The Descent of the Holy Spirit

We are now at the great feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. He is the priceless gift Who is ever-present in our Church. The Holy Fathers say that no one can encompass the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but in the Church, we have them all. If we understand the mystery, the significance of the Church, we become enriched.

The Holy Spirit is in the Orthodox Church. He is always present and at work. Everything we do is in the Holy Spirit. He fulfills all, He changes the gifts of bread and wine at the Liturgy into the Body and Blood of Christ. We, the priests, invoke the Holy Spirit and then He works. A contemporary holy woman, mother Galaktia of Iraklio, saw how the Holy Spirit sustains the Church, how He pours Himself into human hearts through the omophoria of the bishops, the stoles of the priests, and the tears of prayer and sighs of repentance of the people.

There are many mysteries in our Church. Everything we do in the Church is in the Most Holy Spirit. It is important to be in good faith since the Holy Spirit can descend only where there is truth, as He is the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13). We, in the Orthodox Church, have the Holy Spirit. And He works mysteriously. If you like, we have an image of this in the Mother of God, who is similarly mysterious and hidden. She loves hiding the traces of her work. Both the Holy Spirit and the Mother of God are like this. This is why Saint Paisios the Athonite said: “Mother of God, help them [the people], but show them that you helped.” Most often, the Mother of God helps without showing it. Likewise, the Holy Spirit acts secretly. Saint John of Damascus says, “The mother of God is the Father’s daughter, the Son’s mother, and the bride of the Holy Spirit.” That is why we chant in the Akathist: “Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!” The Mother of God is the bride of the Holy Spirit. She is very similar to Him, in the same mysterious way. She is also the model par excellence for seeking the Holy Spirit. So, if we want to have the Holy Spirit, we have to be quiet and hidden like her.

The Mother of God was the keeper of all gifts. Archangel Gabriel said to her, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace!” (Luke 1:28). She has all the gifts. Nevertheless, we do not see any miracle, such as walking on water, impressing the people, healing. She heals, but not visibly. We remember this as we have Pentecostal brothers who says that they possess the Holy Spirit and do all sorts of loud and outwardly things. That is a show. The highest gift from the Holy Spirit, which the Mother of God possesses par excellence, is unseen. It is not visible in an obvious and loud way. She has them all. All the saints, Saint Nektarios, to whom we pray and who heals, and all the other saints who performed miracles in their lifetimes, are all far beneath the Mother of God. She did not perform these types of miracles, yet she does them always, in every moment. The perfection of the Holy Spirit comes with this discretion. All of the saints were discreet, but they also had gifts which could be seen by the human eye. They received these gifts from God, so that these gifts might be seen and might help the people. But the most perfect expression of man, who has the Holy Spirit, is the Mother of God. She is mysterious, unseen.

The Holy Spirit works in the Church. We have the Holy Spirit, as Saint Silouan the Athonite and the other saints say. We must share this truth loudly and strongly. Nobody else has the fullness of truth. But we must share it in a way that pleases God, in a discreet, beautiful, and kind way. Not in a way that harasses or intrudes. The Holy Spirit is hidden. And He is at work. Father Dumitru Stăniloae says, “The Savior came and gave us the work of salvation as a model. We must follow Him. The Holy Spirit, sent by Him, works in us to encourage us, to awaken our desire to follow Christ.” From within us, without forcing us. The Holy Spirit never forces, God never forces. The Holy Spirit is even more intimate and works inside of us and encourages us gently: “Come, my dear. Come, wake up, get up once again. Keep going. It’s not easy to follow Christ, but come.” Just as a mother would say. So, the Church is like a mother, and the Holy Spirit is like a mother, and the Mother of God like a mother par excellence.

Let us be grateful, acknowledge what we have, cherish it, and sacrifice ourselves for it. Unfortunately, we must also say a harsher word, from our Holy Fathers. There is no other law than this: “Give blood and receive spirit.” We cannot receive the Holy Spirit without effort. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit was sent to earth though the Cross of our Lord. He was sent after a Sacrifice. And He is preserved in us through sacrifice as well. The Holy Spirit is maintained though sacrifice. We must understand what we have and how much it’s worth. To sacrifice! Usually, we sacrifice our selfishness and passions. In this way, we become reborn in the Kingdom of God. But we need sacrifice in order to keep the Holy Spirit. May God help us, receive our prayers and teach us how to keep the Holy Spirit.  May the Mother of God and all the saints teach us, for that is what they did, they obtained the grace of the Holy Spirit and then kept it. Amen.