On Sunday we celebrated the ‘birthday of the Church,’ the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s disciples, establishing the Church; His body on earth. As a result of this miraculous and joyful event, the Apostles were sent forth to spread the teaching of Jesus Christ to all the world.
We read in the book of Acts:
‘When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed as resting upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. . .’ (Acts 2.1–4)
Pentecost is not simply a historical event but a reality we live as Christians today. The same Holy Spirit is alive and present through our baptism, through our participation in God’s love in prayer, Holy Communion, Confession and our words and actions. The Holy and Life-Giving Spirit, as was proven on the day of Pentecost, knows no borders nor boundaries, but ‘blows where it wills’ (Jn 3:8) on ‘men from every nation under heaven…speaking in his own language.’ In other words, the Holy Spirit, as the comforter and healer of our imperfections and infirmities, descends and renews all peoples, all ethnicities and works within each of us in various ways.
The Holy Spirit ‘provides every gift, He inspires prophecy, perfects the priesthood, grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen to become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the organisation of the Church,’ as a hymn of the Church states.
The Holy Spirit is alive and revealed to us through the Saints. There are recognised Orthodox saints all over the world, providing us with examples of the Christ-centred life we are called to, acquiring the fruits (Gal 5:22-23) of the Holy Spirit.
We, in this country, often forget about the numerous examples of British saints. Saint Arsenios of Paros stated that ‘the Church in the British Isles will only begin to grow when she begins venerating her own saints!’ The saints are vessels of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16) illumining the hearts of those around them with the presence, the light and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yesterday the Church commemorated St Columba of Scotland. He was born in Ireland (521) and, as a missionary, he founded a monastery on the scenic island of Iona, on the west coast of Scotland, becoming the centre of his evangelising mission. There are many stories of miracles performed, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, during his ministry, converting the Picts.
Who are your local saints? What examples can we take from them? Let us strive, dear friends, to acquire the Holy Spirit ‘and thousands around you will be saved,’ as St Seraphim of Sarov tells us. This ‘acquisition’ is, as he writes, ‘the true aim of our Christian life.’
Prayer for the Week:
‘Blessed art You O Christ Our God / You have revealed the fishermen as most wise / By sending down upon them the Holy Spirit / Through them You drew the world into Your net / O Lover of Man, Glory to You.’