The Prelate’s Message, May 23
Today, according to the Armenian Church calendar, we are celebrating the feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, as was promised by our Lord Jesus Christ, and is narrated in the second chapter of the Book of Acts 2:1-21.
It is true that for three years, day and night, the Apostles shared their lives with Jesus, and they heard His teaching and witnessed all the miracles performed by their unusual Teacher.
Moreover, they were privileged to be in His presence after His Resurrection. Nevertheless, they were within the bondage of the flesh, and could not experience the dynamism of the greatest mystery of the Incarnation of God for the Redemption of humankind. It was only on the day of Pentecost when, in the very words of Jesus, they were born in the Holy Spirit, were transformed, and became a new creation. Literally, they were in the world but not of the world (Jn 15:19; 17:14-16). They were earthlings with their physical form, yet celestials with their perception, outlook, and behavior. The Apostle Simon Peter, who denied Jesus three times on the eve of His betrayal, was able to convert three thousand people to the faith of the Risen Lord. Was this magic? Not at all, but the solid and tangible fruit of being empowered with the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
In Hebrew, the words for “spirit” and “wind” are synonyms, and just as the wind turns the clouds into rain, likewise the Holy Spirit-Wind showers and cultivates the living Word in the souls of all the Apostles and saints.
The entire Bible is a testimony of the operation of God’s Holy Spirit, starting since the Creation and throughout all generations. It is the active energy of the living, sustaining, leading, and providential care. It is God’s Spirit that “swept over the face of waters” (Gen 1:2). It was the Breath of Living God that “gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle” (Ps 33:7). It was the Breath of God which animated the dust of the ground and made the man (Gen 2:7). It was the Spirit of God who turned Saul into a different person (1 Sam 10:6), anointed the shepherds and made them prophets (1 Sam 16:13; Am 1:1), rested upon the Holy Virgin, made her the sanctuary of the Living God (Lk 1:35), and led the Messiah into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and to overcome the evil one (Mt 4:1). It was the Holy Spirit who filled Stephen the Protomartyr to do wonders and signs (Acts 6:8) and turned Saul into Paul to become the primary spokesman of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control (Gal 5:22). It was the Holy Spirit which, according to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, comforted and harkened the souls of all those who were persecuted to challenge all the powers of the Evil One. And it is the Holy Spirit whom we confess during every Badarak, “Who spoke in the Law, the Prophets and the Gospels, and dwelt in the saints;” in other words, the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians of all ages who are baptized in water and Spirit, believe in Christ, and live as the children of Light (1 Thess 5:5).
The Holy Spirit fills the entire Creation and showers His Grace upon those who open the doors of their minds, souls, and hearts to be filled with the life-giving Divine light and energy. Regardless of age, gender or color, the Holy Spirit pours forth His grace upon all, as the prophet Joel transmitted God’s oracle: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Joel 2:17).
This prediction of the prophet brings us the powerful message that every generation is welcomed to enjoy the privileges of the unconditional and free gifts of the Holy Spirit with the fundamental understanding provided by our Lord Jesus Christ that we should be born in the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:1-8).
Once we fulfill this important requirement to be Christian, the Holy Spirit equips men and women from all walks of life to be true children of God as Christians. The outcome of this communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit is beyond our human understanding. Saint Stephen, while being stoned to death, was privileged “to see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Saint Paul was able “to look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen” (2 Cor 4:18) and accordingly declare that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Eph 6:12)
Let us pray humbly and kneeling in our hearts and beseech the Lord and say with Saint John the Chrysostom, “Make us, together with the holy apostles, a temple to receive your Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). And with them, write our names in the book of life” (Phil 4:3).
Let us pray with Saint Nerses Shnorhali and say, “Spirit of God, true God, who descended into the River Jordan and the Upper Room and enlightened me through the baptism of the holy font. I have sinned against heaven and before you. Purify me again with your divine fire as you purified the holy apostles with fiery tongues. Have mercy upon your creatures, and upon me, great sinner that I am.”
Walking in the Holy Spirit, let us sing a new song, “O Christ, let Your Good Spirit be a weapon for me at every hour against the enemy, the adversary.” (Հոգի քո բարի զէն ինձ Քրիստոս եղիցի յամենայն ժամ ընդդէմ թշնամւոյն հակառակողին) For only walking in the Holy Spirit, we can conquer the Evil one at each and every step in our life, and be worthy to praise the Almighty Father, with the Life-giving Son and grace-bestowing Holy Spirit forever. Amen.