WHEN THE DAY of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontos and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts: 2.1-11)
Today is the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles gathered together and with a great rush of wind and flame of fire converted them from dumb, uneducated fishermen to eloquent wise servants of the Almighty. I will try to glean from my lowly state some insights into the beauty and importance of this day.
THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT
The Spirit is by far the most mysterious person of the Holy Trinity. It has no face, no corporality, but is nevertheless central to the Triune God. I liken it to the divine energy of God, the Spirit, the Light. It is the Force that moves over the water that makes things happen according to the will of God. The energizer, the creative force. (If I may be so bold, it is the feminine face of God.) That is the energy, the Light, that substance beyond our corporal understanding yet through both our corporal and spiritual understanding able to be sensed. It is the abounding presence of God that can reside from the bodies of mortals to the furthest star in the universe. It is the stuff that I believe brought the universe into creation; that infuses the world as a fifth essence. Saint Seraphim has been quoted countless of times, “Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands will be saved around you.”
Without that Spirit, we are not as powerful, not as enlightened, not as holy. Witness the apostles: before the coming of the Holy Spirit–mere ignoramuses bickering amongst themselves, asking dumb questions, vying in their petty foibles. After the Holy Spirit—illumined speakers, casters out of evil, clairvoyants, healers. When the Holy Spirit enters a person, they catch the Divine Energy, the same gem-like flame that burns without burning, that eminates from God. By ourselves, we can do very little; with the spirit, we can move mountains, baptize entire nations, create immortal works of art. It can be seen as the golden halo around the heads of saints in icons. Indeed, this is the goal of our earthly existence—to acquire the Holy Spirit. When we do, we breathe, we beat, we move in God Himself.
The POWER OF UNITY
The Holy Spirit as it is described in the Scripture comes down as a sort of cloven tongue that flames. The first act of the Holy Spirit is that each of those present were able to speak in other tongues. Why? I conjecture that by speaking in another tongue you are able to understand things you could not in your own. Psychologists say that learning another language is a way to change your brain, to color the way you see the world. It is their ability to speak in other tongues, additionally, that allows the apostles to communicate with those that they could not. The Church maintains that Pentecost is the counterpart of the Tower of Babel; the antithesis of what occurred when the nations tried in their pride to reach God. When the tower of Babel was destroyed scattering all those who had come together for the wrong aim, an act of disunity and dispersal, each of the nations started speaking in their own tongue. Each could not understand the other, thus forcing them into greater confusion, misunderstanding, and distance. Pentecost does the opposite. It brings disparate “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontos and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” and unites them under a single tongue.
The power of language via this Holy Spirit to unite the nations is clearly a take away from this holiday. But what language? It is the language of God, that exists not in the mind, but in the nous, the center of the deep heart. It is this energy that allows those who kindle it to feel comfortable and connect to those who due to culture are superficially different from themselves. It makes the Other as one close to one’s heart. This power of the Holy Spirit that has initiated the Church, the universal Church. It is why I can attend a liturgy in Japanese and still feel in communion with my home church. The Holy Spirit unites through the power of tongues.
Another name for the Holy Spirit is the “paraclete,” in Greek “comforter, counselor, adviser.” During Pentecost, we fall down, bending our heads to the ground on bended knee supplicating for this “Paraclete.” It is imperative for our souls to pray on this day. With so much turmoil in the last few months, as the faithful people of God wherever we are standing throughout the world, our prayers to the Paraclete are essential. Anarchy has taken over the streets; diseases of soul and body plague the world; economic uncertainty–it is as if the world is hovering on a tipping point that will rush it headlong into the gates of hell. Where do we turn for comfort in these times of woe? Where do we find advice on what to do, where to go? The Paraclete! Whatever problems plague us, whatever internal turmoil robs us of our peace, on this special day dedicated to the Holy Spirit, we bow down to ask for help from this Great Counselor. It is in the language of the heart that the Paraclete will reveal to us what we are seeking, what we truly need, and guide us in all the minute details of our life. It is like getting a counseling session with the most sought-after psychologist in the world, only better, because not only does the Paraclete give us counsel it actually helps us in the road to healing.
For me, who has suffered so much trauma, in so need of healing, I am especially making an effort to call on the Paraclete. It is my life’s purpose to attain the grace of this Holy Spirit. May the mercies of our Lord be upon us. May the Paraclete hear our prayers and deem us worthy to find abode in our hearts, transforming us from empty cymbals of the flesh into living temples of light and love, glowing with the flame of the Spirit.