Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
“I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you”. (John 14:18)
These words Christ addressed to His beloved disciples, shortly before His passion. He assured them that, after their separation, He would not leave them orphans (the literal Greek meaning of the word translated “comfortless” in the King James Version), but would send to them the All-Holy Spirit. This prophecy was literally fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. On that holy day the Father, in the name of Jesus, sent “the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father”, in order that He might teach the disciples of Christ, reminding them of the eternal, divine truths they had already heard from the lips of the Lord Jesus during His public ministry. “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything that I told you” (John 14:26). And, true to the words of Jesus, 50 days after Pascha (Easter), “when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from Heaven noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
And what were the results of this wondrous outpouring? Listen to the words of Holy Scripture: “And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language. And they began to be amazed, and to marvel, saying, ‘Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? –we hear them in our own language speaking of the mighty deeds of God’. And they continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’(Acts 2:6-8, 11, 12). Moreover, Peter, who just 50 days earlier had denied Christ, now hails Him publicly as Saviour and Lord: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ…Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 2:36, 4:12). As St John Chrysostom observes, the rabbit is transformed into a lion, the midget into a giant, at the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The Church, which prior to Pentecost had numbered only 120 souls, found her ranks swelling to 3,000: “So then, those who had received his word were baptised; and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Some, however, did not believe. Some were indifferent. Others came up with sarcastic accusations, endeavouring to solve the question (“What does this mean?”) by means of their poor human logic. “Others sneered, ‘They’re full of new wine’” (Acts 2:13). They thought the disciples were drunk. According to them, nothing supernatural was involved in the matter. These men have many spiritual descendants today. Although these men intended to mock the disciples, there was a glimmer of truth in their accusation. For the disciples were indeed drunk; they were drunk with the Holy Spirit of God.
Of course, the two kinds of drunkenness in question are quite different one from another. Those full of wine make fools of themselves, demean themselves in the eyes of others. St John Chrysostom writes that drunkenness makes men worse than swine. Those full of the Holy Spirit, however, loudly extol the praises of God. For this reason St Paul exhorts the believers at Ephesus: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). Those full of wine are full also of loud cursing, and all manner of profanity, while those filled with the Spirit sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19). Drunkenness of the usual (alcoholic) variety lowers, abases, destroys, not only the drinker, but his family, his loved ones, and, ultimately, society itself. That drunkenness which is of the Holy Spirit, however, renews and regenerates man. The Holy Spirit brings new feelings, new senses, in order that man might see and hear all the more clearly the wonderful and pleasant tidings of the Gospel – God’s good news for fallen man. He (the Holy Spirit) enables man to continue to live in the world, yet without being part of this world.
It was this drunkenness of the Holy Spirit that led the Apostles, confessors, fathers, preachers, righteous, and the cloud of the martyrs to disregard suffering and affliction and persecution, and even the loss of their own lives, for the glory of Christ. It is indeed unfortunate that we cannot understand these things perfectly, for the reason that we have never been drunk with the Holy Spirit of God. This is not knowledge which can be comprehended by the human mind; rather, it is an experience which fills the heart. The spiritual prosperity which the divine fires of Pentecost bring can be really understood only by those who permit the Holy Spirit of God to permeate their whole existence.
If you wish to hear about various gifts that the Holy Spirit can bring to your heart, listen to these stirring words of St Gregory Nazianzus, the Theologian:
He was ever being partaken, but not partaking; perfecting, not being perfected; sanctifying, not being sanctified; deifying, not being deified; Himself ever the same with Himself, and with those with whom He is ranged; invisible, eternal, incomprehensible, unchangeable, without quality, without quantity, without form, impalpable, self-moving, eternally moving, with free-will, self-powerful, All-powerful (even though all that is of the Spirit is referable to the First Cause, just as is all that is of the Only-begotten); Life and Lifegiver; Light and Lightgiver; absolute Good, and Spring of Goodness; the Right, the Princely Spirit; the Lord, the Sender, the Separator; Builder of His own Temple; Leading, working as He wills; distributing His own gifts; the Spirit of adoption, of truth, of wisdom, of understanding, of knowledge, of godliness, of counsel, of fear (which are ascribed to Him) by whom the Father is known and the Son is glorified; and by whom alone He is known; one class, one service, power, perfection, sanctification.
May the Holy Spirit of God direct and enlighten our lives, as He did those of the Apostles and martyrs over the centuries. Amen.