Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem: Homily on Holy Spirit Day in the Russian Mission Church

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And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49) the Lord said to His Disciples.   

The Grace of the Comforter Spirit has gathered us all in the Holy Church in Jerusalem of the Ecclesiastical Mission of the brotherly Church of Russia, to co-celebrate in Eucharist the All-holy and life-giving and Almighty Spirit, the One Person of the Triune God, Who is of one essence and glory with the Father and the Son.

According to St. Gregory the Theologian, today, “We celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit, and the time appointed for the promise and the fulfilment of hope. How great is the mystery! It is both exceeding great and most venerable” (Vespers, Sticheron 1).

Indeed, the fulfilment of the disciples by the Holy Spirit when they were gathered in the Upper Room is a great and most honored mystery (Acts 2:1–2). And this, on the one hand, is because the Disciples were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4), and on the other, because this Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son and Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who holds together the whole institution of the Church. According to the Lord’s word, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). And this “Holy Spirit hath ever been and is and shall be, neither beginning nor ending; but He is ever ranked and numbered together with the Father and the Son”, St. Gregory theologizes (Sunday of Pentecost, Matins, Praises, Troparion 2).

According to St. Paul, The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22–23). Referring to the various spiritual gifts, the wise Paul says: All these [gifts] worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11–13).

This one body in which we have been baptized, my dear brethren, is no other than the body of the Church, namely the body of Christ, in which we have been grafted through the gift and the communion of the Holy Spirit and we have put on the new man (cf. Col. 3:10). That is why Saint Cyril of Alexandria says regarding the Lord’s word, “It is better for you that I may go” (cf. John): “It is necessary for us to become communicants and partakers of the divine nature of the Word, or rather, to leave our own life and be transformed into another in newness of life which will be pleasing to God. However, this was impossible for us in any other way but with the communion and participation in the Holy Spirit. And the most appropriate time for the sending down of the Holy Spirit to us was the time after the departure of our Savior Christ.”

The power of the Holy Spirit is what holds together the whole institution of the Church, as the hymnographer says: “The Holy Spirit provideth all things; He gushed forth prophesy; He perfecteth the priesthood; he hath taught wisdom to the illiterate. He hath shown forth the fishermen as theologians. He holdeth together the whole institution of the Church” (Vespers, Sticheron 3).

Indeed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and made their hearts pure, inculcating in the innermost depths of their souls “a right spirit”, which is the Holy Spirit, as Hesychios interprets it. According to Origen, “At first the heart is made pure, and immediately afterwards the Spirit is installed in its depths”. As the psalmist says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

This right spirit is none other than the Spirit in unity and peace in Christ. This is the Spirit that sustains the unity among the faithful and the body of the Church according to Saint Paul’s advice: “I, therefore, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called… Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:1-4). Likewise, Saint Ignatios the God-bearer urges the Christians of Philadelphia to “love unity, abstain from divisions; become imitators of Christ, as He became an imitator of His Father”.

It is noteworthy also, that by the power of the Holy Spirit the Apostles spoke of the marvels of God in tongues, the languages of all the nations that were present in Jerusalem on the great day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1–11).

The local Churches are called to project these wonders of God, namely, the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3), as we live in a world of confusion, lawlessness and apostasy, paying heed to the hymnographer’s voice: “Of old the tongues were confounded because of the audacity in the building of the tower, but now the tongues are made wise for the sake of the glory of Divine knowledge. There, God condemned the impious because of their offence; and here, Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. At that time the confusion of tongues was wrought for punishment, but now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated for the salvation of our souls” (Pentecost Vespers, Aposticha, Glory).

Let us, my dear brethren, as “children of the Church, full of light”, entreat the Theotokos “who lent flesh to the Word”, that by her intercessions the Spirit of Truth may dwell in us. And let us say along with the hymnographer: “Draw nigh unto us, draw nigh, Thou Who art everywhere present, and even as Thou art ever with Thine Apostles, so do Thou also unite to Thyself us who long for Thee, O Compassionate One, that being united with Thee, we may praise and glorify Thine All-holy Spirit” (Oikos). Amen. Best wishes to all.

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