The Roots of Pentecost

June 6, 2009 Length: 37:34

Fr. Thomas looks at the roots of Pentecost—the coming of the Spirit—in Old Testament worship.

In series The Paschal Season

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Transcript

The eighth Sunday of Pascha is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the 50th day after the Passover, after Pascha. Pentecost means “fifty,” and originally the term “Pentecost” referred to the entire 50 days of the Paschal season. Then the last day was called Pentecost, the final day. Originally in the Bible, as we know, Pascha and therefore its completion in Pentecost on the 50th day of Pascha, was an agricultural feast. It had to do with the firstfruits coming up in the springtime, the first plants emerging in the time of spring. Then it was a kind of first harvest time that was fulfilled on the 50th day.

So you have in the Scripture the feast of Pascha, the feast of firstfruits with the unleavened bread and with the bringing of the harvest, and then the 50th day celebration, and that was called in the Scripture the week of weeks, meaning the seven-times-seven days. So that’s where you get the 50: seven times seven, plus one, makes 50.

The festivals in the Scripture, virtually all of them in the law of Moses, were originally agricultural and cosmic celebrations having to do with harvest and firstfruits and foods and eating and drinking and being blessed by God to be able to remain alive. This is certainly true about Pascha, about the Passover, and certainly true in its completion in Pentecost if you read the law of Moses.

However, we have also to note—and obviously we cannot help but to note—that the feast of Passover at the springtime at the vernal equinox came to be the celebration of the deliverance of God’s people from bondage in Egypt, that the people were oppressed by Pharaoh and that they were in subjection. Then added to the festival of the unleavened bread, you had the festival of killing of the Paschal lamb in remembrance of the deliverance out of Egypt of God’s people, the act by which actually, through Moses, the Lord God Almighty proves his choice of the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, makes them his chosen, holy people, makes that Mosaic covenant with him. There were earlier covenants with Noah and with Abraham, but the defining act of the old covenant is the Lord’s Pascha.

It’s the central act, and it’s the celebration, of course, of the exodus, the celebration of being delivered from the bondage, slavery, oppression of the Egyptians, of being delivered by God. God strikes dead the firstborn of the Egyptians; he redeems the firstborn of the Hebrews, the Jews, the people of Israel. He leads them across the Red Sea; he leads them into the desert. He feeds them with the manna, and he saves his people and constitutes his people as a people for himself, a chosen people, a holy people, a kingdom of priests.

So the commemoration in Israel of Pascha was the center of the Church year, the celebration of the Passover. Then there are prescriptions about how to celebrate that Pascha. You kill the lamb, you put the blood on the doorposts, you eat standing: in the middle of the night, dressed in your best clothes, showing that you are on your way, that you are being delivered. It’s very interesting that when this festival was instituted in the holy Scripture, when you find it prescribed in the law of Moses, this Paschal feast, you have the ritual of the child asking the father, “Father, what does this mean? Why are we killing this lamb? Why are we having this meal? Why are we eating in this way at this time? What is this all about? What is the meaning of it?”

And the answer that is given is extremely important, especially in relationship to Egyptian religion Canaanite religion, because in those religions the sacrifices and the killing of the lamb and the ritual acts were primarily, even virtually exclusively, to ward off and to fend off the wrath and the anger of god against his people and to kind of win his help, to be made healthy, to be made happy. The sacrificial systems and rituals of Canaanite religion, Egyptian religion, might even dare say virtually all what we would call pagan religion, was appeasing the deity, pacifying the deity, winning the favor of the deity, warding off the wrath of the deity.

But here you have something completely and totally different. When the young boy, the young child, asks the father, “Father, what does all this mean?” the answer that is given is not that it means that we want to appease the deity and ward off his anger and win his favor and make sure he makes us healthy and happy. The answer is: We’re doing all this because God has chosen us. God has loved us. God has redeemed us. God has favored us. God has chosen us from among the nations. The righteous and holy God has allowed us to know his righteousness, to know his holiness, to know his fidelity, to be his people, to constitute his people, and to know the Lord and to know that he is the Lord, that the One who redeemed us, who saved us, who delivered us, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that this God is the Creator of heaven and earth, that he is the only God that there is. He is the true God, the living God, the active God, the God of all the gods, the King of all the kings, the Victor over all the other powers in the universe, the One who gives us the firstfruits and who gives us the harvest and who orders the sun and the moon and the rain and the stars and the earth and allows us to live. This is the celebration of the Lord’s Pascha. It’s the celebration of deliverance and victory and God’s righteousness and God’s truth, and this is what is celebrated at Pascha.

And then, by the time you get to the time of Jesus and the centuries closest to the time when Christ was born, there was a kind of a greater spelling-out of what this Paschal celebration was, and it was extended through these 50 days and this week of weeks, these seven weeks we’re celebrating this particular event, and then there came to be considered to be the celebration on the 50th day of the kind of the crowning, ultimate achievement, of the Passover exodus, and that was the giving of the Law to Moses, the covenant law.

So the 50th day after Pascha, which was not on Sunday originally—we’ll see that in a second—but this spring feast of Passover in which the lordship of Yahweh as the deliverer and the redeemer and the chooser of his people, was kind of crowned in that this Yahweh Lord gave the Law to his people, and he gave it to Moses and he gave it on Sinai. You have the tablets of the Ten Commandments and all of the laws of the Lord given to Moses. That was celebrated on the 50th day: the 50th day, the completion of the celebration, the completion of the exodus, was the giving of this Law of God to his people.

Here it’s important to remember that the Ten Commandments and generally the whole law of Moses, what we find in Exodus and its deliverance, then in Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy, and the Torah, the whole Torah, is not at all some kind of ethical code for all humanity. It’s sometimes considered by people to be that, and in some sense even to be not much different from law codes that you find other places—I don’t know, Hammurabi or whatever—about how people’s lives ought to be ordered and how they ought to behave and that they shouldn’t lie and they shouldn’t steal and they shouldn’t commit adultery and so on. There’s a truth to that, certainly, because the law of God that’s given to his people on Sinai through Moses is the law which, according to Scripture itself and certainly according to the Apostle Paul and others, and certainly the saints of the Christian Church like St. Anthony of Egypt, they point out that this law was implanted in the very heart, in the very being of human beings, who were created in the image and likeness of God. It’s called the implanted word.

In fact, St. Anthony the Great says that if we do not follow the law that’s given to us in our very human nature, we will never come to see the Scriptures and the Torah as the law of God, and we will certainly never come to see Jesus of Nazareth as the incarnate Torah, as the Word incarnate, as the One who completes, fulfills, interprets, exegetes, and actualizes in his own Person the law of God given to Moses which is the law of God given to humanity from creation itself, from the very beginning.

But this law that is given to the people through Moses, if you understand it in terms of the biblical narrative, in terms of the Bible, it is basically a covenant law. This is how I believe it should be understood. The people believe that they have been delivered by the Lord God Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who chose those people, who is the Creator of heaven and earth and the only God there is. So then they believe that they are purchased by this God; they are redeemed by this God; that this God has taken them to himself by saving them from the Egyptian bondage by delivering them, and even by leading them through the desert, ultimately, by destroying the Canaanite enemies who have other gods.

Actually, the wars between God’s people and the people of Canaan are wars between gods. They’re not so much wars between people. And it is not at all that the people are manipulating God in order for him to destroy their enemies. Just the opposite is the Bible story, that the God has chosen them, and most of the time they’re not even faithful: they don’t even keep the Law. They betray the Law. Even when Moses is receiving the Law, they’re worshiping a golden cow. Moses gets angry. He breaks the tablets, and he has to go back and get it again. Then he has to intercede on behalf of the people. He has to stand in the breach, because the people are not following the Law.

But the Law that is given is the gracious act of God as part of the covenant. The people believe that this God has saved them, and then God, as it were, says to them, “You believe that I am the true and living God, you believe that I am your God, you believe that I am the God of all the gods, you believe that the Ba’alim and the Asteroth and the Egyptian gods are no gods at all, you believe that I have saved you, you believe that I have liberated you, you believe that I have redeemed you, you believe that I have chosen you—if you believe all those things, then this is the way you act; this is how you behave.” Then he gave him the Law: the moral law and the ritual law, the liturgical law. He showed them how to behave and how to worship and how to come to know God and how to order their life.

So the faith in God and God’s fidelity to his people is expressed in this Law, the law of God, which is again, to repeat, radically different in its whole even coming-into-being from the religions and the sacrificial systems and the ritual activities of the Canaanite religions, the Egyptian religions, and we can say even all the religions of the earth, because religions, technically speaking, are human beings’ attempt to come to terms with the forces of nature and the cosmos and the deities and the powers and what is driving and controlling their life, which is called “the gods.”

Whereas the Bible is just the opposite. Man cannot control God. We cannot manipulate God; we cannot win God by sacrificial rituals that we ourselves would offer to God somehow to appease him and to win his favor and to ward off his wrath and so on. No, no, that’s not the Bible. The story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses is God is the one who is choosing, God is the one who is acting, God is the one who is sharing his righteousness, his truth, his knowledge, his power with the people that he has chosen as a pure grace. We even come to believe that he has chosen these people for the sake of [the] salvation of the whole creation, for the salvation of the world in their messianic king who is to come, who will fulfill all the Law perfectly and thereby redeem the whole world, in whom, as it was promised to Abraham, that he was the seed in which all the families of the earth ultimately would be blessed.

In this giving of the Law to the people at the Passover exodus, you had already in Judaism a kind of a focus on these two aspects of the Passover exodus: the liberation from slavery, the being given life, the being constituted as a people; and being given the Law. That particular celebration was the celebration of the final day. As the final and the last and great feast, Pentecost was even symbolized by being 50 days after Pascha, which is seven times seven plus one. That shows that it is the ultimate, final act of this action of God in redeeming his people from Egypt. Now, of course, the Christians appear and Jesus of Nazareth appears, and what happens then is something that in a sense was already being anticipated in the Old Testament, namely that the liberation of the people from Egypt began to be understood as a kind of a prefiguration of the ultimate salvation of God of all of his creation at the end of the ages.

There grew up this understanding that this Passover exodus and the giving of the Law was an anticipation of the time when everyone would be freed from all enslavements, and the ultimate and final enslavement was to death; and that all of the world, not just Israel, would worship the one, true, and living God; and that everything would be restored, everything would be reconstituted. The Law, as the prophets were predicting, would no longer be on stone, but would be written in hearts. There would be a new covenant in which even the Gentiles and the nations would be included, and they would stand before God like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob themselves.

It’s even written that an altar will be set up in Egypt, of all places, to the true and living God. In fact, that particular prophecy is read on the festival of the Orthodox Church on the Presentation of Christ to the Temple on the 40th day after his birth, that he will be a light of revelation to the nations; the nations will worship him. The Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh in the messianic time, and the whole cosmos, everything will be redeemed. In fancy language, this would be said that these festivals became eschatologized; they started being understood in a kind of an anticipation of the eschaton, the ending of all things, the completion of all things in God, a kind of a preview or a foretaste of the ultimate act of God in saving the whole creation through his people Israel in the seed, the one seed, as St. Paul said, the Child promised to Abraham, the one King of whose kingdom there would be no end, that was promised to one of the sons of David the King.

So the whole Old Testament, we Christians believe, is all fulfilled in Jesus, that Jesus is really the ultimate, final act of God, that in Jesus really the end of the ages has come, that in Jesus, the suffering servant who is made Messiah and Lord and raised and glorified, is literally, literally God’s final act in history, and when he is glorified and enthroned, then the Spirit of God himself is poured out on all people from the youngest to the oldest and men and women, and everybody is prophesied, as Moses says: “Would that all people were prophets.” That will happen in that final age.

As the final age was anticipated before the coming of Jesus, the Christians were convinced that it had come in Jesus, that it had finally come in Jesus, and therefore Jesus is the New Pascha, the Kaine Pascha, the New Pascha. He is the Paschal Lamb who was slain, and the new Exodus, which Jesus spoke about with the apostles on the mount of Transfiguration, according to the Gospel of St. Luke, because it says he spoke with them about the exodus that he was to make in Jerusalem, when Moses and Elijah were with him on that mountain before his Passion. The real exodus is from death to life, from earth to heaven. The real liberation is the emptying of the tombs, the raising of all the dead, the inclusion of the Gentiles. So Christians believe that the end of the ages had come upon them. That’s what even the first sermons of the apostles on the day of Pentecost in the book of Acts say: This Jesus who was crucified, God has raised and glorified, and the Spirit has been poured out upon us, and the end of the ages is upon us. The kingship of God has appeared in the midst of us. This was the Christian Gospel, the Christian teaching.

So for Christians, the Passover became the Passover of Christ, the Pascha Pascha Pascha that we just sang about during this Paschal season. “O Pascha, great Pascha, eternal Pascha! Pascha of beauty, Pascha of glory!” We just sing that again and again, but this Pascha is the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the ultimate Pascha. It’s celebrated for 50 days. It’s celebrating the whole of God’s saving activity that is concluded then on the day of Pentecost, which for Christians will always be a Sunday, because the Lord’s day, the Christian Pascha, is always celebrated on a Sunday, because that’s the first day and then that’s mia ton Savvaton, one after seven, the eighth day. So the day of resurrection of Christ is considered the eighth day. And the day of the outpouring of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which is the direct result of the raising and glorification of Jesus, is then celebrated on the 50th day, as I said already twice: the seven-times-seven plus one, the 49. That is really the eschatological day. That really is the day of the coming kingdom, the day beyond the sevens of this world, of the cosmos.

That’s how the Christians christened the festivals of Pascha and with it the 50th day of Pascha, Pentecost. That’s how it was done, just like, we should notice now, the Feast of Tabernacles and Booths was christened by the Christians in the celebration of the Transfiguration, the second harvest feast of summer which was understood as the boothing and the tabernacling of Jesus, filled with glory and anticipating the coming of the kingdom in the risen Christ. And the Festival of Lights, in the darkness of winter, the kindling of the lamps in the Temple came to be the celebration of the Epiphany of God, the God entering into the world in the Person of Jesus, the Light of the world, shining forth in the midst of the world. Therefore the Orthodox Christians also celebrate for about a hundred day almost the coming of the Lord in the wintertime. We have the 40 days before the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Then there’s the Circumcision of Christ, then the Entrance to the Temple and the Baptism in the Jordan, this Epiphany celebration.

It’s interesting to note that in some of the homilies of the earliest Church Fathers in the most ancient Christian Church, even into the fourth century, like Gregory the Theologian, he says that the celebration of Pentecost, those 50 days in the springtime, originally for Christians were a celebration of the entire salvation accomplished by God. Even his coming and his birth was celebrated during those days. For example, on Ascension day, the celebration of his ascension and enthronement is also connected to his coming. Who is this who has ascended but he who first descended and became human, and not only human but dead, and not only dead but curséd dead, in order to be raised and glorified and to glorify the whole of creation?

In one of the homilies, Gregory the Theologian says in these 50 days of Pascha, the 50 days of Pascha that are fulfilled on the 50th day which is Pentecost Sunday, he said Christians even celebrate the Incarnation. They celebrate the coming of Christ, not only his death and resurrection and glorification, but his coming, because he can’t die and be raised and glorified unless he first came: he who descended, and descended into the lower parts of the earth—this is the teaching of St. Paul.

It’s very interesting how all of this developed historically, because it seems pretty certain that for Christians, the first Christians, the great celebration of the salvation of the world was these 50 days of Pascha. And then the other feasts began to be christened, and then the specific birth and incarnation and epiphany and showing forth and humanity was kind of switched over in focus to the wintertime, to the Festival of Lights. So you had the feasts of Epiphany at first, and then that got even more specifically split up, so to speak, in separate feasts, like the Nativity, like the Circumcision, like the Entrance into the Temple, like the Baptism in the Jordan. They became separate feasts, while originally they were all one. So also, Pascha-Pentecost was originally all one. It was a 50-day celebration of all these things together.

Of course, according to the Scripture we should note that in St. John’s gospel, the theological gospel, all these things happen on Easter Day itself. They all happen on the Sunday of the resurrection. In St. John’s gospel on the evening of the resurrection, the risen, glorified Christ who is already glorified in the divine presence of God the Father, he appears to the apostle in the evening of the very day of resurrection in all of his glory. Then he breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit, on that very first day—not on the 50th day, but on the very day of resurrection, because all these acts are together.

They came to be celebrated separately—resurrection on the first day, ascension on the 40th day, giving of the Spirit on the 50th day. Even there developed the Mid-Pentecost on the 25th day in the Orthodox Church, where everything sort of comes together in the middle of Pentecost, a special festival in the Orthodox Church. The resurrection, the ascension, the Pentecost: they’re all brought together kind of in one contemplation. Then they get split up into their separate parts with their separate emphases. Then the first day becomes the emphasis on the resurrection as such. The 40th day, the emphasis on the ascension and the enthronement and glorification as such. The 50th day as the result of all that, which is the outpouring of God’s own Holy Spirit on all flesh, on the 50th day that is the great and final day that completes the whole saving activity of God in his Son, Jesus, the suffering servant who is Christ and Lord.

So when we think of all these things, we come to Pentecost Sunday, the 50th day, the final day, and we remember that this is kind of the ultimate act. It’s very interesting that in St. John’s gospel also you have this second appearance of Christ to the apostles on the eighth day after the resurrection. That was Thomas Sunday. We reflected on that, about how the doors were being shut, it was the eighth day, the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, after Resurrection Sunday, and then the Lord appears and reveals himself to Thomas, who calls him, “My Lord and my God!” So that’s the eighth day after resurrection. Now we have the 50th day, the seven [times] seven plus one, which is really a symbol of the eighth day of the coming kingdom of God.

Of course, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was prophesied as the final act of God when the Messiah was glorified. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the anticipation of the coming kingdom at the very end of the ages, because according to the holy Scripture, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the coming of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is defined, for example, by St. Paul as the peace, the shalom of God, the dikaiosyne, the righteousness of God, and the chara, the joy of God: the peace and the joy and the righteousness in the Holy Spirit.

According to the early Church Fathers, for example, Athanasius in his letter to Serapion on the Holy Spirit, or the treatise, On the Holy Spirit, by St. Basil the Great, who basically copies Athanasius and expands on it, or the Fifth Theological Oration of St. Gregory the Theologian on the Holy Spirit, they make the point that Jesus is the Christos, the Christ, but the chrisma, the unction with which he is anointed as the Anointed One is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the basilevs, the king, the king of glory, the messianic king; but the vasilia, the kingship or the kingdom, is the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Then the holy Fathers play with that. They’ll say: Jesus is the life; the Holy Spirit is the life-giving Spirit. Jesus is the truth; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Jesus is the wisdom of God; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom. We’ll talk about this again, I am sure, when we reflect on our Christian faith in these radio broadcasts. But for now what we want to see is that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is the ultimate act of God. It’s the ultimate act of the Father. It is the great and final day. It is the anticipation of the coming age, of the coming kingdom of God. It is the firstfruit and the foretaste of the coming age.

Here this brings back the original agricultural and cosmic themes, because the themes of this Paschal-Pentecostal period originally in the Bible was a celebration of the firstfruits of God and the harvest and the gift of life of God just in nature. That’s why in the new covenant Jesus Christ and his activity is called the firstfruit. Jesus is the firstfruit of salvation, or the firstborn. He is not only the firstborn of creation, the prototokos tes ktiseos, the firstborn of creation—because the firstborn is the one who inherits everything—but he is the firstborn from among the dead, the prototokos ek nekron, from among the dead people. He is the firstfruit of God’s activity. The kingship of God, the kingdom of God, is already fully established in the raised, glorified, and enthroned Son of God. It is not yet for us—we’re still in this world—but it is already for Jesus.

What we Christians celebrate every day of our life, and certainly every Lord’s day, every Sunday, every feastday, is that the kingdom has come in Jesus, and we pray for that kingdom to come among us. For example, the Lord’s Prayer: we say: Make your name be holy, as it is already in Jesus, enthroned at your right hand, so also in us, his members on earth. May your kingship come, may your kingdom come, as it has already come in Jesus the Messiah, who is raised and glorified at the Father’s right hand, so also in us who are his members on earth, inspired by his Holy Spirit. May your will be done, Father, as your will was done in Jesus of Nazareth, your servant, who was raised and glorified at your right hand. May that will, as it is done in heaven in him, be also done in us here on earth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here it is certainly a Christian conviction that no one can live a fully human life the way God wants human life to be. In other words, no one can live a Christian life; no one can be a human being and a Christian without the Holy Spirit, because the teaching is very clear: the human being is body, flesh, life, soul, and either Holy Spirit or evil spirits. Either the one Spirit of God is acting in us, in our body and soul, in our mind and our heart, or a multitude of demons and evil spirits have overcome us. And we believe that Christ, the Conqueror, has conquered all the evil spirits, conquered the devil himself, and filled us with the Holy Spirit, so that we could be not only human, but we could be Christian. We could even be christs. The ancient Christian Fathers say that Jesus the Christ has made us christs, with a little c, anointed ones. Jesus the Son has made us sons. Jesus the Image of God, the Icon of God, has allowed us finally all to be icons of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, to be by grace, as the holy Fathers say, what Christ himself is by nature.

Now what is Christ by nature? By nature, Christ is fully divine and fully human. That’s why we even say he has two natures. We’ll talk about that, I am sure, in days to come. But so are we! We have the human nature because we’re human beings, but human beings are also called to be divine. And to be really human is to be by grace what God is, is to be divine by grace, by faith, by the Holy Spirit’s power. So what is celebrated on Pentecost is that all that comes true. All that has happened. The Holy Spirit is poured out, that the Spirit is given, that we receive the Spirit. We rejoice in the Spirit. We celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit.

That’s how we even sing at the first song at vespers. We say in English: Let us celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of the promise. It’s interesting, in Greek, by the way, and in Slavonic, the first song begins with the word “Pentecost.” We say in English, “Let us celebrate Pentecost.” In the original hymn it says, “Pentecost let us celebrate.” Let us keep the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, the fulfillment of the prophecies, the end of the ages, the final and great feast. Nothing beyond this; nothing can surpass this in human history that has already happened, and it happened to the apostles on the 50th day after Pascha. That’s when it’s shown in the book of Acts. In St. John’s gospel it happens on the very evening of Pascha itself that the Spirit is poured out on them in the upper room. Then in the book of Acts it’s poured out on that 150 or so many disciples in the upper room, with Mary. It even says in the book of Acts: Mary the mother of Jesus was there with the women. The whole assembly receives the Holy Spirit on the evening of Pentecost, and then we Christians believe that that Spirit is given to us.

Our Pascha is our baptism. We put on Christ and are buried with him and are raised with him in baptism. That’s our Easter; that’s our Pascha. But when we’re baptized, we immediately have our Pentecost, too, because when Jesus himself for us was baptized, when he came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended and remained upon him in his humanity, anointing him humanly to be the Christ. So when we come up out of the baptismal waters, the Holy Spirit descends upon us, and we are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit when we’re baptized.

So we have Christ and the Spirit; we have Pascha and Pentecost. We have baptism and chrismation. Therefore, our law, our Christian law, which St. Paul calls the law of liberty or the law of Christ or the law of the Holy Spirit—these are all expressions of the Apostle Paul—the nomos tou Christou or the nomos tes eleftherias, the law of liberty, or the nomos tou Agiou Pnevmatos, the law of the Holy Spirit—this is the indwelling of the Person of the Spirit himself in us. So the law is no longer on tablets written in stone; it’s written on human hearts, and that’s the fulfillment of the prophesies—for example, Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel, which are read on these feast days.

So this is Pentecost, the final, ultimate sealing, fulfillment, celebration of the Pascha of the Lord. It’s the eighth day of Pascha, the day of the kingdom, the day of the coming age, the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit already upon us. Sometimes it’s called the birthday of the Church, the birthday of the renewed final covenant in Christ the Messiah’s blood. It’s the beginning and the inauguration in human history of the age to come. It’s the end of history and the breaking-in of the kingship of God from the risen Christ by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So this is our celebration of Pentecost. This is what we celebrate on the eighth Sunday after Pascha. Let us celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, the coming of God’s kingdom among us, the coming and the anointing of us poor sinners to be by grace everything that God himself is and has given to us in the risen, glorified, enthroned Christ, who sends the Holy Spirit when he is glorified, because as it’s written in the Scripture, the Holy Spirit is not personally given until Christ is glorified. It’s the same Spirit by which God created the world, all the universe. It’s the same Spirit that vivifies the Scriptures. It’s the same Spirit that vivifies and makes living the Law of God in the Torah. It’s the same Spirit that inspired the prophets, for the prophets spoke by the Spirit. It’s that Spirit which, as it says in Job, if God would withdraw his breath, his spirit, everything would just collapse. We would revert back into non-being.

It’s that Spirit, and so on Pentecost we also sing that this is the Spirit that constitutes the Church. This is the Spirit that makes the Church Christ’s body. This is the Spirit that makes the Church the anticipation of God’s kingdom, and even the kingdom itself in this world. This is the Spirit that inspires the Scriptures. This is the Spirit that inspires the interpretation of Scripture. This is the Spirit that is the power affecting all of the mysteries and sacraments of Christian worship. This is the Spirit, it says, that constitutes the priesthood, through which the royal priesthood of those who are ordained are acting to show forth God and God’s truth and God’s life in this world, and particularly through the preaching of the Gospel and the breaking of the bread, the broken Body and spilled Blood of Christ. Everything, everything is vivified, fulfilled, perfected by the Holy Spirit. That’s how God acts. He acts with both his hands: his Word, incarnate as Jesus Christ, and his breath, his Holy Spirit.

So this is the festival of Pentecost that we celebrate on the eighth day after Pascha.