John. 7:37-52; 8:12
During the last few weeks we were blessed enough to spend some time focusing on the story of St. Photini, the Samaritan woman at the well. In the course of our reading we found that the Lord offered her living water and that nearly all of the Fathers of the Church declare that this “living water” is indeed the Holy Spirit.
They are further justified in their thoughts as we see the Lord’s words given to us today on this great feast of Pentecost. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’” St. John the Theologian further clarifies for us so that there will be no mistake. “Now this He said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
If Christmas is the celebration of God taking flesh and becoming one of us, we can say that the Feast of Pentecost is a celebration of God choosing to dwell within us! St. Paul writes about this when he says “for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” 2 Corinthians 6:16
Pentecost is a chance to remember the promises that were given to each of us on the day we became sons and daughters of the most high God. Today we did not sing “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal…” Rather we sang “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” This is a clue. It is a reminder that each and every person receives a personal Pentecost on the day that he or she is baptized and receives the holy anointing by Chrism. Unfortunately we can go about our lives and forget the amazing gifts that we’ve been given. We can obscure the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Holy Spirit is not some magical gift, but a personal encounter with the person of the Holy Spirit through His energies. The energies of God are given to us by His grace and not because we deserve them. Although this is the case, there are certain dispositions and attitudes that will allow God to magnify His grace within us. There are certain things that we must do in order to cultivate the grace of the Holy Spirit within us. Without such cultivation we will be left with a gift which is a seed that cannot put down roots and sprout and bear fruit. What separates the saints from the rest of the people of God is their ability to work with the Holy Spirit and allow His gifts to be magnified and multiplied in their lives. But how?
Our Church is a wise mother. Within her cycle of services we learn so much of what is necessary for our growth and health within the body of Christ. This morning we are celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit and tonight the Church will celebrate kneeling Vespers, which is our personal descent of repentance. The modern saint Silouan had a tremendous experience of God who visited Him in the Holy Spirit. St. Silouan who knew God intimately would tell others that the Lord had given him a personal message “Keep thy mind in hell and despair not.” It was this attitude towards repentance that “endeared” God to him. God sees our struggles and he knows the condition of our hearts quite intimately. He cannot energize us by His Holy Spirit when we are full of strength and pride.
He knows those who are of like spirit with Him. As the Lord Himself writes “Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” The Scriptures also say “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). And we must not forget the words of the psalmist King David who writes “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps 51:17). We no longer offer sacrifices of goats and lambs and birds. God offered up the eternal sacrifice of His only Son who humbled Himself to the point of death. We can enter into this sacrifice only through our own humility.
So we learn from all of these clues given to us by the words of the Lord, by the words of the Holy Scriptures and New Testament and by the cycle of our beloved Church itself. Our personal Pentecost begins at our baptism and chrismation but the renewal of this gift of the Holy Spirit cannot come without deep struggle and contrition of heart and acknowledgement of our sinful condition and our distance from God.
This point is not simply one to remember on the feast of Pentecost but each and every day. God is not limited to working on feast days. He is ready to work every day and He desires to be with us and dwell in us. He is looking for a suitable place to dwell and that place is the heart that is softened by real, genuine, heartfelt repentance.
We should ask ourselves “when was the time that I prayed with genuine tears?” And if not with tears, at least with great depth of emotion. We understand that God is waiting patiently to have communion with us but we have neglected our part of the equation although it is very small.
Humility is the answer. St. Anthony the great once said “I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, ‘How can one get through such snares?’ Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.’” So we start with humility by looking at ourselves seriously and understanding that if you think you are pretty good, you are already in a deep delusion and God has already withdrawn His grace for a time.
Here is the advice of another recent saint. St. Nektarios of Aegina (who lived a true life of humility) said “Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, not outside it. But in order to find God, become humble as dust before the Lord, for the Lord abhors the proud, whereas He visits those that are humble in heart, wherefore He says: ‘To whom will I look, but to him that is meek and humble in heart?’” The Holy Spirit loves us. He wants to en-flame our hearts with His love. God has come to us. But is our heart prepared to make space for His living water?
Glory be to God forever, AMEN.
SOURCE: Out of Egypt