|39 - Holy Pentecost, June 7, 2009|
John 7:37-52; 8:12
The Holy Spirit that descended on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost is the same Spirit that we have received in the mysteries of the Church. This Spirit is not of the world. It is not that psychic or spiritual energy that we call life, whose origins scientists look for in different parts of the earth or in faraway galaxies of the universe, or that seers look for in the immaterial deeps of the mind or soul centered in different parts of the body or chakras. The Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father who made heaven and earth. The Spirit is therefore uncreated and altogether other than the created nature of the soul or mind of man and if it is to be found, it will be found in a way that is according to the Spirit of God and not according to the soul or mind of man.
The Holy Spirit that descended on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and that we have received in the Church is the same Spirit that God breathed into Adam at the beginning and made him a living soul. This tells us that the Spirit makes even the soul of man to live. Apart from the Spirit, living things live, but they live in the soul, not in the Spirit; and before long, they die and return to the dust of the ground where they came from. Think about it. Where does that energy that makes you alive here and now come from? Where will it go when you’re gone?
The Christian Faith teaches us that at one time the soul of man was alive in the Spirit of God and that we were commanded to eat from the Tree of Life – which liturgical texts, together with the Gospel of John, tell us is Christ – that we might become partakers of the divine nature and so live in God and never die; but that is so no longer because we ate from the other tree, against God’s command. And so, do not mistake the soul that makes us live in this world for the Spirit of God; or the life of the soul for the life of the Spirit; or psychology, the study of the soul, for the study of the Spirit. And do not be overly impressed with the soul’s capacity to exist apart from the body. Every living thing brought forth in the living energy of the soul dies, revealing that the life of the soul is centered not in life but in death if it is not alive in the Spirit of God.
Understand as well that in the religions of the world that identify the immaterial essence of the mind or soul with the essence of God, the eternal value of an individual, which is easily discerned from the fact that he or she is inherently capable of love – which St Paul tells us never fails, never dies – is denied because what makes each individual unique, what we call their personal quality, is lost from view in the religious celebration of the impersonal life-force as the highest reality that flows through all living things. Look closely, however, and you will see that in such a religious and philosophical understanding, human individuals are of value only as carriers of the life-force. In themselves, individuals have no value except as food that the life-force must continually consume and swallow into its belly in a desperate bid to sustain itself. We see this ancient religious principle playing itself out even in secular garb when persons are sacrificed to a political or philosophical ideology. For there is no vision here of a personal realm that exists above and outside the impersonal life-force. “Spiritual” in this religious/philosophical view means “immaterial” or “incorporeal”. Love is fulfilled when we all dissolve back into the undifferentiated unity of the impersonal One from which we all emanated to begin with, like so many ice cubes melting back into the primeval ocean of the One.
The Christian Faith on the other hand, in its confession of God existing in Three Persons, teaches us that “spiritual” properly speaking has to do precisely with that ineffably unique personal quality each of us is in our inherent capacity for a love that cannot be reduced to chemical reactions in the brain, and which scientists and philosophers dismiss because their instruments cannot measure it. Love is the mystery of God; it is not individuals melting back into some primeval ocean to become one undifferentiated “pre- or post-existential” blob. It is the mystery of persons existing eternally in and through each other in the love of God the Father through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit. The call of the Church goes out to each one of us to rise up into the personal, the spiritual realm of our being that is higher than impersonal nature or instinct, and to attain to a personal or spiritual manner of existence, to discover ourselves as beloveds of God created to become lovers of God.
It is critical for us to know who and what this Holy Spirit is that we have received in the mysteries of the Church if we are to touch even the hem of the garment of joy unspeakable that clothes the Word of the Church’s Gospel, her Good News, who is Jesus Christ. We are born of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. Through the Holy Spirit, we are united to Christ so that we are granted to die and to be buried with Christ. But what dies in us is the impersonal principle of death that is constantly devouring us into its maw of death and dissolution. Raised up into Christ’s Holy Resurrection, clothed with the Robe of Light, and sealed with the Holy Spirit, we are led round the baptismal font to make our way into the circle of the Holy Trinity, which is the circle of divine love and eternal life. In this living circle of the Church, God does not devour us to sustain Himself, but rather He comes out of Himself to give Himself to us as our food and drink so that we can partake of His own divine nature in the mystery of Holy Eucharist and live in Him unto life eternal. Here, the personal quality of each individual that has been hidden from the philosophers of the world throughout the ages is brought to light and affirmed; that is to say, our spiritual capacity for love, which makes each one of us a spiritual, personal mystery of eternal value, is revealed, and we hear ourselves called to attain to the personal communion of Christ’s Holy Church in the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the love of God the Father, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit that nurtures us and strengthens us in the way of the Spirit.
This is why we cannot live the life of the Spirit if we are living the life of the world; for only the one is truly life in the light of divine love. The other is death in the darkness of an eternal separation and aloneness. How can we live in the life of God if we are living in the death of the world? How can we live the life that loves God and seeks to do His will if we are living in the life that seeks its own will and hates God and seeks to destroy Him? In our baptism, we were united to Christ. We received the Heavenly Spirit. We are called to walk in the Spirit; to talk in the Spirit; to think in the Spirit, to trample down all carnal desires in the death of Christ that destroys death, and to be raised up by the Spirit in the Resurrection of Christ to realize our personal capacity for love in the love of God.
This brings me to the last point I want to make this morning. Before He ascended to heaven, Christ promised His disciples: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” The power of the Holy Spirit is the power to become a witness to Christ. The Christian Faith is all about living this life of the Holy Spirit that we have received in the Church. By practicing the Law of God as it has been given to us in the commandments of Christ, which is to love one another as Christ our God has loved us, we grow in the Holy Spirit. As we center our secret heart on the love of God in humility and in meekness of mind and heart, we grow in the love and wisdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us. This power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God’s love that has destroyed the power of death and the fear of death, to reveal to the eyes illumined by holy baptism the eternal value of each individual in his or her inherent capacity for the love of God. It is the power of this love that begins to shine through our words and our deeds out into the darkness of the world from the depths of our secret heart, and makes us witnesses to the love of God as we love one another from a heart that burns with the fire of the Holy Spirit in the love of God.
On this the Last Great Day of the Feast of Pascha, on this Day of Pentecost, you and I are being called to wait in Jerusalem – i.e. to turn our soul and our mind and our body in repentance to the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us, to call on the Name of the Lord, to take up our Cross through the ascetic disciplines of the Church in the practice of Christ’s Holy Commandments – that we may receive the power of divine love, and so become witnesses in the love and joy and peace of God that soak our words and our deeds to the Light and Life of God that have been poured out into the world through the Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For, many, many souls in this world of darkness are hungry and thirsty for the living waters of love, joy and peace that flow from Christ’s Holy Church in the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and in the love of God the Father and in the communion, the love, of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray to God for each other and for ourselves that the power of His Holy Spirit may come upon us, so that we may become witnesses to the call of Christ to the world: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, from out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water, the living waters of the love of God, the living waters of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and is given in the love of God to all those who believe in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.