Sunday, June 19, 2016

"The Heavens Above Have Opened"

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Saint John Chrysostom, my beloved brethren, speaking of the epidemic of the All-Holy Spirit in the blessed upper room of Zion on the day of Pentecost, states among other things the following:

"Today neither manna nor fire nor rain came down, but a spiritual storm of good things. A heavenly rain came down, not to cause the fruitfulness of the earth, but to convince the human race to offer the fruits of the virtues to the tiller of mankind. And those who received a drop of this rain from heaven immediately forgot themselves and suddenly the whole earth was filled with angels, not heavenly angels, but those who reveal in their human body the virtues of the bodiless powers."1

Today is manifested on the earth the ark of salvation, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Today is crushed the errors of the cacodox and the reconciliation of God with people is sealed. Not because God was an enemy of humanity, but instead humanity had built a wall before God.

From today and to the ages forever, the hearts of people will be tilled with the plow of piety and the seed of the knowledge of God within the true body of Christ, which is the Church. From today there will no longer be despair or spiritual bondage, but the Holy Spirit will lead us to spiritual adoption and will distribute the treasures of wisdom. From today each of us can become containers of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

And I would like you to allow me to convey to your love some borrowed thoughts from the Holy Fathers regarding the presence of the grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

First, the God-bearer John of Damascus, in one of the hymns of today's feast, calls this grace "sent by God" (θεόρρητη). And those inspired by grace, become brilliant, lightning-like, changed in a strange and most-beautiful way. This grace sent by God is the power of the Holy Spirit which comes into the world on the day of Pentecost like another law, the "law of the Spirit", who "liberates us from the law of sin and death."2 He transmits life to those who want to be united with the Source of Life, who is Christ. Thus, the slave of sin is transformed into a child of the grace of God.

"And just as the fire that we see, when it receives the soft clay, it makes it into a hard tile, so to does the fire of the Holy Spirit, when He receives a wise soul, and though it be softer than clay, is made stronger than iron. Also the one who was previously corrupted with the filth of sins, is immediately made bright and like the sun,"3 observes the golden-mouthed Father of the Church.

Second, the Holy Spirit with grace sent by God is always present in the life of the Church. He is "everywhere present and fills all things, the treasury of good things and giver of life." This is why full of admiration the sacred hymnographer of the Church chants: "The Holy Spirit gives all things: He inspires prophecy, perfects the priesthood, grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the organization of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, equal in nature and majesty with the Father and the Son, glory to You."4

He leads us to the knowledge of God.

He inspires the prophets, then, today and always.

He gives grace to Priests.

He works wondrous healings.

He gives life to the ill.

"If he takes a tax-collector that will believe, He will make him an evangelist like the Apostle Matthew; a fisherman, He will make a theologian, like the Apostle Peter; a repentant persecutor, He will make into a preacher to the nations and chosen vessel, like the Apostle Paul,"5 the luminary of the Church Basil the Great will note.

Thus, this grace, certain and sensed within our Church, which removes all the powers of sin and objects of the enemy, this help from above, is offered abundantly to every faithful Christian, to be led to repentance, illumination, and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

"And just as in the mystery of Baptism we put on Christ, so we also put on the Holy Spirit. Not like a garment, but as iron in fire and becomes inflamed. So when the Comforter fills the hearts of each person, their eyes are illumined and hearing sanctified and understanding flows and wisdom is granted, and the face of that person is filled with His joy, just like the face of the Holy Protomartyr Stephen, who they saw as having the face of an angel."6

My beloved brethren,

The feast of Pentecost, the feast par excellence of our Orthodox Church, the feast of the epidemic of the Holy Spirit, with its incomparable hymns reminds us also of some basic truths:

First, "every feast is made with a clear conscience and not only with the time of year,"7 according to Saint John Chrysostom. Whoever is united with God always celebrates Pascha, Theophany and Pentecost, simply because they have the All-Holy Spirit dwelling in them. There is no death for them, but eternal life which begins in this world and continues endlessly in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Second, this feast prompts the following questions: Do I desire to become a container of the grace of the Holy Spirit? Do I want to hand over the wheel of my life to the governance of the grace of God? Am I able to be a servant of the Comforter?

I pray that on this day you will all be containers of the grace of God, servants and vessels of the All-Holy Spirit, that our lives may be changed, and love together with all the fruits of the Holy Spirit will dwell in us.


1. "On Holy Pentecost", Homily 2, Ch. 2.
2. Rom. 8:2.
3. "On Holy Pentecost", Homily 2, Ch. 1.
4. Sticheron of Pentecost.
5. "On Faith", Homily 15, Ch. 3, PG 31, 469C.
6. Nun Anthousa, Εορτοδρόμιον τομ. Η’ – Ερμηνεία των Ασματικών κανόνων της Αγίας Πεντηκοστής, published by Ιεράς Κοινοβιακής Μονής Ευαγγελισμού Μητρός Ηγαπημένου Πάτμου, Athens 1995, p. 187 (footnote 27).
7. "On Holy Pentecost", Homily 1, Ch. 7.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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