On 8 June 2014, the Orthodox Christians celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit, a feast also known as Pentecost. The Church history mentions the feast as the time of the Descent of the Holy Spirit as fire tongues over the Apostles, as we read in the Acts 2:1-4. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Patriarchal Cathedral by His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, assisted by a group of priests and deacons, in the presence of many faithful.
After reading the evangelical pericope of Saint John (John 7:37-53; 8:12), the Patriarch of Romania delivered a sermon in which he emphasised the spiritual meaning of the evangelical pericope.
The Holy Spirit brings new fire to the divine love
“The Holy Spirit came down over the Apostles when they were all together. Thus, the Holy Spirit came down over persons who were in community to teach them how to live in communion of love with God and with their fellow beings. The Holy Spirit is the same, but is shown as fire tongues also to show that every Apostle has his mission to orally preach, using the Gospel of Christ as his tongue. The fact that the Apostles speak different languages through the work of the Holy Spirit and that those present there, in Jerusalem, understood in their mother tongue shows us that the Holy Spirit wants to gather together various peoples and persons in the love of God in the Church of Christ. Those who were in Jerusalem were Jews and proselytes who had come to the feast of the Pentecost from all over the world, says the book of the Acts. It means that God calls the diversity of the peoples to unity of faith, the faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was made man out of love for the humans and for their salvation, and to communion of holiness, of holy life to get the eternal life in the Kingdom of the Most Holy Trinity. The wonder was made over the Apostles too who were speaking languages they could not speak till then, as well as over the listeners who could hear the Apostles speaking in their mother tongues. This wonderful work of the Descent of the Holy Spirit also shows us that the Holy Spirit brings new fire to the divine love: pure love, not passionate love, merciful and devoted love, love that makes us wish holiness, hearing the word of God, warm out heart in prayer, rid of sins through repentance and good deeds. Today’s feast also shows us that there is a relationship between the Holy Spirit and God-the-Word. This is why the Holy Spirit is shown as fire tongues. Thus, the tongue expresses what the mind is thinking. The Holy Spirit comes down not on the shoulders or lips of the Apostles, but over their heads just to show that the person expresses his/her identity through what he/she thinks. The mind and tongue are related, so that the tongue expresses the thought of the mind. Thus, when the head is deified, the whole body is, and so, the Holy Spirit shows Himself as the One who makes the work of God-the-Word known. The Holy Spirit does not teach something different from Christ, but shares us the new teaching of Christ and the life of Christ in the Holy Sacraments”, His Beatitude showed.
The Holy Spirit gives us the life of Christ through baptism and unites us with the Most Holy Trinity
His Beatitude further explained that “This is why the baptism is done through the work of the Holy Spirit who shares with us the life of the Christ Crucified and Risen and Who gives us the grace of adoption, so that we become sons of God-the-Father in God-the-Son in Jesus Christ and prayers to God-the Father as brothers in the Spirit of Christ. Thus, the Holy Spirit gives us the life of Christ through baptism and unites us with the Most Holy Trinity. This is why the Baptism followed right after the Holy Spirit came down over the Apostles and after Peter delivered a speech in which he spoke about the mystery of the people’s salvation in Jesus Christ Crucified and Risen. The Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord so that we can share the life of Christ Crucified, Risen and glorified, namely ascended to Heaven. We cannot receive Christ without the work of the Holy Spirit, because Christ becomes the life of our life through the Holy Spirit, namely He becomes interior to us. While living in the world He was in front of the people, but now, through the work of the Holy Spirit, Christ becomes interior to the people, namely intimate. The Holy Spirit has no image; he does not compete with the image or face of Christ, but confirms Christ and communicates Him or shares Christ to the people. Thus, the Holy Spirit shares us the life of Christ and has only one wish, and this is why he has no image, because every Christian must become the image of Christ through love for God and for people. This is why Saint Basil the Great called the Holy Spirit the Architect of the Church, the architect from inside who enlightens, warms up, and deifies the human life in order to make every human a saint just like the One Holy Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one who works at the ordination of the deacon, priest and bishop. He implements the celebration of the sacraments of Christ in the life of the Church. This is why the divine grace who strengthens the helpless ordains through the hands the hierarch lays over the deacons, priests, bishops and He is the worker of all the Holy Sacraments: “The Holy Spirit Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Communion, Spirit of unity, is present and working in Matrimony, in the Sacrament of confession and forgiveness of sins, in the Sacrament of the Holy Unction, in all the sacraments and deifying works of the Church; the Holy Spirit gives life to every creature. He makes the fields green, and gives life to all beings on the earth: to birds, animals. Everything is living through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is why the psalmist says in Psalm 103 which we hear at the Vesper: “You will send Your Spirit and everything will be built, created, they will be created and you will renew the face of the earth. You will take away their spirit and they will go back to dust”. But much more than that, the Holy Spirit gives the people the gift of adoption in the heavenly eternal life”.
The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church has also emphasised the significance of the walnut or lime leaves brought to be blessed: “Today, we bring lime or walnut leaves to the church because they are tongue shaped and so we announce the joy of spreading the Gospel of Christ all over the world through the promotion of the mystery the people’s salvation in the love of Christ and in the love of the Most Holy Trinity, as well as because we want everything to be blessed. We take the walnut or lime leaves home after they are blessed because we want all nature be blessed and so, the place where we live and work too; everything is called to be under the blessing, work and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Thus, on this day we call the Holy Spirit especially by kneeling down at the Vesper time which follows right after the Liturgy and praying for the forgiveness of our sins and the foretaste of the eternal life. We pray for purification and blessing through the work of the Holy Spirit”.
After celebrating the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel, celebrated in the Patriarchal Cathedral – assisted by a group of priests and deacons – a special service called the Pentecost Vesper, when seven prayers were said, four in a loud voice and three in a low voice. The walnut leaves were also blessed symbolically remembering the fire tongues through which the Holy Spirit working in the Disciples of Christ was shown, whom He sent to preach His Gospel in various languages, namely to various peoples, till the end of the earth, starting from Jerusalem. This is the third special Vesper celebrated during the church year. The other two are celebrated on the Holy Friday, when the Holy Epitaph is taken to the middle of the church, and on the Holy Easter Sunday, at noon, also called according to tradition “the Second Resurrection”.
The answers at the Divine Liturgy and Vesper were given by Nicolae Lungu chorus of the Romanian Patriarchate conducted by Rev Lecturer Dr Stelian Ionascu.
To end with, the Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church offered the faithful little icons of the feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit and walnut leaves.