(Acts 1:11 & John 7: 37-52, 8, 12)
It is with great joy that we Orthodox celebrate today, through the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the establishment on earth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. The Lord had spoken to His disciples before His Passion: "When I depart, I will send to you the Consoler (the Holy Spirit)" (John 16: 7). "And the Consoler, i.e. the Holy Spirit ... will teach you all things, and will bring to your memory all that I have said to you" (John 14: 26). After His holy Resurrection, Jesus had told His disciples: "Wait for the promise of the Father to be fulfilled, for which I have spoken to you ... that is, in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4 -5), and "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (verse 8).
All that Jesus had told His disciples were fulfilled fifty days after His Resurrection. As we heard from the Apostolic reading, on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles, the Mother of the Lord, and all those who followed Jesus and remained faithful to Him until the end, were assembled in one place. There were about 120 persons all together. Suddenly, a very loud noise was heard. "Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them, and then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:3-4). Thus in the God-man Body of the Church, which Jesus Christ had established with His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven to remain forever as the life-giving soul of the Church.
The Church is a God-man Organization. The visible part of the Church is made up of the Holy Apostles with the other 120, who, as we have seen, were the first to receive the Holy Spirit. Also, the 3,000 who heard the preaching of the Apostles, believed in Christ and were baptized on the same day. And then, all the others, who were catechized, believed in the Triune God, were baptized and remain faithful members of the Church in the whole world throughout the ages.
The invisible part of the Church is the Triune God together with the whole rank of the Angelic Incorporeal Powers. Especially our Lord Jesus Christ as the Head and Body of the Church as well as the Holy Spirit, being the soul of the Church.
The Holy Spirit "establishes perfect order in the institution of the Church" (Vespers Stichera). All the Holy Sacraments of the Church are performed by the Triune God through the grace of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Priest prays to God the Father:
- During Holy Baptism: "Father, sanctify this water through the grace of Your Holy Spirit".
- During Holy Unction: "Send Your Holy Spirit and sanctify this Oil".
- At the consecration of a Church: "Father, ... consecrate with the grace of Your Holy Spirit this new Church".
The Holy Spirit truly comes and completes the Sacrament. At the same time, the Holy Spirit comes to us, with all His divine energies, through the Holy Sacraments and through all the sacred Services of the Church,. Thus, our body becomes the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit sanctifies us, enlightens us, strengthens us and gives us His fruits, as Apostle Paul presents them in his Epistle: "The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control," (Galatians 5:22).
Dear brothers and sisters, we can safely say that the life of the Church and of every believer is driven and manipulated by the Holy Spirit. That is why all the Holy Services of the Church begin with the Prayer to the Holy Spirit: "O heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of Truth ... come and dwell in us." In just a few minutes, we will kneel down in order to pray to the Holy Trinity; let us therefore beg from the bottom of our hearts the Holy Spirit to continuously remain in our hearts throughout our lives, in order to strengthen us in our spiritual struggle and to sanctify us. Amen.