'And my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make
our home with him.' My friends, consider the greatness of this solemn feast
that commemorates God's coming as a guest into our hearts! If some rich
and influential friend were to come to your home, you would promptly put
it all in order for fear something there might offend your friend's eyes
when he came in. Let all of us then who are preparing our inner homes for
God cleanse them of anything our wrongdoing has brought into them.
From the homily of St. Gregory the Great on Pentecost
in Be Friends of God.
'And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it
sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit' (Acts
2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire
which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives luster to the soul. This is
now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins
which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession
of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles.
And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown
themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads.
A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which
brought salvation restored the gift.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture
17 no. 15)
Brothers, we shall hymn with praise the tongues of the disciples, because,
not with elegant speech, But in divine power they have revived all men.
Because they took up His Cross as a reed, So that they might again use
words as fishing lines and fish for the world Since they had speech as
a sharp fishhook, Since the flesh of the Master of all Has become for them
a bait, it has not sought to kill But it attracts to life those who worship
and praise The All-Holy Spirit.
Kontakia of Romanos, On Pentecost
But as the old Confusion of tongues was laudable, when men who were
of one language in wickedness and impiety, even as some now venture to
be, were building the Tower; for by the confusion of their language the
unity of their intention was broken up, and their undertaking destroyed;
so much more worthy of praise is the present miraculous one. For being
poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony.
And there is a diversity of Gifts, which stands in need of yet another
Gift to discern which is the best, where all are praiseworthy.
St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration on Pentecost.
Regarding the manner in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples,
Saint Symeon the New Theologian makes a remark that is most helpful for
properly understanding this event. He says that this mode of acting of
the Holy Spirit - by means of a loud noise as of a rushing mighty wind,
and with tongues of fire - was something unique. The Holy Spirit, he observes,
comes very calmly, in the form of spiritual light, and evokes joy. The
passage in which he touches upon this point is this:
The power of the Holy Spirit, which is bestowed upon him who loves God
and keeps His commandments, does not appear visibly in the form of fire,
nor does it come with a loud sound like a violent wind - for this happened
only in the time of the Apostles for the sake of the unbelievers. Instead,
it is seen spiritually in the form of spiritual light, and comes with all
calm and joy.
Guide to Byzantine Iconography, Vol. 1, by Constantine
The holy mystery of the day of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, is to be
understood in the following manner: the spirit of man must be completed
and perfected by the Holy Spirit, that is, it must be sanctified, illuminated,
and divinized by the Holy Spirit. This holy mystery is realized continually
in the Church of Christ and because of this the Church is really a continuous
Pentecost.... From Holy Pentecost, the day of the Holy Spirit, every God-like
soul in the Church of Christ is an incombustible bush which continuously
burns and is inflamed with God and has a fiery tongue within it.
(St.) Fr. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith and Life in
Was it upon the twelve that it [the Holy Spirit] came? Not so; but upon
the hundred and twenty. For Peter would not have quoted to no purpose the
testimony of the prophet, saying, 'And it shall come to pass in the last
days, saith the Lord God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh:
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall
see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams' (Joel 2:28). 'And they
were all filled with the Holy Spirit.' For, that the effect may not be
to frighten only, therefore it is both 'with the Holy Spirit, and with
fire. And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance'
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles.
Used with permission from Fr Seraphim Holland.
See St. Nicholas website at www.orthodox.net/gleanings/index.html