“O Heavenly Sovereign, Paraclete, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere, filling all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life; come and dwell in us, cleanse us from every stain, and, O Good One save our souls.”* – Orthodox Catholic Prayer
Receive the Holy Spirit! Peace be with you!
These are the words we heard proclaimed in the Holy Gospel on Pentecost Sunday. It is with this proclamation that we come to Pentecost, literally 50 days counting from Easter. It was a day when the disciples experienced something new and for the first time; namely that whatever race or nation from which one comes and whatever language one speaks, God’s Holy Spirit is poured out upon all. All nations, all peoples, all genders, all sorts, all conditions.
*In the Slavonic Eastern-Rite Churches the prayer “O Heavenly Sovereign” (above), addressed to the Holy Spirit, is not heard at all in either liturgical or private prayer during the 50 days from Pacha (Easter) until Pentecost. The intent is to emphasize that the faithful are awaiting the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The liturgical absence of this prayer especially from the Feast of the Ascension until Pentecost heightens and evokes a deep spiritual longing for the Descent of the Holy Spirit. For Eastern-Rite Christians who are active in the liturgical life of the Church, an intense emotional and spiritual elation envelops one’s heart when this prayer is sung for the first time on Pentecost after its noticeable 50 day absence. Oh, such indescribable joy!
Diversity in Unity
As St. Paul writes in his first Letter to the Christians in Corinth: “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. I am as much a part of you as you are of me. And without you, I am much diminished.”
By the grace of the Holy Spirit each of us is inseparably joined to one another and to the whole body of Christ. There is only one God. There is only one Lord. There is only one Holy Spirit. Pauline theology is quite clear on that point. The Church is the body of Christ. That means you and me; we are, in a sense, God made flesh and blood. That means that we are, as our catechism puts it; “Members of Christ, Children of God, and Inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven”. Thus when we interact with one another, it is our joy and our delight to do so with the profoundest reverence, respect and affirmation. We are to build up one another in the Lord.
Do we really have any idea how perfectly wonderful and beautiful is our diverse unity? Who is going to share that radically inclusive love of God unless we do? Who is going to be at the heart of the unconditional forgiveness of Jesus unless we are? Who will reconcile us one to another, unless we do it with all the heart, mind and strength of the Holy Spirit?
As a consequence of our fallible human nature, moments inevitably arise when we get down on one another and perhaps criticize and squabble with one another. Whenever that happens, we learn to snap out of it and to reconcile our differences, because we must never loose sight of how important each one of us is to Jesus and to one another.
A Kaleidoscope of Gifts
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” – I Corinthians 12:4-6
We are a magnificent kaleidoscope of giftedness, service, and activity… yet we are one. The apostle’s words were manifested this day by the priestly Incardination of Father Vladimir into OCCA and by the Chrismation (confirmation) of Jeffery into the apostolic faith. By the considerate generosity and hospitality of Christ the Good Shepherd Independent Catholic Community in Ferndale, Michigan, our beloved Archbishop Peter (Zahrt), Metropolitan of the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America (OCCA), presided over the community’s liturgical services of Pentecost Sunday.
In his homily, Archbishop Peter invited us to consider that the breath of God breathes within us with every breath we take in and is shared with the world with each breath we exhale. It is in the very act of being alive that we participate in the life of God. Holiness fills our lungs, which is why the mystics instruct us to breathe deeply. Surely when we exercise we breathe that way, but how about when we sit in silence and concentrate on the Presence of God, and practice that Presence. Peace indeed comes upon us, within us, and indeed among us. Just a moment of silence when we pray can remind us of the breath within our lungs and the beating of our hearts.
“For there was, what no imagination could conceive, not one soul in all, but One Holy Spirit, dwelling indivisibly in each, One and the Same filling each soul, the very Same in each, binding them together by the virtue of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, melting all into a perfect oneness of will by the fire of love which God is.” – E.B. Pusey
Veni Creator Spiritus
St. Symeon the New Theologian invokes this great mystery in his prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly you create, refashion and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved, yet at every instant you are wholly in movement; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips; yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.