Beloved brethren, we read today in the Acts of the Apostles how the Lord Jesus Christ, now risen, ascended, and standing at the right hand of God the Father in the glory of the Holy Trinity, sent down upon his disciples and apostles the All Holy Spirit, as He had promised to do, on the night before He died. These simple men, fishermen and uneducated peasants, who had been hiding from fear of the Jews, became filled with the Holy Spirit, and they went forth boldly to preach the Resurrection of Christ to all the nations.
Before, they hid themselves as cowards, but now they roared as lions.
Before, they lacked understanding, but now they were filled with divine wisdom to understand the heights of theology.
Before, they were powerless in the face of evil, but now they healed the sick, they raised the dead, and they converted countless thousands of souls.
Today, we need their prayers. We need to follow their example. Today, we are frightened and confused by the world around us, by the failure of the leaders of the Church and the nation to speak the truth, by our own inability to live our Faith with boldness and not just wear “Orthodox” like a name tag.
But it need not be so. Today, we once again receive the grace of Pentecost. Today, once again, as occurs year after year through the long centuries of the Church’s life, the grace of the All Holy Spirit descends when the priest reads the three great “kneeling” prayers at Vespers. Once again, the Church is renewed. Once again, each of us receives the power not simply to have our Faith, but to live our Faith.
My brethren, in a few minutes, when I, unworthy as I am, have the great privilege and duty of reading these great – beyond-great – sublime, and beautiful prayers, I ask you - sincerely, earnestly - to beg the Lord to rekindle the fire of Faith in your hearts, to show you how to live your faith actively, practically, and bravely in this world we live in, and to build up our parish and all His Holy Church. I pray that all of us will receive a renewed, fiery love, love for the Church, outside of which we will not find any sense to our life on earth, and outside of which we will not find the path to salvation after death. I want each of you to promise our Lord to come to divine services more frequently, to pray and fast as an Orthodox Christian should, and to love your brothers and sisters here in the parish with forgiveness and taking an active interest in their welfare. I want each of you to bring Orthodoxy into your homes practically, with daily prayers, reading Orthodox books, openly talking about the Faith with your family members, and asking how you and your family can be closer to the Church and serve the Church.
If we do this, if we put aside our human selfishness and weaknesses, and just serve the Church, with childlike trust in Our Lord, He will give us His Spirit in abundance. Yes, the world outside is getting worse and worse – we do not kid ourselves about that. But as Noah and his family were saved in the Ark at the time of the Flood, we will be saved in the Ark of the Church, if only we are faithful.
Today, in the Gospel, the Lord says the following words: “If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow fountains of living water.” (John 7:37-38). The Lord is calling each of us, this day, this hour, to be a source for others of this living water, His Holy Spirit, and to build up His Holy Church. As I read the three great prayers to the Holy Spirit a few minutes from now, let each of us ask the Lord Jesus Christ to give him a mission, a task, a job, to do for His Church, and the power to carry out that mission, in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.