The Feast of Pentecost (Πεντηκοστή)-“God, Replenish our Hearts with Thy Love”
The Feast of Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the fiftieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Easter and ten days after the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. The Feast is always celebrated on a Sunday. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek word πεντηκοστή (pentékosté), which means ‘fiftieth’, because Pentecost is held 50 days after Passover. Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks and Feast of Harvests, and is known as Shavuot in Hebrew. It was the second of three major feasts in the Jewish year. It was originally a harvest festival (Exodus 23:16), but in time, also turned into a day to commemorate the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jews of many nations would gather in Jerusalem to celebrate this important festival. It was on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after his resurrection and ten days after Jesus had ascended to heaven that the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ followers who were gathered in Jerusalem.
Before Jesus had returned to heaven, he had instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem and wait to be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). When the Holy Spirit came it was powerful and dramatic, a sound like a violent roaring wind filled the house where they were sitting, and tongues of fire rested on each on them, and they were filled with the power of God, and began speaking other languages, languages they had not learnt, as the Spirit enabled them. The Holy Spirit that came on that first Pentecost is the same Holy Spirit that is active in the church and world today.
Confusion about the Holy Spirit
When it comes to the Holy Spirit, many people are confused and sometimes afraid of the Holy Spirit. Once I heard someone saying ‘We want nothing to do with the Holy Spirit’. This fear exists because people don not understand or know what and what the Holy Spirit is, and because they are afraid of what might happen if the Holy Spirit was to come in power. But we do not need to be afraid of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is simply the presence and power of Jesus. It is the spirit of Jesus. It is how Jesus is with us.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry he could only be in one place at one time, but as he prepared to return to his father in heaven, he said to his disciples “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (St. Matthew 28:20). This promise was fulfilled when ten days later the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is with us now, and through which we encounter and experience God in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that makes God real.
In our Gospel reading Jesus said “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (St. John 14:16). The word the NIV translates as advocate, in Greek is Parakletos, which literally means called to one’s side, and can also be translated as counselor, comforter or helper. So the Holy Spirit is the comforter, who comes to guide and support us, working for us and with us.
How to receive the Holy Spirit
There is a fear that some people have about what will happen when they invite the Holy Spirit into their lives, but the fact is that if you have invited Jesus into your lives, you already have received the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20). When we open our hearts to Jesus, we open our hearts to his Spirit.
But being filled with God’s spirit is not a one off occurrence. In Ephesians, St. Paul instructs the Christians to keep on be filled with the Spirit, to “Go on being filled over and over and over again.” We need to be constantly filled afresh with God’s spirit, and to recognize that there is a difference between having the Holy Spirit and being full of the Holy Spirit. As we experience more of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives, so a transformation begins to take place within us, as the fruit of the Holy Spirit begins to grow. That’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). In other words we should become more like Christ, as the spirit of Christ dwells within us.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost gave birth to the church. At the end of Acts chapter 2, we see what the early church was like. It was a church where the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship. It was a church where people were filled with awe at the many wonders and signs that were performed. And it was a church where no one was in need. Everyone was cared for and supported. This was all the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believers. This is surely a model of what the church should be like today, a place of awe, unity, hospitality, generosity and growth. The Holy Spirit is given to us not only so that we may know and experience God’s power and love in our lives, but also to work in and through us to change challenging world surrounding us. With the Holy Spirit within us, we are the presence of Christ in the world today. We are his hands, his feet, and his eyes. Through us, Christ reaches out and serves the world in love. We need to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and release the spirit that is within us, as we seek to serve God, one another and our world.
The Impact of Receiving the Holy Spirit
Something very remarkable happened on that first day of Pentecost. When the disciples went out into the streets of Jerusalem and mingled with the crowds, they began to talk about what God had done in their lives, about their friends Jesus, about his life and work, his death and resurrection. The disciples had a fiery enthusiasm and a fresh inspiration to share the good news of God’s love for the world. And as they did so, the people around them began to hear the good news of God’s love in their own languages. People were amazed and puzzled at what was going on. We must remember what Jesus had told His Disciples the night before he died in St. John 15.26-27 and 16.4-15). On that evening, he promised to send the Spirit of truth – the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Bible uses different names.
So today, just as it was for Jesus’ disciples at that Pentecost, God’s Holy Spirit is still with us and comes to fill each one of us. His Spirit of truth: 1) helps us remember and understand Jesus’ teachings in our minds; 2) helps us feel his presence with us in our hearts; 3) helps us to belong to his church and to carry the light and love of Christ into our world.
In today’s world, when self engrosses every portion of the heart, there can be no thought of faithful perseverance amid the storms and temptations of life. What weighty and all-powerful motives should, on this glorious day, inspire us to assemble in spirit as the Holy Apostles awaited the descent of the divine spirit. From the very depths of our hearts let us cry out: “Come, Holy Spirit, replenish our hearts with Thy love. Cast from our hearts the spirit of self-love, and lead us to love God above all, that we may become, and remain Thy living temples, sanctified through thy love for all eternity.” Amen.