Divine love does not tolerate egoism. When we fall we are empty and have no one that is close to us but our own self. We embrace the self and guard it closely, not permitting anyone to insult it, wanting everyone to think well of us. At the same time we do not notice the kind of live we live, what we do, or how we do it. We do not notice because we are so immersed in our selves.
We must despise the self for the sake of God’s love and no only reject “his lordship” [the “self”], but kill him as well. For if the ego is not dead, we cannot become one with God; “his lordship” will always be in the way. Like a nobleman, the ego cannot bow its head but holds it up high at all times. This is why we need humility, we need to become humble and meek.
The Lord has shown us the way we should be: humble, meek, and obedient to His well. But no – we want everything to be according to our own wishes. We torture our own selves, we tire ourselves out and – what have we achieved? The world will not move the way we want it to, which makes “his lordship” very angry because things do not go according to his plan. We torture ourselves because of this, and the blame is ours. We have not humbled ourselves, we have not become one with the Lord. When we look into our hearts we see “his lordship” the ego. When temptations come along and wound us, the wound is a big one. Do you see how much healing is needed, how much humility, how much we truly need to turn to the Lord in simplicity?
The angelic hosts are not enslaved by their thoughts, or by the things of this world. They gaze upon created things, but their thoughts do not become enslaved by them, for the center of their thoughts is in servitude only to the power of God, through which they love all of creation. As for us, when we see an object that attracts us, we immediately become attached to it – this is deadly. If this lasts for a length of time, then this object becomes our idol. An object takes the place in our hearts that belongs to God, no matter whether it is an inanimate object, a living thing, or a person.
The heat is always cold when the thoughts are scattered. It is only when the thoughts are gathered and centered in the heart that the heart begins to burn.
Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives ~ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica
The Holy Spirit is an immaterial fire: the light of faith, the warmth of love, the tongues of fire that speak in the heart of God’s Law… He awakens us from the world’s charms, leads us to hope in God, and encourages us toward repentance. If we do not prevent His action, He directs us along the narrow path of self-denial… Grace transforms everything it touches into a priceless treasure… But others do not wait, they do not ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit; they remain in their heedless idleness, content with ordinary worldly uprightness, outwardly fulfilling their Christian obligations… This is all pharisaical… Only God can create a clean heart in us, and we need to be born from above in order to see the Kingdom of Heaven (Jn. 3:3)… For now, God preserves His Church’s existence, and the Holy Spirit still abides in it… Just as at the creation of the world He moved across the waters, so also now, He moves across the abyss of our shattered nature… We shall give ourselves over to the almighty operation of the Holy Spirit and call out to Him from the depth of our fallen nature: O Heavenly King!..
We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit… Could it be that there was no Spirit in us? No, there was not: For the Holy Ghost was not yet given (Jn. 7:39). And a new spirit will I put within you (Ez. 36:26); God breathes a new spirit of life into man… The apostles were the first vessels of the Holy Spirit… As life in plants freezes from the winter cold, so does man’s spirit freeze when he is given over to sin… There is a sprout of life in a seed, and life is also in plants that have frozen over the winter. But if the Lord does not send the spirit of spring, the seed and the plant do not grow, and the face of the earth is not renewed (cf. Ps. 103, 30)… Repentance opens the door to the operation of the Spirit of God, but a lack of repentance locks that door…
And then the soul enlivened and cleansed by the Holy Spirit shines with the Trinitarian unity… We cannot fathom how this wondrous work of goodwill takes place, but the Word of God is true… Here is the path by which the Spirit of God leads to perfection those who receive Him … The beginning of it all is repentance, the middle of this work and ascetic struggle is cleansing of the heart from passions and its saturation with virtues, and the end is the holy mystery of communion with God… Where there is no communion with God, there is no Spirit… For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (Gal. 6:7-8).
“If I were the devil … If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness. And I’d have a third of it’s real estate, and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — Thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first — I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’
“To the young, I would whisper that ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is ‘square.’ And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’
“And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
“If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames. If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions — just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
“Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography — soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money. If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.
“If I were the devil I’d take from those, and who have, and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what do you bet? I could get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich! I would caution against extremes and hard work, in Patriotism, in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure. In other words, if I were the devil I’d just keep right on doing on what he’s doing.
When you are praying alone, and your spirit is dejected, and you are wearied and oppressed by your loneliness, remember then, as always, that God the Trinity looks upon you with eyes brighter than the sun; also all the angels, your own Guardian Angel, and all the Saints of God. Truly they do; for they are all one in God, and where God is, there are they also. Where the sun is, thither also are directed all its rays. Try to understand what this means.
In the Old Testament Pentecost was the feast which occurred fifty days after Passover. As the passover feast celebrated the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, so Pentecost celebrated God’s gift of the ten commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.
In the new covenant of the Messiah, the passover event takes on its new meaning as the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, the “exodus” of men from this sinful world to the Kingdom of God. And in the New Testament as well, the pentecostal feast is fulfilled and made new by the coming of the “new law,” the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ.
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).
The Holy Spirit that Christ had promised to his disciples came on the day of Pentecost (Jn 14:26, 15:26; Lk 24:49; Acts 1:5). The apostles received “the power from on high,” and they began to preach and bear witness to Jesus as the risen Christ, the King and the Lord. This moment has traditionally been called the birthday of the Church.
In the liturgical services of the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit is celebrated together with the full revelation of the divine Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The fulness of the Godhead is manifested with the Spirit’s coming to man, and the Church hymns celebrate this manifestation as the final act of God’s self-disclosure and self-donation to the world of His creation. For this reason Pentecost Sunday is also called Trinity Day in the Orthodox tradition. Often on this day the icon of the Holy Trinity—particularly that of the three angelic figures who appeared to Abraham, the forefather of the Christian faith – is placed in the center of the church. This icon is used with the traditional pentecostal icon which shows the tongues of fire hovering over Mary and the Twelve Apostles, the original prototype of the Church, who are themselves sitting in unity surrounding a symbolic image of “cosmos,” the world.
On Pentecost we have the final fulfillment of the mission of Jesus Christ and the first beginning of the messianic age of the Kingdom of God mystically present in this world in the Church of the Messiah. For this reason the fiftieth day stands as the beginning of the era which is beyond the limitations of this world, fifty being that number which stands for eternal and heavenly fulfillment in Jewish and Christian mystical piety: seven times seven, plus one.
Thus, Pentecost is called an apocalyptic day, which means the day of final revelation. It is also called an eschatological day, which means the day of the final and perfect end (in Greek eschaton> means the end). For when the Messiah comes and the Lord’s Day is at hand, the “last days” are inaugurated in which “God declares:… I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” This is the ancient prophecy to which the Apostle Peter refers in the first sermon of the Christian Church which was preached on the first Sunday of Pentecost (Acts 2: 1 7; Joel 2: 28-32).
Once again it must be noted that the feast of Pentecost is not simply the celebration of an event which took place centuries ago. It is the celebration of what must happen and does happen to us in the Church today. We all have died and risen with the Messiah-King, and we all have received his Most Holy Spirit. We are the “temples of the Holy Spirit.” God’s Spirit dwells in us (Rom 8; 1 Cor 2-3, 12; 2 Cor 3; Gal 5; Eph 2-3). We, by our own membership in the Church, have received “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” in the sacrament of chrismation. Pentecost has happened to us.
The Divine Liturgy of Pentecost recalls our baptism into Christ with the verse from Galatians again replacing the Thrice-Holy Hymn. Special verses from the psalms also replace the usual antiphonal psalms of the liturgy. The epistle and gospel readings tell of the Spirit’s coming to men. The kontakion sings of the reversal of Babel as God unites the nations into the unity of his Spirit. The troparion proclaims the gathering of the whole universe into God’s net through the work of the inspired apostles. The hymns 0 Heavenly King and We have seen the True Light are sung for the first time since Easter, calling the Holy Spirit to “come and abide in us”, and proclaiming that “we have received the heavenly Spirit.” The church building is decorated with flowers and the green leaves of the summer to show that God’s divine Breath comes to renew all creation as the “life-creating Spirit.” In Hebrew the word for Spirit, breath and wind is the same word, ruah.
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee (Troparion).
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations. But when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit! (Kontakion)
The Great Vespers of Pentecost evening features three long prayers at which the faithful kneel for the first time since Easter. The Monday after Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church, and the Sunday after Pentecost is the feast of All Saints. This is the logical liturgical sequence since the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in men by their becoming saints, and this is the very purpose of the creation and salvation of the world. “Thus says the Lord: Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I your God am holy” (Lev 11:44-45, 1 Pet 1:15-16).
…it is impossible to reject the entire Gospel. Christ’s miracles and teaching, His consciousness of being the Son of God, His Transfiguration, Resurrection and Ascension, the visible and objective descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, and the entire multitude of saints that followed. We shall have either to adopt the trivial and philosophically lame standpoint of rejecting all this or else, recognizing the objectivity and reality of all the cases of Theophany, to ask ourselves: ‘Why is it so difficult for me to accept all this?’ The answer to the question is clear.
Has there been in my life, as in so many others, a clear indubitable encounter with the Objective? Frankly, I must answer: no. But there have been many partial contacts: in certain rare instances of love expressed in entire self-denial; sometimes in prayer, especially during the holy service, you feel that you come out of yourself, that something which is not yourself has entered into you; in many situations, which cannot be explained except in terms of God’s manifest help. This is faith no longer – it is knowledge, precise and comprehensible signals from the other world. All the rest is faith, assisted by the love of God.
~Alexander Elchaninov, “Fragments of a Diary,” The Diary of a Russian Priest
The meaning of grace. What is grace? It is the blessed power of God given to the man who believes and who was baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity. It is the power that cleanses, sanctifies, enlightens, that helps in doing good and withdraws from evil, that comforts and gives courage in misfortunes, sorrows and sickness. It is the pledge of receiving the everlasting blessings prepared by God in heaven for His chosen ones.
“The Lenten season is meant to kindle a ‘bright sadness’ within our hearts. Its aim is precisely the remembrance of Christ, a longing for a relationship with God that has been lost. Lent offers the time and place for recovery of this relationship. The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection.”