Today the Mystery of the Church is fulfilled, for today the risen Lord, already ascended in glory to His Father, does as He promised and sends forth the Holy Spirit into the hearts of the Apostles. While they were gathered together in Jerusalem on this ancient Feast,there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.3, 4).
This is the same Spirit that fills you, my beloved fathers, brothers, sisters and children. Having been united to the death and resurrection of Christ in Holy Baptism, you have each been sealed with this Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who every day of your life dwells within you as a treasure within ‘vessels of clay’ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4.7).
This fiery presence of Life stirs in your heart. This is how much God loves you: that He makes you His dwelling-place and makes your soul and body, despite all their weaknesses, into His Temple.
A few weeks ago, we heard Christ speak to the Samaritan Woman at the well of a ‘living water’, about which He said, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4.14).
He was speaking to her of this day, of this Feast, and the Spirit Who, like water, flows into our hearts — and out of them, into the world. If anyone thirsts, He says today, let him come to Me and drink; he who believes in Me … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7.37, 38); and to make the meaning of this clear, the Evangelist adds: This He spoke concerning the Spirit, Whom those believing in Him would receive (John 7.39).
The Church is asking you today to dwell on these things. She is repeating herself, in the words of the Scriptures, so that the message of these weeks that culminates today does not pass us by. Christ is revealing to us that the things He has undergone in His offering for the life of the world, these are things that change us. Change you. The frailty of your faith: He will make this strong.
The corruptibility of your flesh: He will draw it out of the grave and into eternal life. And the dryness of our hearts, which long to love God but are so burdened by our sins, our self-will and our conceit: these the Lord will make into Temples more glorious as any that man has ever made of wood or stone and gold; and as dry and barren as your hearts may at times feel, the Lord’s Spirit will pour forth from them like water, sanctifying you and the world around you.
This is what the Lord reveals to us, His beloved children. This is the Life of which He speaks to us — and how fitting, on hearing such words, that the Scriptures recount the awe of their hearers who cry out: No man ever spoke like this man! (John 7.46).
No man has ever spoken like our Christ. His words are the words of life, and they are yours. He has given them to you, spoken them to you, as an inheritance that leads to the Kingdom. Cherish them. Cherish the Church of which you are members, and which like a loving mother has spoken Christ’s words to you softly at times, sternly at others, so that you would not be swayed by the darkness of the world.
Cherish nothing in this life more than the fact that the One Who made you has called you His own; that He loves you, that He never ceases to offer Himself for you. With every breath you have, give glory to the God Who does not simply ‘accept you as you are’, but takes what you are — with all your fears, and pains, and sicknesses, and doubts, and sins — and offers to make you into something beautiful and new.
You are Orthodox Christians. You are the children of the One true God. Nothing can steal this gift from you; nothing can separate you from this love. Be good children, then, rejoicing in the Spirit that comes to us anew today. Live beautifully in this world of God’s beauty. Forgive swiftly, remembering always that you have been forgiven.
Love tirelessly, without conditions or limits, remembering how you have been loved. And do not be afraid when you face the trials of this life, or the evidence of your own weakness. Do not be afraid, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12.32). It is this that Christ promises in the final words of today’s festal Gospel: I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8.12).
Finally, my beloved, remember that, just as on today’s feast the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of the Apostles and sent them out into the world as Christ’s missionaries, for lives that they could not have foreseen, remember that there is always more ahead of you. Whether you are young or old, God is calling you to new things, and with each breath that Spirit which is in you will reveal to you new heights of God’s love.
Be strong, and be of good courage, and let the Lord take you by the hand to places you do not expect, giving glory to Him with each step, and you shall find a joy beyond the limits of this world and a life that never ends, united to our God in Trinity, to Whom be glory, honour and worship forever.