Pentecost: The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Blessed and Holy Pentecost! The Feast of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the Theotokos. In the Byzantine rite of the Catholic Church, it is remembered through the lens of the final revelation of the dogma of the Trinity, to which most hymns of the holy office refer.

The Bible relates: “When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven… and something appeared to them like tongues of fire… They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and begun to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Pentecost is also known as the feast of the foundation of the Church, of the beginning of her mission to the world, and of Christian unity within the diversity of nations, languages, and cultures.

Todays Troparion (Tone 8) cries out to the Lord reciting:

Blessed are You, O Christ, our God, for you have given us wise fishermen, after sending them Your Holy Spirit, You caught all the world through them, O Loving Master, glory to You!

Todays Kondakion (Tone 8):

When once You confused the tongues, You divided the nations, O Mighty One. When You bestowed the tongues of fire, You called all to unity, therefore with one voice, we glorify the Holy Spirit!

1st Sidalen Hymn (Tone 4):

Come, O Faithful, let us celebrate the feast of the Fiftieth day; the day on which the pre-ordained promised is fulfilled! The day when the Comforter descends upon the earth in tongues of Fire; the day of the disciples’ enlightenment! They are revealed as initiated into the heavenly Mysteries, for truly the light of the Comforter has illumined the world.

–  In the Second Sidalen, i.e. the Hymns following the 2nd Reading from the Book of Psalms, the Spirit’s descent is likened to a fountain whose waters gush down to the earth rather than up from the ground. The flames are compared with the Divine Wind (literally Spirit) that saved the three youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace of Nebudchadmezaar’s Babylon (see Book of Daniel, chapter 3.) The youths were condemned to death for worshipping the One True God rather than to idols such as the golden statue. It is the same Divine Wind which accompanied the appearance of the Son of God, through Whom the Spirit preserved from burning but brought a cool dew of life.

2nd Sidalen Hymn (Tone 4):

The fountain of the Spirit rushes down to earth, mystically divided into flaming streams, both refreshing and enlightening the Apostles; the fire became for them a cloud of dew, raining enlightenment upon them. From them we have received grace by fire and water, for truly the light of the Comforter has illumined the world. Extol, O my soul, extol the One God in Trinity of Persons!

–  Fact: In Ukrainian, the feast is called “Zeleni Svyata” or “Green Holidays.” The Church and the homes of the faithful are decorated throughout with green branches and flowers, signifying the new life conferred upon us by the life-creating Spirit.

 

 

Saint Abbot Daniel: The Story of the Real Presence

  

 
Due to the fall of the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s Commands, we live in a world in where God is challenged. Instead of faith by hearing, man rather have faith by sight. Man’s logic is sadly based upon a mindset that grasps materialism rather than the supernatural. 

Unfortunately; those within the Church throughout the centuries began questioning the dogmas of the Church due to their lack of faith and not being able to physically see truth, therefore the rising of heresies. A good example of this is the common rejection of The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

Even though fingers are commonly pointed at the Protestant congregations in regards to the denial of the real presence, we must go back to the 5th century in where the Eucharist was also challenged by even those within the Church, something that is sadly making a come back.

  
Since this contradicts the ancient faith, let’s first examine the lesson of Saint Abbot Daniel;  a desert Church father from the 5th century and a disciple of Saint Arsenius.

St Abbot Daniel the Pharanite stated: “Our Father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naivete” he was deceived and said, “The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.” 

Two old men having learnt that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, “Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.” 

The old man said, “It is I who have said that.” Then the old men exhorted him saying, “Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ and that the cup itself is his blood and this in all truth and not a symbol. 

But as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ.” The old man said to them, “As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced.” 

So they said, “Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us.” The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed in these words, “Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ.” The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed God, saying, 

“Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward.” God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child’s blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel also cut the child in pieces. 

When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, “Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood.” Immediately the flesh, which he held in his hand, became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, 

“God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith.” Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labour. So all three returned with joy to their own cells.’