During the Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered disciples (Acts 2:1-11). What an awesome and joyful event in the life of the Church. About this holy event, the newly departed Fr. Roman Braga of Blessed memory makes the following provocative statement concerning Pentecost:
“What more can we ask on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit than that the Comforter visits us with His Grace? Maybe not with fiery tongues over our heads, but at least to touch our hearts with a mystical fire and to awaken in them the feeling of the presence of God as He did with the two travelers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). Are we too bold when asking in our daily prayers that the Holy Spirit ‘Come and abide in us?’ Why then does He who fills all things not fill us also? Why are we not all filled with the Holy Spirit? This is a question that each one of us should ask. So if we are not filled with the Holy Spirit, it is not because of the lack of Grace, which God pours out every moment, but because of our own insufficiency and incapacity to receive Him….How can we be filled with the Holy Spirit when our body, this untiring enemy of the Spirit, does not give us a chance? It dominates us through food, drink and the pleasures of the instincts. These pleasures choke the desire of our soul to understand the words of God. This is very clearly stated by St. Paul: ‘Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life’(Gal 6:7-8). How can we be filled with the Holy Spirit when we are so filled with ourselves?” (Archimandrite Roman Braga, “…Be Filled with the Holy Spirit” On the Way of Faith, pp. 61-65).
This is another way of asking ‘where is our attention directed?’ Are we so concerned with ourselves and with what we want that God becomes an afterthought or is the Lord crowded out of our life altogether? So, how do we prepare our hearts to make them receptive to the Holy Spirit? St. Innocent in Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven lists seven ways, besides confessing the Holy Orthodox Faith, for preparing us to receive the Holy Spirit. The seven include:
- Purity of heart and chastity
- Listening to the voice of God
- Daily self-denial
- Reading and listening to Holy Scripture
- The Holy Mysteries of the Church, especially Holy Communion
St. Innocent further explains, “Every faithful soul is filled with the Holy Spirit, if she is cleansed of her sins and not blocked or closed by self-love and pride” (St. Innocent, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 35). These are truly thought provoking words. As a Church family, let us meditate on them so the Holy Spirit might come upon us and find a home in us. This would be a true celebration of Pentecost.
Fr. Michael Demko