The Gift of the Holy Spirit

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The Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11) in the early Church was treated as the last day and culmination of the 50 day great Feast which encompassed all the Church’s Spiritual experience of Pascha through Pentecost. It was the pinnacle and apex of the Christian life and experience of which Pascha, the Resurrection was but the beginning.  [So on Pascha night the Scripture we read is John 1:1-17 (“In the beginning“) and Acts 1:1-8 (the beginning of the Church).]  Historically in the this same 50 day period starting with Pascha, the disciples had grown in the faith from being fearful, cowering men behind locked doors, hiding from the world, after our Lord’s death to those boldly proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah on the day of Pentecost. Michael Quenot comments on the terrified, hopeless disciples, cowered by the Lord’s crucifixion, who were to be transformed by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon their lives:

“It would be easier to imagine the apostle’s sadness at hearing that Jesus was going to His Father. Had they not left everything to follow Him? What would become of them without Him?  Knowing that nothing would ever be as it had once been, Christ promised them the ‘Comforter,’ the One who would be with them as well as lead them to Him, who is Himself the ‘Door’ and the ‘Truth.’ After the ‘cloud’ of the Old Testament, which was the tangible sign of God’s presence among His people, the descent of the Spirit on each believer becomes the divine presence within that person: the same Spirit that was active long before Pentecost, the One that inspired the many prophets, the One through whom the Virgin Mary conceived.

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He guided the old man Symeon; He inspired John the Baptist and many others. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (Jn 20:23). Jesus used this formula only after His Resurrection. During His earthly ministry, He healed, forgave, gave His flesh for food, but never directly gave the Spirit. As He promised the Samaritan woman: ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (Jn 4:13-14).”  (THE RESURRECTION AND THE ICON, p 190)

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Christ gives His disciples the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit to whom He is united in the Holy Trinity, and shares with His friends (John 15:15) not just the gifts of the Spirit but the Spirit itself so that Christians can be fully united to the Holy Trinity. Christ destroys death in all its ugly, hostile and destructive power by transforming it into our path to eternal life so that we do not need to fear death because it too now serves God’s own will and purpose.  Death no longer separates us from our God and no longer has its poisonous sting.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

“Pentecost confirms the paschal message that death is no longer the mere absence of life, but that henceforth it can be transformed into the power of life.” (Michael Quenot, THE RESURRECTION AND THE ICON, p 192)

We see in the Pentecost event Christ sharing with His disciples the power of the Holy Spirit just as God took from the same Spirit from Moses to share with the Israel’s leadership.

So the LORD said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.  (Numbers 11:16-17)

4587917216_dd3821f5cd_wBy ‘taking’ the Spirit from Moses, rather than simply giving the elders the Spirit, it is clear that it is the exact same Spirit that is given to Israel’s leaders.  God affirms to Moses that the Spirit to be given to Israel’s leadership is the Spirit which came upon him – they are not receiving a lesser Spirit.  The same is true of all of us Christians, we are receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit that revealed Christ, and as came upon the Theotokos and all the saints.  There is no lesser Spirit and no lesser portion given to the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters in Baptism.  No Christian has a greater Spirit or more of the Spirit than any other.

And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:27-29)

The end result of the coming of the Holy Spirit is the transfiguring of all Christians.  On Pentecost we celebrate that each and every Christian has received the Spirit of our God.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

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And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved. (Joel 2:32)

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