|36 - HOLY PENTECOST, June 4, 2017|
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John 20:19-23 (Matins)
John 7:37-52, 8:12
It says that the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Let’s follow with reverence the logic of this word of the LORD, its divine logic, its theology.
The glory of the Father with which the LORD Jesus is glorified is of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus therefore speaks of the Glory He had with the Father before the world was, (Jn 17:5) we hear the divine dogma of the Holy Trinity. But it is to us, not to the LORD that the Spirit is not yet given. Remember that the LORD Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Most Blessed Virgin of the Holy Spirit when the Spirit overshadowed the Virgin just as the Glory of God overshadowed the OT Temple – both the Tent of Meeting of the Exodus, and the Temple of Solomon built of stone – and that no one could enter, neither the priests nor even Moses. By the Spirit, the LORD was crowned King of Creation at the Jordan and led into the wilderness where He triumphed over the evil one. By the Spirit, He cast out the devils with His little finger. As Son of God who became Son of Man, the LORD Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, He lived in the Holy Spirit, He suffered on the Cross in the Holy Spirit and He was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. The Glory of the Holy Spirit that dwelt in the Savior was seen visibly by the apostles on Mt Tabor.
The Psalmist says: “You send forth Your Spirit and they are created. You renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 103:30 LXX). In the Spirit, God the Father created the world by His WORD who was in the beginning with the Father (Jn 1:1).
The holy apostle John proclaims that this WORD of the Father became flesh and dwelt among us. I.e., He pitched His Body as the Tent of Meeting or the “moving” Temple of the Exodus, the moving Temple of the Gospel’s “inner Exodus” (eskenosen) – among us. But if the WORD of God, by whom all things were created and in whom is the Life of God – i.e., the Holy Spirit – has Himself become flesh, if He Who Is becomes like us (Heb 2:14-16), it means that a mighty work of creation is taking place. It is taking place in the Holy Spirit or in the Glory of God, and it is taking place in the flesh of man.
We read in the Wisdom of Solomon: “God did not create death.” Indeed, by what logic could we accept death as natural to anything the living God would create by His Word who is the Resurrection and the Life, in His Holy Spirit, the Living Water from Heaven? “But,” it says, “He created the generations to be soterioi,” or for salvation, to be healthy, free, eternal, existing in the well-being of eternal being (I’m interpreting this from St Maximos the Confessor, d. 662). “He created man for immortality and made (the verb used also in Gn 1:1) him in the image, the icon, of His own eternity” (Wisd 1:15 & 22).
That we die, and that everything is subject to corruption is the consequence of man’s disobedience (e.g. Wisd of Sol 1:16; Rom 6:23). Yet, God has said by His prophet: “I do not will (boulomai) the death of the sinner but that he turn from his sin and live” (Eze 33:11). The LORD says through Isaiah: “My WORD that goes forth from my mouth will not return to me empty until it has accomplished what I have willed and I have put your ways aright and made my commandments prosperous” (Isa 55:11 LXX). One sees here very clearly a prophecy of the mystery of God’s Incarnation. Until I have put your ways aright: until I have restored the ways of your life to the better and changeless path that ascends to God. Here is the inner Exodus of the Gospel accomplished in the LORD’s own Exodus: His descent into Hades, His Resurrection from the dead and His ascent in Glory (the Holy Spirit) into the Kingdom of Heaven, the Promised Land. (Christ’s Incarnation, His Holy Pascha and His Ascension are the template of Israel’s history: the divine stamp that shapes Israel’s history, and so also the divine stamp that shapes the inner biography of every one who is of the New Israel.)
Until I have made My commandments prosperous or successful: which commandments? Shall we say all the commandments comprehended in the first commandment: “Let there be light”? In Wisdom, i.e., by His Word in His Holy Spirit, God made the world “very good”. If that commandment of the LORD is made prosperous or successful, it means that even the evil brought in by man’s sin is made to be good by His Goodness. How? By His own death in obedience by which He destroys death, the substance of disobedience. I.e., His desire that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth is accomplished by His Spirit in His life-creating death.
But, it says that the Spirit was not yet been given. The mighty work of creation was not yet finished until God cried out on the Cross, “It is finished” in answer to His First Commandment: “Let there be?” It says, “He gave up the spirit” – or, should it be translated, “He sent forth His Spirit and they were created? The face of the earth (the “face” of Adam?) was renewed.” Against the backdrop of the prophets, what I see looking up at the mystery of God crucified on the Cross is the creation. And to be sure, when He gave up or sent forth the Spirit, the veil of the Temple was torn in two – Heaven was opened. The rocks were split open and the graves were opened, as Ezekiel prophesied. The bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep came forth and entered the Holy City of the Heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Eze 37:12f.). And, when He was laid in the tomb, the Light of the Sabbath already, it says, was beginning to grow light, epifosken (Lk 24:53).
Christ’s death and resurrection and His Ascension in Glory isthe mystery of creation. In the worship of Christ’s Holy Church, His Body, we stand in the Beginning of creation. Here, we behold its purpose and we see its accomplishment: that what God wills, the salvation of all in the eternal life that comes from knowing the Father, has been inexpressibly finished and perfected in God’s mighty work of creation: the Holy Pascha of His WORD, our LORD God and Savior Jesus Christ, and His Ascension in Glory. It is not creation that is the template of the Savior’s Pascha; it is the LORD’s Holy Pascha! His Cross and His Blessed Sabbath in the Tomb: these are the principle, the beginning (arche) of creation!
What is the proof? By what Theophany can we assert in the confidence of faith that this is so? Dear faithful: it is the Holy Spirit descending on the holy apostles as tongues of fire, and I dare say it is the same Holy Spirit descending in the mystery of His Holy Church, His Body that was crucified, risen and ascended in Glory, on those who believe in Him in their Holy Baptism, in their eating and drinking of His Most Pure Body and Precious Blood, and in the heavenly joy that penetrates the soul from the cleansing of their sins all the way down into the pit of our heart (Heb 9:14), where we are deep beyond all things, where we are our true self (Jer 17:5/9 LXX). The tomb of our heart is transformed into the Bridal Chamber of Christ’s Tomb, or rather, of His Blessed Sabbath. For, when we receive the LORD Jesus Christ and unite ourselves to Him in the tomb of our heart, we are emptied of death and renewed with the Life of His Holy Resurrection in the Light of His Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 1:4). The face of the earth, the spirit of our body is renewed; we are made alive in a new and right Spirit, the Holy Spirit of the LORD Jesus Christ. This Theophany is not outward; it is manifested within us in the joy that floods the inner being in the mystery not of this world: the divine mystery of Christ’s Holy Church, the mystery of being born of the Holy Spirit from above and becoming a Child of God. In this the will of God for His creation, that we should live eternally in the salvation, the soterioi of His joy, is accomplished and the principle of our nature, which is our having been made in the image of God’s own eternity, is accomplished.
This glorification is not accomplished except through the death of God on the Cross. It is not accomplished in us except we unite ourselves to Christ in a death like His. But, the death we die in union with Christ is the death of what is earthly in us, the idolatry of our self-love. So when we deny ourselves for the sake of Christ and take up our cross to unite ourselves to Him in a death like His, it is the beginning of our being united to Him in a Resurrection and Glorification like His. It is our Pentecost, the receiving of His Holy Spirit to become a New Creation in the Life and the Light of Christ, our Creator, our Redeemer, Our Savior, Our LORD and our God. Amen!