Epistle reading-Acts 2:1-11
Gospel reading-John 7:37-52; 8:12

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we celebrate the Feast of Holy Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Spirit. I’d like us to think for a few minutes about the Holy Spirit, and not in the form of a theological treatise on the person of the Holy Spirit, or anything like that. But what is the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and in our lives as Orthodox Christians, today?

The activity of the Holy Spirit is evident in the life of the people of God throughout the Old Testament, but with today’s Feast and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the Holy Spirit begins to work in the world in a new and often fantastic way. The New Testament records some really amazing activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early Church. Beginning with speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost, many other accounts of people speaking in tongues, prophecy by the inspiration of the Spirit, scores of miracles worked by the Apostles.

Today, we’re tempted to read about these miracles in the Scripture and think—“this just doesn’t happen any more.” Which, of course, would also lead to the thought—“what is the Holy Spirit doing today?” Addressing these thoughts is quite simple—the Holy Spirit is doing the same thing today that He’s done since the day of Holy Pentecost. He continues to indwell the people of God and He continues to lead and guide the Christian Church.

The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church. The promise that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church is ensure by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Tradition of the Church, the dogmas and theology and piety of the people of God, all these things are ensured and perpetuated in Truth by the life of the Holy Spirit with the people of God. That we’re here today is proof of the continued work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

In our lives, the same Holy Spirit Who descended on the Apostles in the upper room as tongues of fire, descends on us on the day of our Holy Chrismation. We don’t simply say “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” when someone is Chrismated; our words convey the reality of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the one who is being joined to the Church. And all of the things that the Holy Spirit brings to the Apostles—comfort, understanding, spiritual gifts—these continued to be given by the descent of the Holy Spirit. And these gifts are given to be used.

At our Chrismations, we’re all ordained to be ministers of Christ in the Church. (There’s laying on of hands, anointing with oil, Communion of the Mysteries, all of the things associated with ordination and coronation). A royal priesthood, the New Testament calls all members of the Church. We’re enabled to be prophet, priest, and king. We’re covered with power from on high, we’re given specific charisms (specific gifts) in order to perform our particular ministry in the Church. So what’s different today? If we say that the Spirit works in the same way, why does it seem that the activity of the Holy Spirit is less today than in the early Church.

There are two reasons I’ll mention that we can actually begin doing something about right now. The first is cognitive—we forget that we’re all called to ministry in the Church. We forget that we’re given gifts to be used, or maybe we just fail to use them. But the gifts we have—musical or intelligence or materiel or of relationships—these are all given to be used to minister in the Church. We’re not just here to be ministered to—we’re all here to serve. We’re good at using our talents in the world (jobs, hobbies, socially), but the purpose of the charisms we’re given by God in the Holy Spirit are for use in the Church. There are two words in Scripture that tell us about the use of these gifts: “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required,” Christ says in Luke’s Gospel. (Luke 12: 48) And in the parable of the talents (money), we see that the servants who used their talents were given more, and the servant who buried his and did nothing with it, lost even the one talent that he had. If we don’t actively make use of the gifts that God has given us, how do we ever expect to see the Holy Spirit work in amazing ways like we see in the New Testament? He was working in people who were working (synergy), who were making maximum use of everything that God had given them.

Secondly, we have our spiritual condition to consider. The Apostles were prepared for their gifts. The Saints lived lives of such holiness that we can’t even begin to comprehend, sometimes. St. Maximus the Confessor writes—“All the gifts of grace are given by the Holy Spirit, but this happens according to [our] receptivity. The Holy Spirit does not inspire wisdom…without [our] having the [ability] to receive that wisdom” (Metropolitan Hierotheos, The Feasts of the Lord, p. 329) For the most part, we’re spiritually very weak. We don’t have the ability to receive many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Gifts of grace are given freely by God, the Fathers teach, but in accordance with the spiritual condition of each person.

We can do something about these two points: we can begin to use the gifts we have in the Church for Christ; and we can begin to make better use of the riches of the Orthodox Faith to grow in our spiritual lives, to grow to be more like Christ every day. Both of these things open us up to the activity of the Holy Spirit. As the members of the Church are filled with the activity of grace, when they come together, God can do great things, like He’s done throughout the history of the Christian Church.

The Holy Spirit works in the world today exactly as He always has. He descends on us, as Christ promised—He clothes us with power from on high to do incredible and wonderful things for the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s up to us to be always prepared for what God may have in store for us. And to make use of the gifts He’s already given us—to use our talents and our charisms for the building up of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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