St. Peter Newsletter — Pentecost

Sunday of Pentecost

This Sunday we celebrate the Pentecost — the “50 Days” after the Resurrection of Christ. Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit first came down on the disciples and then on the people. It is the final step of Christ’s salvation for us.

To understand this we have to back into the scriptures a bit. It starts with Adam and Eve. Adam was created to know God, to live in Him, to experience His love, power, wisdom — to have real communion with God.

Then Adam sinned. But why did he sin? Well, if we remember the book of Genesis he sinned when the serpent (who represents the devil) told him that if he were to eat of the fruit of the tree he would “become like God and know good and evil.” Adam fell to that temptation and disobeyed God.

We say that Adam “fell”, and his fall affected the whole world. Not only did Adam fall, but so did all of the creation. His fall had catastrophic consequences in other words.

Adam was created in the “image and likeness” of God. In theological terms that means that Adam was created to live in full communion with his Creator. When Adam fell however, he retained the “image” but lost the “likeness”. In practical terms this means that Adam was still retained his created purpose to live in and through God, but lost the power to do so.

This fall had immediate consequences. Harmony and unity were lost. Death entered the world (death is the result of separation from God). Adam became conflicted internally (he hid from God), his relationship to the earth change (“you shall eat by the sweat of your brow”), and his relationship to Eve changed (they were ashamed of their nakedness). And finally his body died. We are born into this fallen world so we share in that disharmony too.

The Second Adam

God looked upon his fallen creature though and had compassion on him. From the moment Adam fell, God began working to restore man to Him. He sent prophets. He worked miracles. He vanquished enemies. In the end the Father sent his Son to destroy the death that entered the world when Adam first sinned.

The Apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ the Second Adam. Jesus came into the world to reverse what Adam began — literally to begin turning around the Fall. Jesus did this by entering death and destroying death. Death could not hold Him. He was resurrected from the dead, then returned to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father, and then finally sends forth His Holy Spirit. That is what we commemorate this Sunday.

The Holy Spirit is what Adam lost when he sinned. Remember that Adam retained the “image” of God but lost the “likeness” — the power to live in and with God. On Pentecost that power was restored. The Holy Spirit that the first Adam lost is restored to us by the Second Adam — Jesus Christ. We received it when we were baptized.

What is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Trinity. That means that the Holy Spirit possesses everything that the Father and Jesus possess. And his gift to us is the direct connection to Jesus, and then through Jesus to the Father. In a way you can say that Jesus and the Holy Spirit work in partnership with each other to bring us back to the Father.

The Apostle Paul writes that the “fruit of the Spirit” (by which he means the virtues than will appear in our life if we truly walk in and with the Holy Spirit — if we are authentically seeking Christ) are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We can experience the concrete power of the Holy Spirit in our lives whenever we turn to Jesus no matter what the circumstances might be — fighting temptations, gratitude, hardship, all the ups and downs of life. The Lord is very merciful to us and steadfast in His goodness to us. One of the manifestations of the goodness is the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to walk with Christ more completely, and gives us strength in our daily lives.

The Pentecost Prayers

In our Orthodox tradition we always prayer special prayers on Pentecost. These prayers can seem long and complex in parts, but don’t let that discourage you. We know that prayer opens the floodgates of God’s goodness so we will pray them completely and with awareness. Then, when we are done, we will rise with the assurance that God heard our prayers, and that the power of the Holy Spirit that we prayed for will becomes stronger in our lives and that our communion with God will grow.

May God bless you all.

Fr. Hans

Scripture Readings for Pentecost Sunday

Epistle Reading — Acts 2:1-11

1 When 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 marveled, 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.”

Gospel Reading — John 7:37-52, 8:12

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 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. 40 Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him.

44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him. 45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” 46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” 47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” 52 They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”

12 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.”