On May 31st the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates Trinity Sunday also known as Pentecost in which the Church remembers the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as heard in Acts 2:1-4 “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then 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 and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” This feast day is called Pentecost because the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is called Holy Trinity Day because from this day the action of the Holy Trinity was revealed to the world and people learned to venerate and glorify the three Persons of the one God, the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
Pentecost also marks the beginning of the priesthood of grace. To perform sacraments and to preach Christianity the apostles through the Holy Spirit established through the laying on of hands the holy orders of Bishops, presbyters and deacons. "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task."But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them (Acts 6:3-6). Also, Bishop Clement of Rome in his first Epistle addressed to the Christians in Corinth writes “So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe” (1 Clem 42:4).
In the Gospel reading for this feast day we hear Christ describing the Holy Spirit as “living water”. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, 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. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-38). This description of the Holy Spirit as “living water” and the prefiguring of Pentecost is also evident during the fifth week after Pascha when Christ speaks with the Samaritan women, also known as St. Photini. During the conversation Christ tells her "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.", "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:10,13-14).
For us today we should not commemorate the feast day of Pentecost as just an event that happened long ago, but we should remind ourselves that the “living water” is an every day integral part of our faith, spiritual relationship and means of communication with Jesus Christ. This living water (the Holy Spirit) was given to each of us during our baptism when the priest chrismated and anointed us with holy chrism, saying “"The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit". The question we must ask ourselves today is whether or not this “living water” has run dry in our lives? Has the river that flows out of our heart that Christ’s speaks of still flowing? Or is our body “which is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinth. 6:19) still a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life? The Holy Spirit makes the soul constantly active in doing good, and is always ready for spiritual ascents assisting us on our road toward Christ and salvation as long as we do our part in feeding and nourishing our soul with prayer, acts of charity, remembering to love and forgive one another, confessing our sins and partaking of the Blood and Body of our Lord on a regular basis. By doing this and more the grace of the Holy Spirit grows more and more and the “living water” in time begins to gush forth like a fountain springing up into everlasting life within each of us. The more the Holy Spirit grows within us the more we grow towards Christ and the more we desire to be with Christ. Our lives become more peaceful, our relationships become more stable and our spiritual eyes are opened giving us the insight into what is really important for us in our lives. With this understanding God's grace enables us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
When we make Christ the center of our lives instead of this materialistic, self-centered world “the living water” (the Holy Spirit) will always be with us, guiding us, and protecting us in every step of our way as we try to navigate down this difficult road we call “life”. The problem today is that we have become part-time Christians; an atmosphere of great indifference exists in our Christian lives, towards God and His Church. This leads to indifference to one another, and eventually this leads to indifference in our spiritual lives. St. Paisio’s of the Holy Mountain states “Indifference towards God leads to indifference towards everything else; it leads to disintegration.” Ultimately, this indifference leads to the disintegration of our soul and relationship with Christ. The question we must ask ourselves is do we take the opportunity to seek and drink of the “living water” that Christ provides us? The answer is no. Nowadays, we turn to God when it is convenient for us, we don’t take the time to truly learn about the Son of the living God, we don’t make an effort to make Christ the center and everyday part of our lives, if we did “the living water” would be graciously poured upon us daily, but instead we end up choosing to be “part-time Christians”. More and more it seems that we want to live by our own Gospel and not by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By doing this the Holy Spirit instead of being an active part of our soul and life with Christ retreats and departs our lives. Instead, we should make it a priority and actively seek out the Holy Spirit within our lives. As St. Seraphim of Sarov famously stated “the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God”.
Therefore, on this Holy feast day of Pentecost let us not be indifferent to our spiritual life, but let each and everyone of us examine the temple of our body and see whether the Holy Spirit of God truly dwells with in us. Let us on this holy feast day of Pentecost reconfirm and strengthen our efforts in our spiritual life and make a firm commitment to be an active part of Christ's body which is His Holy Church here on earth and by participating in its full liturgical and sacramental life by attending the divine services such as the Divine Liturgy, Vespers and Vigil on a regular basis, frequently participating in the holy sacraments of holy confession and holy communion. May we also strengthen our pray life by praying more regularly and may we also strengthen our fast rule and learn to love and forgive one another more. By being participants to this we become full time Christians. As a result we can then be assured that the river of “living water” will always flow ever so strongly from our hearts leading us always on a path towards Christ and eventual eternal life in His Kingdom.
Fr. Victor Wronskyj
Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Mission