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SERMON FOR PENTECOST
fr_basil
SERMON ON PENTECOST 2019
It was just three weeks ago when we heard the Gospel where Jesus was sitting on Jacob’s well and talking with the future St. Photini. During that conversation He said to her:
“If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). “If you knew the gift of God!” Why didn’t she know the gift of God? Jesus explains why later, saying: “The time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks” (John 4:23). The “gift of God” is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out upon the world as the Prophets and indeed Jesus Himself had promised. When the Holy Spirit would be poured out, then the “true worshipers” will be revealed. Did you ever really stop to think about those two words: true worshipers? Ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ? истиннии
поклонницы? Later the Church would embrace this formal term meaning “Christians,” but would utilize two different, but somewhat richer, Greek words and then contract them. The words are ορθώς and δόξα, contracted into what? Right, Orthodox! It still means true worshipers, but with the added dimensions of correctness, righteousness and glory. Without the Holy Spirit there can be no true worship, there can be no Orthodoxy. The Law of Moses was the education that taught us that we are incapable, on our own, to be completely true, or pure, or holy, or righteous. Without the Holy Spirit we can accomplish nothing at all. St. Macarius the Great, in his 24th Spiritual Homily, says: “Whatever the soul may think fit to do itself, whatever care and pains it may take, relying only upon its own power, and thinking to be able to effect a perfect success by itself, without the co-operation of the Spirit, is greatly mistaken. It is of no use for the heavenly places; it is of no use for the kingdom...the enlightenment of the Spirit will never shine in that benighted soul, or kindle in it a holy daytime; it will never awaken out of that deepest sleep of ignorance, and so come to know God truly through God’s own power and the efficacy of grace!” When the Holy Spirit was sent by Christ on that very first Christian Pentecost, everything changed. St. John of Kronstadt wrote: “The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them. He becomes one spirit with them and everything to them – light, strength, peace, joy, success in their undertakings, especially in a pious life, and everything good, and ‘can be found in every spirit that is perceptive, pure, and refined’ (Wisdom of Solomon vii, 23). ‘We have been all made to drink into one Spirit’ (I Cor. xii.13). All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God just as a sponge is filled with water.”
This brings up a very important point. All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God. In todays Gospel reading we heard these words: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, (which was Pentecost, by the way!) Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7: 37-38). Now remember, Jesus told the woman at the well that she should ask Him for a drink. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells everyone that they need to come to Him and ask to drink. The water is the Holy Spirit. The “drink” is our receiving of the Holy Spirit, but the only way that we can ever receive the Holy Spirit in a continuous, living, and ever-flowing way, is by asking Jesus, is by coming to Jesus, is by loving Jesus, is by following the commandments of Jesus, every day. St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, in his magnum opus entitled Christian Morality, writes: “The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized, acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of the fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins. However, the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace flames in his heart, illumines and deifies him.” And St. Simeon the New Theologian in the Philokalia writes: “The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.”
So, dear ones, if we want to receive that living water of the gift of the Holy Spirit every day and for the rest of our lives, we need to act like we want to receive it. Right? The rewards are astonishing! The late and ever-memorable Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, who was Olga Dunlop’s grandfather by the way, wrote: “When the Holy Spirit visits, any labor becomes easy, unceasing prayer flows from the heart, and the eyes continuously shed tears. This may be accompanied by spiritual enlightenment and pure, sober reasoning; for it is thus that the Holy Spirit acts within a man.” * Amen!
* Quoted by Fr. Ernesto Obregon in his blog “OrthoCuban.”