Saturday, June 6, 2009
Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost (or "fifty days") was when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. This was the fulfillment of Christ's promise that he would send them a "Comforter" who "knows all things" and would "lead them into all truth."
The icon of Pentecost shows fire above the heads of the Apostles. This image draws from scripture which says that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles like "tongues of fire." St. Luke writes:
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Act 2:1-4).
Immediately the Apostles were filled with great boldness and began to preach to the people that Jesus Christ had come to forgive sin and lead people back to God.
Remember the context. A great cosmic battle had just been fought between God and the forces of evil. Satan — the devil, the father of lies — thought he had defeated God by killing Jesus the Son of God. When Jesus rose from the dead, satan was defeated. His only power is to destroy, and by defeating death, Christ overcame satan's power and overthrew him.
The Disciples (they were disciples until Pentecost where they graduated into their apostleship — apostolos — one sent forth), were dejected at first until they met the resurrected Christ. Even after meeting Him however, they still remained fearful. It was clear to them that the elites who conspired and assented to the death of Jesus still ruled the people. The disciples were afraid.
Pentecost changed all that. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, the Disciples became Apostles. They boldly proclaimed that Christ had risen from the dead and that the power of satan had been overthrown. They worked miracles too, and their miracles confirmed their word was indeed true. We call this word the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We too have been given this same Holy Spirit. It comes to us in baptism. The problem is that for many of us the Holy Spirit does not burn like the flame of fire we saw with the Apostles, but only as a dying ember. An ember needs to be fanned to burst into a flame, and we fan that ember through prayer, worship, and most important obedience to the commandments of God.
But once fanned, life changes. We grow closer to God. The effects of life in Christ begins to manifest themselves in concrete ways. St. Paul (also an apostle) calls this the "fruit of the Spirit" and lists them for us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22-26).
The Holy Spirit is the power of God. We are meant to experience and live in this power. It enables us to walk with Christ and bring His light into the world.
May God bless you all.