Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” John 20:21
The Great Commission—Part Six
Pentecost-The Day the Holy Spirit Came Down
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4
Good morning Prayer Team!
At the Ascension, Jesus promised His Apostles that they were going to “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8) He didn’t tell them how long it would be or what that power would be. So, they returned to Jerusalem and waited.
A short ten days later, they were together on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. And at about the third hour, (about nine in the morning) there was a rush of wind in the house where they were sitting, and tongues of fire appeared over the heads of each of them. Suddenly, these men, most of them uneducated fishermen, began to speak in all the languages of the world.
None of the Apostles was university educated. None had had any achievements in oratory or leadership. Yet these men became the heralds of the Gospel and the leaders of the early church. This goes to show that the power of the Holy Spirit can do when combined with our faith in Christ and our love for Him.
The Apostles weren’t perfect, far from it. But they had faith. They waited for the promise that Jesus said would come upon them. They had a heart for Christ, a love for Him. They had a desire to serve Him, and a desire to spread His message. And through the Holy Spirit, He worked through them. They became His vessels.
Let’s talk about the word vessel for a minute. When I think of the word vessel, two things come to mind. The first thing is a vessel is a container that carries something to drink. The most important thing about a vessel is what is in the vessel. We don’t drink the vessel. But without the vessel, we remain thirsty. In saying that the Apostles were vessels, they were the instruments through which Christ was carried to all the nations. Christ is the one who provides the relief for the one thirsting for hope. We, the Apostles and by extension, us today, are the vessels that carry Him. The Holy Spirit is the one who guides the journey and who keeps the vessels safe so that what is being carried is them is safely delivered.
The second thing that comes to mind when talking about vessels are the ships on the seas, that carry people and cargo from one place to another. If we are like the ship on the ocean, then the Holy Spirit is the navigation system that guides the ship. A navigation system with no ship is of little value. A ship without a navigation system will not reach its intended port. So, the Holy Spirit guides us and guides our churches to that the Church can bring people to Christ, and Christ to the people.
In the Orthodox Church, each of our sacraments is “effected” by the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, a man and a woman become husband and wife. Through the Holy Spirit, a sinful person is absolved of the weight of their sin. Through the Holy Spirit, a man is empowered to be a priest. Through the Holy Spirit, water is blessed so that we can be baptized in it. Through the Holy Spirit, oil is consecrated as Chrism, so that each of us can receive in a physical and tangible way the Holy Spirit in us. Finally, through the Holy Spirit, oil is prayed over and becomes Holy Unction, administered to the faithful for healing of soul and body.
The Holy Spirit also comes into us, God’s vessels, to cover us with God’s grace. If grace makes ordinary things into extraordinary things, as stated in the previous paragraph in regards to the sacraments, then God’s grace, poured over us, can make us ordinary people into extraordinary people, who can do extraordinary things. For just as the Holy Spirit descended onto the Apostles on that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends upon us through prayer and worship, when we read Scripture, and when we show love. It is the Holy Spirit who bolsters and sustains us, that encourages us as we grow towards Christ.
When the Most High God came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations. When He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity. And with one voice we glorify the all-Holy Spirit. (Kontakion, Pentecost, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
God has put His grace on all of us. He has called each of us to be His vessel in a unique way. He called the Apostles to be heralds of the Gospel, teachers and leaders. How has He called you? Have you answered?
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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