christ.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). And, they follow Him who fulfil His commandments; they who feed their heart and their mind with good deeds, in obedience to their spiritual father; they who do not consider themselves better than anyone else; they who see the fault for everything only in themselves; they who have brought the mode of their struggle in harmony with the stage of spiritual age at which they are. They all will have the light of life.
Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica
(as recorded by the sisterhood)