Homily 216 – Eighth Sunday of Pascha – Holy Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 19, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
This feast we celebrate today, Pentecost, we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit. What you may not see is that it is integrally tied to the salvation history of mankind all the way back to Moses.
In the Jewish community, the feast is the culmination of the Passover. 7 weeks, or 49 days after Passover, they observe the feast called in Greek, Pentecost.
During the festival, they remember the law given on Mt. Sinai. And in so doing, they remember their deliverance from Egypt. The crossing of the Red Sea. The time in the desert.
Their deliverance, their baptism, their new way of life.
In the same way, God mirrored that experience with the followers of Christ. The crucifixion and resurrection – our own Passover.
Then, as the newly illumined, we have the sense of basking in the joy of Pascha, until the Ascension of our Lord.
10 days later, on the 50th day, the promise of the Comforter is fulfilled. The promise that with the New Covenant, the law would not be written on stone, but on our hearts.
So how does that work exactly?
It is a mystery. Easy to say that, but I think we can begin to explore this idea and begin to recognize the processes at work.
In the beginning, in Genesis, humanity was continually in the presence of God. Then, we diverted our attention, and began placing our trust in ourselves, instead of our Creator.
The Righteousness of the Fathers before Moses – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Even Noah before that – these found righteousness in following God rather than their own desires.
Noah built an ark – and was ridiculed. Abraham left the land of his birth, and went to a place – well, that isn’t quite right. You have to know a place exists to go to it. And Abraham didn’t know the place, or where it was. He simply followed God.
He trusted God, and believed in the promise.
When Moses led the people from captivity, and they went to the mountain, they were given the Torah – the Law – and told to focus on that, and not their own desires. Not themselves.
When Jesus came, and promised the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, – with His coming, the New Law, the New Covenant, was completed. We no longer have to look outside ourselves to an external law to know how to live.
We simply follow the Law, God Himself, written on our heart – held in our heart.
Easy enough, right?
Not for me. In fact, the struggle within myself is the most difficult challenge I have yet encountered in this early life.
It’s more than the struggle between “me” and “God” – between my ego, my wants, my desires; and those of God.
It is placing all that I am – all of whatever constitutes “me”, and merging it with God. Burying it in God.
Having the same relationship with God and me as Christ had in the two natures within his being, however we articulate that.
It is that theosis – that union – that allows us to trust the conscience.
We can, with practice, learn to identify not just the good or the bad, the right or the wrong. But also the motivation for our action.
Is this about me? My wants? My desires?
Even the sinners lend when they expect to be repaid. That motivation is self-interest, not salvation.
The objective is to subordinate ourselves to God. So that as St. Paul says, we can press on to the prize.
The Church, in its wisdom, offers us a tried and true path. Fasting. Almsgiving. Prayer.
But these are insufficient in themselves. There is no ability to save us in those disciplines. Rather, we have to use those disciplines to learn to discipline ourselves – our desires and wants.
Then – God will overtake us – overshadow us. We do our part. God does His part. Synergy.
And why would we do such a thing. Why don’t we just embrace who we are? Accept our fallen nature, our fallen humanity?
Because that, brothers and sisters, is death. It is not life. It is death. Separation from God – by our choice!
It isn’t just housing for eternity we are pursuing here. It is life. All life. More than everlasting life. It is the connection to the source of all Life itself. Himself.
That is true life. This – is true life.
And once you get a taste. A deposit – a “seal” as we say during chrismation.
Once you get a taste, like St. Photini at the well, you will never thirst again.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!