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Sermon for the Sunday of the Pentecost, the Day of the Holy Trinity

Dear brothers and sisters!

I congratulate you with the great Christian feast of the Most Holy Trinity!

We are sending honour and glory to the Holy Divine Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Glory to the Holy Live-creating and Indivisible Trinity of One Essence – every Divine service in a church starts with this exclamation, and today we repeat these great and holy words with joy. It is on this day that the Son of God sent the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father upon His disciples and Apostles, granting to them the grace for preaching the Gospel in different languages of the universe. The Lord, sending the Apostles to converse the whole world from the gloom of sin to the light of repentance and truth, ordered them to baptise all peoples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, thus testifying to the unity in essence of the three Divine Hypostases.

Sermon for the Sunday of the Pentecost, the Day of the Holy Trinity

The descending of the Holy Spirit was not unexpected for the Apostles. A few centuries before the birth of the Saviour Lord God started to prepare people for this event in the history of salvation through his prophets: I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). David addresses the Holy Spirit: Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth (Ps.104:30).

Our Saviour Jesus Christ, parting with his disciples before His Ascension to heaven, told them: And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (Lk.24:49) and ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you (Acts 1:8).

The Lord fulfilled His promise. On this day the Jews celebrated the great Old Testament feast of the Pentecost. This feast was celebrated on the 50th day after the Jewish Passover and signified the Covenant which God established with the Jewish people after the liberation from the Egyptian captivity. Many Jews gathered for this feast to Jerusalem from various countries. 

Preparing for the acceptance of the Holy Spirit the disciples of Christ together with the Most Holy Virgin Mary and other believers were in Jerusalem, in the so called Zion upper room, and stayed in prayer for the whole night.

Saint Gregory Palamas writes: “The disciples gathered together and were with one accord in the upper room of this holy place, as well as in the upper place of their soul – each concentrated in his spirit”. Then the morning came. It was the third hour of the day according to the Jewish time count, which is about 9 o’clock our time. Suddenly a noise was heard over the Zion upper room, as if from the mighty wind. This noise filled the house, where the Apostles were and simultaneously the tongues of fire appeared over the heads of the Apostles and started to descend upon each of them.

These tongues were, as Apostle Luke says, as if of fire, that is they did not have regular material properties, they were unusual, they gave light but did not burn. The spiritual properties which these tongues communicated to the Apostles were even more unusual. Each person, on whom such a tongue descended, felt a great of spiritual power and simultaneously unusual joy and inspiration, pacification and ardent love to God. Saint Gregory Palamas explains why the Holy Spirit appeared to the Apostles in the form of the tongues: “To show that the Holy Spirit is kin to the Word of God, for there is nothing more related to word than tongue”. Then he writes: “Why then the tongues of fire? Our God is Fire, burning lawlessness. And another reason is the double action of the preaching of the Apostles, for it had to do good and punish, as the fire both illuminates and burns, so the Word of teaching about Christ illuminates the hearers and gives over to fire and eternal torment those who stubbornly resist”.

The apostles started to express their inner change and new feelings in joyous exclamations, addressing each other. They felt as if they were reborn, filled with new mighty power. Deep and sublime thoughts filled their minds and faith, hot like fire, started to burn in their hearts. They remembered everything they once heard from the Teacher and their soul wished to profess their flaming faith. They did not have the fear of the Jews anymore, they were not afraid of death, for the Holy Spirit mysteriously made them, who had been timid and uneducated, brave and determined, ready to give their lives for the open public preaching of the word of their Teacher – Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile the people, who were struck by the what had happened, came to the house where the Apostles were. The Apostles saw the gathering people and went out of the house with prayers of praise and glorification of God. Hearing these joyous prayers of the Apostles, the gathered people were struck by their wondrous speeches, which burned their hearts. To their great amazement they noticed that they all hear their native speech, although they were from different countries. They addressed each other, not understanding, how these uneducated people suddenly started to speak foreign languages. The people asked each other in amazement: Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?… we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God (Acts 2, 7-11).

The teaching of Christ was supposed be preached to the peoples of all the earth. The gift of the tongues to the Apostles destroyed the barrier in the form of diversity of languages and dialects, and now the word of Christ could freely spread throughout the whole world.

But there were such insane people in the crowd who started to sneer at the Apostles and say that they are drunk with sweet new wine. Blasphemously and cynically they laughed at the holy inspiration of preachers.

When Apostle Peter saw the perplexity of the people, he stepped forth and pronounced his first inspired sermon, starting it in this way: “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel … I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh … and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:14-18). The Apostle explained that it is in the descending of the Holy Spirit that the salvation of people was performed, for that Jesus Christ had suffered the death on the cross and was risen from the dead. Apostle Peter concluded his sermon with the following words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know … ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain … Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death … This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses …Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:22-36).

The sermon by Apostle Peter was short and simple, but as it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through his lips, the words penetrated the hearts of the hearers. Many of them rushed to Peter and other Apostles exclaiming: “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2:37-38)

Many believed in Christ according to the word of the Apostle, immediately repented in their sins and were baptised. By the evening of that day the Church counted about three thousand souls. This miraculous event was the beginning of the creation of the community of believers – Holy Church, which is filled with grace and in which we are all called to save our souls. As the Lord promised it will remain unconquered until the end of the world and the gates of hell will not overcome it! 

Thus the feast of the Pentecost, during which the Jewish people celebrated the deliverance from the Egyptian slavery and the beginning of the free life, became for the believers in Jesus Christ the deliverance from the power of the devil and the beginning of the new union with God which is filled with grace and in which the believers are led by God Himself – not with a severe law, but with the commandments of love, the spirit of freedom and grace. 

After the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles the Zion upper room became the first Christian temple and the community of the disciples of Christ – the Universal Church, embracing Her children in the union of faith, love and truth. The greatest fruit and miracle of the Holy Spirit was certainly the spiritual love of the first Christians, which helped them to bear the persecution. Each Christian perceived the constant care of all the Church, there were no worldly differences and separations, there were no aliens, and all were close and dear to each other, each one warmed the other with the warmth of his heart, which should be the example for us, contemporary Christians.

Since the day, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, He continuously edifies the Church – at first directly through His chosen people, Apostles, prophets and holy teachers of the Church, and then through the Scripture left by them. The power of the Scripture is not less than that of the live word. For it is said in the Gospel, that if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (Lk.16:31).

Brothers and sisters! Let us boldly call upon the Holy Spirit, so that we may become participants in the Divinity, reach communion with Him. This state of closeness to God is reached only by constant prayer, fulfillment of the commandments of God, fasting, repenting and purifying from all sinful impurity. So let us unceasingly invoke the Holy Spirit: Heavenly King, Comforter, true Spirit, Who is everywhere and fills everything, Treasure of goods and Giver of life, come and settle in us, and clean us of all impurity and save, oh the Good One, our souls!