June 3rd, 2012

The Abiding Flame: What the Holy Spirit offers to every generation

Glory be to Jesus Christ!

The celebration of the feast of Pentecost officially ends the Paschal season. As we celebrate this glorious feast, we focus on the Holy Spirit and recall how He came down onto the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ in the form of tongues of fire, fulfilling the promise that Christ had given them while He was still with them. This spirit was the Comforter, the Heavenly King, who would lead them into the fullness of the Truth concerning God and would be for them their final preparatory gift from God for the ministry they were about to embrace.

“Was it upon the twelve that it [the Holy Spirit] came? Not so; but upon the hundred and twenty. For Peter would not have quoted to no purpose the testimony of the prophet, saying, ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams’ (Joel 2:28). ‘And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mt. 3:11).” –St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles

After the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and followers they felt a new power within them. These men and women, old and young, were inspired by the Holy Spirit to a new purpose, a new goal, and a new destiny. There was a new energy and urgency to carry out their mission. Those people had new courage to face persecutions. They had new boldness to speak about their faith. They had a new passion powerfully burning inside them to stand before their own families, friends, and neighbors and boldly proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ and His gospel. After all, they WERE ON FIRE!

They were on fire because on that day of Pentecost, God has set the world on fire. Divine, all-consuming fire, that once started would last until the ends of the world. The fire that made the disciples more passionate and outspoken about their faith. The fire that was not possible to resist or to keep enclosed, but needed to be communicated to other people, to be shared with other nations to be preached and proclaimed throughout the entire world!

The feast of Pentecost was a cause of great rejoicing for the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago. It is also still a cause of great joy and celebration today because the same fire that caused the hearts of Jesus’ disciples to burn within them still burns as hot today as it did when Christ walked the earth. Pentecost is not some kind of a liturgical event from the past; it is a celebration beyond space and time, for there is a constant outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that divine fire, is still alive and burning hot even today through the sacramental Mysteries, the Church’s teachings, and the Sacred Scriptures. That fire that burns within us that we received as we were chrismated–that working of the Holy Spirit within us–transforms, melts, tempers, and purifies us. It makes us participants of that apostolic calling to spread the Gospel of Christ in word and deed wherever we happen to find ourselves in the world.

“…Filled with love, the holy Apostles went into the world, preaching salvation to mankind and fearing nothing, for the Spirit of God was their strength. When St. Andrew was threatened with death upon the cross if he did not stay his preaching he answered: ‘If I feared the cross I should not be preaching the Cross.” In this manner all the other Apostles, and after them the martyrs and holy men who wrestled against evil, went forward with joy to meet pain and suffering. For the Holy Spirit, sweet and gracious, draws the soul to love the Lord, and in the sweetness of the Holy Spirit the soul loses her fear of suffering.” -Silouan the Athonite, “Wisdom from Mt. Athos”

Will we be so focused on our own little worlds that we become oblivious to God and the people around us? Will we block His presence in our lives? We are called as baptized and chrismated Christians to be effective witnesses to the Gospel just like the apostles and other believers were. Male and female, old and young, we must be willing to let the Holy Spirit flow and work through us and our actions.

“The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.” -St. Simeon the New Theologian, “Writings from the Philokalia”

May God bless us all and may the works of the Holy Spirit be visible through our actions and in the choices we make in our lives. Amen.

-Fr. Pavlo