Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
FROM THE VESPERS OF HOLY AND GREAT PENTECOST
Lord, pure and undefiled, existing before all eternity, invisible, incomprehensible, unsearchable, unchanging, surpassed by none, not to be calculated, long-suffering, the Only Immortal One, You abide in the unapproachable Light. You created heaven and earth, and all the creatures that inhabit them, supplying all their needs even before they ask. To You we pay and You we entreat, loving Master, the Father of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven to be incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, the glorious Theotokos. At first You taught in words, but then showed us by deeds, when in enduring the saving Passion You gave to us Your humble, sinful and unworthy servants an example of how to offer our prayers in the bending of our heads and knees for our own transgressions and for the failings of the people.
All-Merciful and Loving Lord, hear us whenever we call upon You, but especially on this day of Pentecost, on which, after our Lord Jesus Christ had ascended into the heavens, to be seated at Your right hand, God and Father, He sent the Holy Spirit on His holy Disciples and Apostles. As He came to rest upon each of them, and all were filled with His overflowing grace, they spoke in strange tongues of Your Mighty works and prophesied.
As we now pray to You, hear us, and be mindful that we are lowly and deserving of judgment; recall our souls from the bondage of sin. Your own compassion interceding for us. Accept us as we kneel before you crying the familiar, "I have sinned!" We have been dependent on You from our mother's womb; You are our God. But because our days have been vainly squandered, we are stripped of Your help, without any defense. Even so, encouraged by Your mercies, we cry: Remember not our sins committed in youth and ignorance, and purge our secret thoughts. Do not spurn us in old age; when our strength fails us, do not forsake us; before we are returned to the earth, make us worthy to return to You, and treat us with Your favor and grace. Measure out Your mercies against our transgressions; contrast the depths of your pity to the multitude of our offenses.
From Your Holy dwelling place look upon the people present here in expectation of Your rich mercy; visit us in Your Goodness; free us from the oppression of the Evil One; make our lives secure within Your Holy and Sacred Laws. Entrust Your people to a faithful guardian Angel; gather us all into Your Kingdom; grant forgiveness to those who hope in You; remit them and us our sins; cleanse us through the work of Your Holy Spirit; put an end to the wiles of the enemy. Amen.
Before Christ ascended into Heaven He gave a command to His Disciples to return to Jerusalem after His Ascension and remain there until they were invested with power from Heaven. Thus He gave them the promise that they would receive the Holy Spirit, about which He had spoken during His life.
This promise by Christ to the Disciples was realized 50 days after Pascha and ten days after His Ascension to heaven. Thus in the Church we observe the feast of Pentecost, in which we honor the Holy Trinity, and on the following day we celebrate and glorify the Holy Spirit. So the Feast of Pentecost is a feast of the Holy Trinity.
The feast of Pentecost is included in what the Church calls the "twelve feasts", because it is the last feast of the Divine Economy. The Incarnation of Christ was aimed at victory over death and the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of men. Moreover, it is well known that the purpose of the ecclesiastical and spiritual life is that we should become members of the Body of Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. These two are inseparably linked together.
The holy hymnographer calls Pentecost the last feast concerning man's reformation and renewal: "Let us believers joyfully celebrate a last feast: it is Pentecost, fulfillment and deadline of a promise". Thus, if the Annunciation to the Theotokos is the beginning of the Incarnation of the Logos (Word) and the Divine Economy, Pentecost is the end, since it is then that man, through the Holy Spirit, becomes a member of the risen body of Christ.
The descent of the Holy Spirit took place on Sunday. And here we see the value of Sunday, for the great feasts of the Lord took place on it. According to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the creation of the world began on the first day, that is to say on Sunday (Lord's Day), for it was then that light was created; the renewal of creation began on Sunday with the Resurrection of Christ; the completion of creation took place on Sunday with descent of the Holy Spirit. The making of creation was done by the Father with the cooperation of the Son and the Holy Spirit, the renewal was done by the Son with the good will of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and the completion of creation was done by the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son.
In a troparion of the iambic Canon of the feast of Pentecost Saint John of Damaskos characterizes the Holy Spirit as a sign of the Logos (Word) that was begotten of the Father. The Holy Spirit is so characterized because it reveals and manifests the Word of God, for "without the Spirit the Only-Begotten Son cannot be apprehended" (Saint Gregory of Nyssa). Moreover, the Apostle Paul says that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord', except by the Holy Spirit." (I Cor. 12:3).
Many names have been given to the Holy Spirit. One of them, which also shows the work which it does in the Church as well as in the lives of people is the name "Comforter". Christ Himself used this word for the Holy Spirit when He said to His Disciples shortly before His Passion: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter to be with you forever-The Spirit of truth" (St. John 14:16-17).
The Church was founded on the Day of Pentecost, in that the Apostles became members of the Body of Christ. Thus, while they previously had a communion with Christ, now by the power and energy of the Holy Spirit they became members of the Body of Christ. The Church changed from spirit to flesh. The Saints, the deified, had a relationship and communion not only with the unincarnate Word, but with the Word become flesh, Christ the Godman. The theology that the Church is the Body of Christ is explained by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 12, 1-31). He says that the Church is not a religious organization but the Body of Christ. Moreover he says that the distribution of the gifts of grace takes place by the energy of the Holy Spirit. To conclude, the Apostle Paul says: "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Cor. 12:27).
With Holy Baptism man becomes a member of the Church, a member of the Body of Christ. The day of Pentecost was the day of the Disciples' Baptism, because they became members of the Body of Christ. Thus Christ is not only their teacher, but their head.
Among the gifts with which the one who receives the gift of the Holy Spirit is endowed is the saintly life, when the person struggles to keep God's Commandments to the highest degree and to live in purity of soul and body, the married life in Christ within the social customs, the pastoral diaconate in Christ with its many cares, etc.,-in other words, all the gifts of grace that the Holy Spirit grants. Thus the Holy Spirit "wholly makes up the institution of the Church", which is the Body of Christ.
The Fathers of the Church teach that while the Holy Spirit is active in the whole of creation and in all people, nevertheless each person partakes of Its energies in accordance with his receptivity. One must have a receptive organ in order to receive the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit...In reality, through the energy of the Holy Spirit, when the person is made a receptive vessel, the fire of Divine grace is set alight in his heart. Saint Basil the Great says that there is a real "burning of the Spirit which rekindles the heart". And indeed it is maintained that this burning which illuminate souls and destroys the stubble and thorns, was active in the Apostles who spoke in fiery tongues, it shone round the Apostle Paul, it warmed the hearts of Cleopas and those with him, this fire is something which will banish the demons, but also a power of resurrection, an energy of immortality, illumination of the holy souls, support of the rational powers.
So Pentecost was in history once, but it is brought back in the lives of the Saints. When the deified attain a state of spiritual life, they share in Pentecost and become apostles of Jesus Christ. Pentecost is the high point of glorification and deification. All who follow the same journey with the Disciples arrive at this vision of God and partake of the grace and energy of Pentecost.
It is within this framework that the foregoing analyses have moved. We should feel it a great honor and blessing, for we belong to the Orthodox Church and have the possibility of sharing the Holy Spirit and becoming earthly worshippers of the Holy Trinity. Provided, of course, that we live up to this great blessing.
[source: The Feasts of the Lord by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God