Post date: Aug 8, 2018 9:00:02 PM
As this newsletter is getting ready for print, we are close to the feast of mid-Pentecost—as the name says, half way between Pascha and Pentecost. The services of the day tell us that, at this point, we are fed spiritually (drawing water from) both feasts. We still bask in the glory of the empty tomb and of the Paschal candle that proclaims to the world that death is vanquished. We are still in the joy of the proclamation that Christ is risen and the kingdom of God is near. At the same time, we look forward to the tongues of fire descending upon the disciples and granting them that power which they had been told to await in Jerusalem. The disciples did not fully become apostles (sent out) until they had obeyed the words of Christ and waited in the city until they were clothed with power from on high. They received this power at Pentecost—the power to make themselves understood to people from various parts of the world, to become all-wise, though being simple fishermen, to endure persecution, torture, and martyrdom.
At the end of one of the services during Holy Week, I mentioned that these services are more than a mere reminder or recollection of things that are past. In Holy Week we enter into that mystical journey to Golgotha. On Thursday evening, Christ's work is indeed finished. On Friday afternoon, Christ goes to rest in His holy tomb. For me, as a priest, there is a palpable relief in going from Holy Thursday evening through Holy Friday morning to Holy Friday afternoon.
Of course, Holy Week, due to the events in which we participate, is a particularly intense period. However, the reality of participating in the divine events commemorated extends to all the feasts of the Church. It is for this reason that so many of the hymns sing of the events of a feast as happening "today." And so, if in Holy Week we travel with Christ to the Cross and at Pascha we are with the myrrh-bearers at the tomb, at Pentecost we are with the apostles as the Spirit is poured out upon the Church. Thus, each Pentecost the Church celebrates can also be a personal Pentecost—a renewal of the grace of baptism, a new infusion of grace, the beginning of a bolder life of faith, a step towards being united with Christ in His extreme humility and self-emptying, a more definite affirmation of "Thy will be done" in our lives. So let us ask God to draw us into the mystery of Pentecost and offer to do our part, as well.
You may wonder what our part would be in order to be drawn into the feast. The answers come from Christ and the apostles themselves. The Holy Spirit is a gift of Christ—He is the one who sends the Spirit into the world and so His words to the apostles apply to us as well. Before His Crucifixion, He told them to abide in Him. The apostles put these words into practice through private prayer, study of Scripture, and, as St. Luke tells us, through corporate prayer, as they "were continually in the temple, blessing God." As it was for the apostles, so for us, participation in the life of the Church—the private daily prayers, the various worship services and sacraments—is indeed preparation, working the soil of our hearts so that, when the new seed of grace is sown, it may find fertile ground in which to take root and bear fruit. Undertaking this preparation with joy, thanksgiving, and love allows God to transform us into His likeness, to make within us a place fit for Him to lay His head.
May we prepare with lightness of heart, in the joy of the Resurrection, and with faith in the promise of the Spirit, and may God lead us into the fullness of Pentecost.
With love in Christ,