Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh: The Constant Pentecost

Arabic original here.

The Constant Pentecost

This coming Sunday, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost, the commemoration of the resting of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples fifty days after Christ’s resurrection from the dead, when “there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Church regarded the day of Pentecost as the commencement of her mission to evangelize the entire inhabited world.

When the Church celebrates feasts, she is not celebrating events that occurred in the distant past and have ended. Rather, she makes the events present to our present time and lives them as though they are occurring here and now. In this context, we can say that the effects of these events are not limited to those who were granted to participate in them, but rather they extend to all believers in every place and time.

Thus, Pentecost is not just an event that happened about two thousand years ago. It continues every time the Church gathers in a circle around her Lord and head Jesus Christ. The prayer of calling down the Holy Spirit is not absent from the sanctifying prayers that the Church performs when she gathers, especially in the services of baptism and the Divine Liturgy. The Holy Spirit is the one who accompanies the Church along her earthly walk toward perfection in eternal life. Pentecost, then, is not an isolated event in history whose remembrance Christians celebrate. It is the constant life of the Church. It is a foretaste of the kingdom to come.

The Holy Spirit, in His constant Pentecost, accompanies believers, as long as they remain faithful, throughout their life starting at baptism. In the service of baptism, the priest calls the Holy Spirit upon the water saying, “

The Church lives and realizes the liturgy as a constant Pentecost. The one serving the liturgy calls down the Holy Spirit “upon us (upon those present) and upon these gifts set forth (the bread and the wine).” This calling down of the Spirit is not limited to the changing of the bread into Christ’s body and the wine into His blood. It is preceded by the Holy Spirit resting “upon us,” upon those participating in the liturgy, so that by partaking of the gifts they may become one body whose head is Christ the Savior. The Holy Spirit is the one who founded the Church on the day of Pentecost. He Himself renews her foundation at every gathering of the faithful.

Christians draw power from the Holy Spirit in order to bear witness to the truth. Christ promised them that they would receive power from on high, “the power of the Holy Spirit who rests upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Pentecost is what gave the apostles the courage to proclaim the Good News, to go out on foot and face the dangers of travel across seas, forests, mountains, and valleys, and to heroically accept martyrdom without regard for themselves. Their sole concern was to convey the message of salvation to all who live on the earth.

The apostles believed and trusted when the Lord said that He would be with them always and would not abandon them no matter how difficult circumstances became: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The Christian presence in our country has not persisted through earthly power or temporal authority, but through the Holy Spirit, through the constant Pentecost.

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