The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit - A Sermon for the Sunday of Pentecost (2020)

June 07, 2020

The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit - A Sermon for the Sunday of Pentecost (2020)

Today’s Feast is not just one which honors the Holy Spirit, but all Three Persons of the One Godhead. The Holy Trinity has been fully revealed to the Church today by the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes active within us the whole Incarnate Dispensation of the Lord Christ, the Son of the Father. This Son became a Man for this very purpose, for the sake of man who was created as the crown of creation.

The Holy Spirit is, as it were, a certain Part of mankind’s original nature—not in substance, but by the grace of union. He is like a certain Property, a natural but more-than-natural Organ of life, an essential component of man’s true existence. To be sure, there is no confusion: human nature is not the Divinity, nor is the Divinity humanity. But, along with all the powers gifted to mankind, the greatest indeed is the fact that he was from the beginning united inseparably and without confusion to the Divinity in a most wondrous way.

But as we know, as we have read, as we experience in our day-to-day lives, mankind lost this most precious Gift, he lost that part of himself which gave him true life, becoming utterly impoverished, dying spiritually.

But the Good—and more-than-good—God did not desire that mankind should remain so. He purposed to once again unite His most cherished creation with Himself again. This He accomplished by sending His Son in human flesh, Who was incarnate, suffered, died, descended into Hades, rose again, ascended into heaven, sat at the right hand of God the Father with our human nature, and sent down today the Most Holy Spirit upon the Holy Apostles and the disciples of Christ.

But this is not all, no, this was only the beginning of this great work and renewal of God, it was only the beginning of this Wonder of Wonders, this Mystery of Mysteries. Of what do we speak? The Church of course, the Body of Christ, the Bride of God the Father, the Living and Animate Temple of the Holy Spirit.

What took place in the Most Holy Virgin at the Annunciation, when the Holy Spirit conceived the Son of the Father within her, takes places today in the Holy Apostles and those gathered with them. But it also took place in a very personal way to each and every one of us when we were grafted into the Church.

We have been grafted in through Chrismation, that which is called the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts we see that all who were baptized in the name of the Trinity, and into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, then had the hands of the Apostles laid upon them, which by prayer imparted the Holy Spirit to them. Shortly after this, as the Church spread, the Apostles—by the guidance of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them—seeing that they could not lay upon their hands and impart the Holy Spirit to the thousands of new Christians which multiplied each day across the world, decided to preserve this Mystery in Holy Chrism. Therefore, only the bishops of the Church—the direct successors of the Apostles—have the authority to mystically consecrate and make the Holy Chrism.

We are called Christians because we are chrismated with this Chrism, gifted with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Himself. This is the purpose of all Christ’s work! This is, according to St. Paul, the mystery hidden from before the ages, which God has revealed in these latter days to the Church—even Christ in us through the Holy Spirit in us! All mankind has an innate longing which desires this Gift, its re-unification with the Holy Spirit, that ancient Aspect of original human nature.

All men, who wander about today in ignorance and spiritual oblivion, whether they know it or not, testify to this most clearly. How so? By their deep thirst! Mankind thirsts! Mankind has an insatiable thirst for true existence, true life, true wisdom, true freedom, true participation in Divine Life Himself. But many know not where to find it. And how have we, to whom such great treasures and mysteries; how have we to whom the greatest Treasure and Mystery of God’s Holy Spirit within us and in our midst; how have we shared this most wondrous reality with mankind?

How have we shown ourselves as gifted above all men, though most unworthy? How have we revealed that we have the True Faith? How have we manifested Christ in the flesh to the fleshly eyes of the thirsting world?

Do we live worthy of the name of Christian? Do we truly show forth the reality that we have been chrismated, made little Christs; kings and priests of the King of kings; gods and sons of God of God the Son, the Only-Begotten; vessels of the Third Person; members of the Second Person; adopted offspring of the First Person?

Do we see Christ in our brothers, in our fellow-Christians? Do we manifest Christ to our brothers and fellow-members? Do we look like Christ? Do we send forth the fragrance of the Life-Giving Spirit? Do we show forth the awesome holiness, power, transcendent virtue and divine goodness of God Himself?

If we are temples of the Holy Spirit, then where are our spiritual fruits? Where is self-sacrificing love, even for one’s enemies? Where is ever-increasing heavenly joy untainted by worldly sorrows? Where is unconquerable peace unshaken even amidst the melting away of the universe? Have we even made a beginning? Have we acquired even one fruit? Are we endowed with one Christ-like gift? Do we even have one firmly-rooted Christ-like virtue?

Do we not rather fall far too short of even possessing a love worthy of humans, let alone one which can be called divine? Even Socrates and Plato defined true justice to be that which does not do injustice to one’s enemies. Howbeit, we who have been made partakers of Christ’s very Body—of Christ Who, not only taught us to refrain from evil, to conquer evil with good, and to even love our enemies, but also showed this forth in His Crucifixion—we fall far short of possessing even a love worthy of humans.

We not only do not possess an unfading joy and an unconquerable peace, but we do not even have a simple human peace many times. The slightest offense, the slightest distasteful glance, the smallest word—all of these make us flare up in wrath, fits of jealousy, casting words as stones against our brothers, placing blame on everyone and everything but our own selves, complaining and seeking unjust retribution of even the smallest fault of others, while we remain blind to our most grievous pride and hypocritically disguise our most foul sins, glorying in our shame.

Where is Christ is in our midst? Where is the Holy Spirit in our hearts? Where is the radiant manifestation of the glory of the Father in our bodies and souls? Are we truly partakers of the Holy Trinity’s divine life, light and love? If we glorify the Trinity first thing at every Vigil service as “Holy, Consubstantial, Life-Creating and Indivisible,” then where is our holiness? Where is our unity of mind and heart? Where is our divinely productive love which immerses others in true life? Where is our unconquered and indivisible oneness of purpose and life?

But let us begin today! Let us beg the Lord: “Cast me not away from Thy Presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me; but renew Him in us who pray to Thee!” If we fall far short, if we are unworthy bearers of the name Christian and of the Most Holy Chrism of God, then let us not despair! Let us not remain in our death! Let us not think ourselves forever cursed! Let us fall down, right now, in our hearts, in humble prostration of soul and mind—a prostration which bows much further than that of the body. Let us beg God for the Spirit of repentance! Yes, He is not just the Spirit of all those divine qualities which we lack. He is not just the Spirit of love, the Spirit of joy, the Spirit of divine peace! He is also the Spirit of repentance, the Spirit Who can effect a divine transformation in lowly men!

When we pray, and know not what to speak, He is there, interceding for our weakness. When we feel a prick in our conscience and heart for our sinfulness, this is His action. When we weep for our sins, these are His life-giving waters. When we ignore our evil thoughts and master our evil feelings, this is by His humble and invisible grace.

He fills all things! He desires to over-fill them! He is near at hand! He is hidden mystically in our hearts! He is manifest in every good deed! He is the uplifting of every mind to heaven! He is the inspirer of heavenly longing in the soul of all! He is the Uniter Who seeks to draw all men into the net of Christ, into the Church! Let us pray for ourselves, that we may truly live in this most awesome reality! And let us pray for the world which lies in ignorance and sin, that all may be enlightened, united to the Church and filled to perfection with the grace of the Spirit, that all may be one!

Let us beg Christ to help us make a beginning, to repent here and now, to make a fresh start, to cast away our despair, our past failings, and to seek a broken heart which, like that rock of old when broken, pours forth waters; but not physical waters, but the very divine water of that pure crystal River of the waters of life, even the Holy Spirit, spoken about in Revelation; that River of life which comes forth from the throne of God, mediated by His Lamb, Christ. He it is Who cried out today in the Gospel unto all thirsting mankind that they might come unto Him. And He it is Who cries out in the last chapter of the Revelation:

“The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

He it is Who says to all men: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor in the struggle against passion and are heavy-laden with sin; come unto Me, abide in Me, call out to Me, with all your heart rely upon Me, the Rock of Life!”

He it is to Whom, with His Father and the Most Holy and Life-Giving Spirit, all honor, dominion, life, glory and love are do, from all angels and all mankind, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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