Yesterday was Pentecost. It seemed like a brisk, fall day with temperatures in the sixties. That was an extremely welcome change after last week’s heat. So, I enjoyed sitting outside in a jacket, with an occasional shiver and a bowl full of gluten-free strawberry shortcake (our ode to the flames of Pentecost).
I was contemplating how the mental and spiritual benefits of living in the calendar of the Church year don’t just revolve around the day of Pascha itself. Everyone knows that Lent is a journey, but the path to perfection is not a straight line. There is no “start” and no “end”.
The Paschal season is a lesson and a journey as well. Christ is Risen! Just that one day? Just that one time? No, no. Christ is risen every day. In Him all things are new and born fresh. Eternally.
So, can’t we give Him more time? The Church’s celebration has lasted for fifty days. Weeks of long services and fasting may have exhausted us, but if we gave that much time to prepare, we should have made sure that we gave just as much time to celebrating!
For forty days, Christ walked and talked and ate with His followers. He opened up the Scriptures. He nourished them and gave them all the tools they needed. Not for them alone. Christ prepared them to build the Church. His Bride, the living, breathing Church that would spread the love of God throughout the world for the rest of time.
But then, it was time to leave. As they watched, He ascended into Heaven. The risen Christ…in His risen body. Do you see what that means? The Ascension was not just about Christ going to Heaven. It is about humanity going to Heaven. The Psalms tell us that the angels stood there in complete amazement. A man in Heaven! Amazing!
While fully man, Christ was fully God. While on earth, He never really left Heaven. Yet, before He could ascend, He had to descend. He went down to the depths of Hell and death and shattered them all. Arising in glory, He opened the way to Paradise for all of us.
For the last ten days, there has been a hole. A nagging tension. No more “Christ is Risen”. No more “The Angel Cried”. No more “Let God Arise”. All of the songs and prayers of the Paschal time ended on Ascension. Yet, things are not back to normal. There’s still something missing.
We show this by not singing the Paschal hymns, but also by not singing the hymn to the Holy Spirit. My prayers seem jilted and off balance without the beautiful anchor of the words. Like the Apostles, I look and wait. Just like Christ told us to do. To wait for the Comforter. He is coming.
So, now, Pentecost has come. The Holy Spirit has indeed arrived and the words are here again:
O Heavenly King. The Comforter the Spirit of Truth. Who are everywhere and fill all things. Treasury of blessings, and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One!
When we first sing them in church again, I am enveloped in the comfort. The peace that fills the day of Pentecost is so full, it can be touched. In a spark. In a burning flame.
The journey to this Feast began on the calendar a hundred days ago with the beginning of Lent. It also began with the birth of Christ. The Incarnation. Christ was born. Christ was crucified. Christ was buried. Christ arose. Christ ascended. Christ is in our midst.
As I lit a candle in church, I watched the flame with attention. Lord, may the Holy Spirit burn in me. May I not let the celebration end. You come to be in me. To fill me. I am not worthy! I am Your temple, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And if I am a temple, then the response must be to do what is logically done in a temple…sacrifice. I sacrifice myself to You, Lord. I set aside my wants and desires and take up Your will for my life. Fill me to the brim, Lord, with Your Spirit, and then, help me to see that what I thought was full is only just the beginning. Fill me, Lord. Burn away the impurities. Try me in the fire, and draw me to You.