Daily Meditations

Monday of the Holy Spirit

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

By Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost is described by the Evangelist Luke in the initial chapters of his book “Acts of the Holy Apostles.” It was God’s will to make this event a turning point in the world’s history.

Pentecost, celebrated on the fiftieth day after the Jewish Passover, was one of the three major holidays of the Old Testament. Pentecost marked the adoption of Sinai’s legislation under the Prophet Moses when the Jewish people were liberated from Egypt and entered into alliance with God nearly fourteen hundred years before Christ’s birth. At that time the Jews promised to be obedient to God and He, in turn, promised them His mercy and blessings. Because the feast of Pentecost coincided with the end of the harvest season, it was celebrated with great joy. Many Jews scattered over various parts of the vast Roman Empire hurried to Jerusalem to participate in this feast. Having been born and having grown up in different countries, most of them could hardly understand their mother tongue. They made an effort, however, to observe their national and religious traditions and, at least from time to time, to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The descent of the Holy Spirit was not an unexpected event for the Apostles. As far back as a few centuries before the Savior’s birth God began to prepare people for the day of their spiritual rebirth. He promised through his prophets: “It shall come to pass afterward, that I shall pour out My Spirit on all flesh … With joy you will draw water from the well of salvation … For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground … A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and observe and carry out My judgements” (Joel 2: 28; Is. 12: 3, 44:3; Ezek. 11:19-20).

When preparing to return to His heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ in His farewell talk informed the Apostles about the forthcoming descent of the Holy Spirit. He explained to the disciples that the Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, would come soon to them to fulfill the mission of salvation: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth … He will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I say unto you … He, the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father, will bear witness of Me” (John 14: 16-17, 26; 15: 26).

After the events of outrage, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the Apostles took deeply to their hearts, they became quite different people. They grew stronger spiritually and matured to accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was then that God’s mercy came to them in its fullness and they were the first to enjoy the spiritual fruits of the salutary feat of the God-Man.

Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and ten days after His Ascension to Heaven, the disciples of Jesus, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, some of the pious women and other believers, 120 persons in all, gathered in Jerusalem in a so-called “Zion chamber.” They were probably in the same room where the Lord, not long before His sufferings, performed the Last Supper. The Apostles were awaiting the fulfillment of the Savior’s will to send them “the Father’s Promise” and strengthen them with divine power, although they did not understand yet exactly what that meant.

It did not occur by chance that two very important events took place on the same day: the descent of the Holy Spirit and the Jewish Pentecost. The traditional feast of Pentecost marked the alliance of the Jewish people with God. This alliance required the observation of the Ten Commandments and promised the reception of earthly blessings. The descent of the Holy Spirit implemented a completely novel and much deeper alliance, or Testament, between God and the New Israel – the Christian people. It is based on faith in the Savior and its goal is the spiritual renewal and inheritance of eternal life. The descent of the Holy Spirit has become the day on which the old theocracy, which ruled society through a rigorous law, became replaced by grace and sincere love for God. Now the Spirit of Truth became the guide of believers for their journey to Heaven, and the source of their spiritual freedom and inspiration.

~Russian Orthodox Church of Three Saints, http://3saints.com/pentecost.html.