Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Icon

In the seventh chapter of his gospel Saint John describes how Jesus, during the last year of His earthly life, went with His disciples to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, an eight-day autumn harvest festival commemorating the wanderings of ancient Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, a time when the chosen people lived in’ tents’ or tabernacles.

There was a division among the people concerning Jesus: some thought He was good while others thought that all He was doing was deceiving the people. It was here, during this feast, that the Lord spoke to the people and the words of our Lord read during this morning’s gospel are actually taken from that address that He made to the people gathered at this feast in Jerusalem.

He tells them: “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water”.

Why does Christ say that living water will flow out of the belly? St. Paul, in his epistle to the Philippians, calls on the brethren there to follow him in all things which are good. He says, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame…” (Phil. 4:17-19).   The belly, as St. Paul uses as an example here, can be about corruption, selfishness, death, indulgence; the belly is about the earth. The belly commands that we eat every day. Sometimes the belly commands that we eat too much. It makes us tired, it makes us unwilling to pray, unwilling to work, it makes us lazy and unprofitable. The belly is one of the least honored members of the body.

Certainly Christ could have chosen the water to flow from another part of the body: from the head, the eyes, from the hands?  But why does our Lord instead say that it will be specifically from the belly that the living water shall flow from?

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to make it possible for us to be incorrupt. The belly, certainly, is the sign of corruption, the sign of our being rooted to the earth. When He sent His Holy Spirit upon mankind it was so that the things of Christ would be revealed to those who would be willing to listen, and they would become completely alive. Everything would be cleaned; just as water that is rushing, cleans and freshens everything. So that even those parts of us which are dirty, which resist becoming perfected, the Lord will indeed perfect.

Water, when it is in a torrent, can not be held back. Indeed, everything in its path is pushed out of the way. The same goes with the Holy Spirit. But there is a difference: when a flood comes upon us it’s not of our own will that the water comes, and the water destroys everything, including things that are precious to us. But the flood of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, comes only if we desire it. If, of our will, we desire to follow the things of God, then indeed the torrent will come. The torrent will flow and it will never end.  Anything that is ungodly standing in our way of keeping of the commandments of God will be scoured away, will be pushed away, and the water will flow eternally– out of our belly, out of every part of us.

Now, truth be told, when we think of Pentecost we don’t usually think of water, but fire. After all Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles in the form of fiery tongues.  Which is to say that not only does Christ promise to send us water, He also sends us fire.  These are two things that in Nature do not exist together, as one will destroy the other. But according to God, they can coexist.

Fire burns away that which is trash, that which is unclean. Fire purifies; it softens and warms.  We need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn away impurity in our soul, and we need the warmth of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. For He is called Comforter as He comforts with fire; He comforts by warming our hearts, by giving us that sure and certain hope that indeed we can be changed.

It is the Holy Spirit which abides in Christians. Until the promise was given by our Lord, the Holy Spirit did not live in men. All the things that were accomplished were accomplished by the Spirit from outside. Even though the Spirit “spake by the prophets” as we confess in our Creed, He did not live in them. Yes, He inspired them but they were still unable to accomplish perfection. But now since the Comforter has been given to us, we can become perfected. Anything that’s impure, therefore, anything that’s temporal can all be changed– can become perfected, can become clean, can become light, life. Today when we celebrate the fulfillment of the Resurrection in man, the Lord now has given us everything we need.

And it is the Holy Spirit which we most certainly need, as a Comforter, a Guide, a Helper. He is given so that we can live in the Resurrection; so we can apply the lessons the Lord has given us– lessons He continues to give us on a moment by moment basis– of how to live, how to think, how to be, how to feel. The Holy Spirit is our true guide as St. Paul says in his epistle to the Romans: “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us…” (8:26).

May the fire and the water of the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten and help all of us, and make us incorrupt forever. Amen.

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H/T – I found inspiration in Fr. Seraphim Holland’s homily on Pentecost, which I slightly altered for my use.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Pentecost Sunday

  1. Dear In Christ Fr Milovan:

    I am glad my words were edifying to you. I often read your blog, and recommend it. I placed this notice (below), in the original sermon text:

    Note: After this homily was published on our BLOG, Fr Milovan Katanic posted a meditation (http://frmilovan.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/pentecost-sunday) which was, as he said, inspired by this sermon, and contained many edifying observations. Fr Milovan has an excellent blog, called “Again & Again”, which I read frequently and recommend – http://frmilovan.wordpress.com

    In Christ, Priest Seraphim

  2. Karen > In Hebrews 11 we read that “by faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death” (v. 5).

    The chapter continues with the faith of the Old Testament Saints. Verse 39-40 says, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

  3. Ian

    Father, bless! Thank you: I particularly profited from “Until the promise was given by our Lord, the Holy Spirit did not live in men. All the things that were accomplished were accomplished by the Spirit from outside.” What a blessing for us indeed to have God, in the Holy Spirit, living within us! And a call to perfection that can be reached.

  4. Karen

    Father bless! Very encouraging post–especially insights about the belly, etc. I have one question. If perfection was denied to the OT saints because the Holy Spirit was not yet indwelling the faithful (and this makes sense, given that we are all incomplete, by Orthodox definition of salvation, without the indwelling Presence of the Holy Trinity by the Spirit), how is it that Enoch walked with God and was assumed to heaven without first dying? In a similar way, Elijah was taken up to heaven not experiencing death. Is this not evidence of the possibility of a type of completed transfiguration by God’s grace even for some OT saints, or have I misunderstood?

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