My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
In today’s Gospel we hear:
On the last, and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink. He that believeth in Me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in Him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
“On the last, and great day of the festivity.” The Jews, of course, were accustomed to celebrate three great feasts: the feast of Pascha, in commemoration of their liberation and exodus from Egypt; the feast of the erection of the Tabernacle, called “sukkoth” – at this feast they used to dwell in huts, called booths or tabernacles, just as they had done for forty years in the Wilderness; and the feast of Pentecost, in commemoration of the reception of the Law and the entry into the Promised Land when they first tasted the fruits of its wheat, wine, and other crops.
In the wilderness they had eaten of bread which was not the product of sowing seed and cultivation, but which fell from heaven, and now they brought sheaves from the fields to the feast; therefore, it was called the feast of first-fruits and of sheaves. The Jews counted seven weeks after Pascha, and then they observed the feast of sheaves, which is Pentecost, because after crossing the Red Sea and passing fifty days, they were given the Law by God. Thus, as it is said, they would all gather at the Temple for these three feasts. The Law commanded them to come together in this manner, that they might recall the great and divine gifts of God, and be joined one to another in love and unity. On these feasts our Lord Jesus Christ was seen to join with them and celebrate, since He is the Giver of the Law, and that He might attract many by His signs and teachings.
Standing up, our God Jesus Christ called out, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. Christ draws no man by force or compulsion, but calls anyone who has the desire, and offers to give him drink; the unwilling man Christ neither constrains nor coerces. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He is the Wisdom and Power of God, He is the eternal and ever-existent Word of the Father, Who stands even today, now, just as He did then and calls the thirsty to drink. Let us taste (thereof), then, brethren, let us taste and see and know that the Lord is good; He is an inexhaustible fount of goodness and immortality; He is living, fresh, flowing water, which is abundantly poured forth and overflowing.
Whosoever drinketh of this water shall never thirst. Rightly has Scripture said that out of the belly of a believer shall flow living water, says our Lord, referring to spiritual instruction which waters the souls of those who listen to it. He calls the greatly abundant gift of grace water, as being ever-active. Living Water is a drop of Christ’s teaching, which, like water, cleanses the filth of sin, quenches the flame of passions, and cures unbelief, dryness and barrenness. Living water is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is given diverse names according to the diversity of its operation. Here it is called water, but elsewhere fire. It is called water because just as water comes down from the sky, nourishes and refreshes; so also the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and waters and feeds the soul; though He is one, He divides His grace and power among various operations. The Holy Spirit is also called fire, because just as fire is one in appearance, but acts in various ways, warming, burning, illuminating and cleansing, so it is with the Holy Spirit, In the words of the Apostle, There are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but the same God, Who worketh all in all.
This We see clearly in the case of the Apostles themselves. The Apostles were not afraid to teach and proclaim the word of God in various ways; they gave little mind to the threat – or reality – of persecution, the denunciations of spiritually blinded authorities, and the fury of enraged peoples. They made rivers of living water flow, rivers of instruction. Such was the grace of the Holy Spirit.
As Saint John says, “this He said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in Him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Before our Lord’s Cross and Passion and Resurrection, we were not refashioned in that goodness which we had lost by our transgression. For from the beginning man was created incorruptible, but when he transgressed God’s commandment, he was deprived of the Holy Spirit together with his other gifts. As the blessed Moses said, God formed the man of dust of the earth, and breathed upon his face the breath of life. But since man fell to death on account of his transgression, and lost his ancient honour, Christ restored him again and elevated him to his former dignity by breathing upon him. As the Creator, Lord, and Master of all, He wished to make all things new again; therefore, among other things He promised to give the disciples the Holy Spirit. This He did after His Resurrection, when He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Three times was the Spirit given the disciples by Christ: before the Crucifixion, in a very indefinite way; and after the Resurrection, when He breathed upon them, more clearly; but it was after His Ascension that He sent the Spirit substantially; or rather, the Holy Spirit Himself descended, completely enlightening and sanctifying them.
The Apostles, even before the Crucifixion, drove out demons and performed many healings by grace and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. It was after the Resurrection, however, that the grace of the Holy Spirit was finally poured out in abundance, and not only did it affect the Apostles, but through them thousands and tens of thousands were filled with it.
Before the Crucifixion, though Christ did not give His disciples the Spirit, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. After His Crucifixion and Resurrection, however, He bestowed the Holy Spirit upon them, not so much for raising the dead or doing other such wonders, as for the remission of sins. As it is written, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Since we had sinned and rebelled against God, we were made His enemies; but the grace of the Holy Spirit is a gift, a gift freely given, and true gifts are given in friendship. Therefore, it was necessary first to offer a sacrifice for the sake of our reconciliation and the end of enmity — this was the immolation of the rational Lamb, the Death of Christ; and only afterwards was it fitting to confer the gift of grace. Then, after the Ascension, the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured forth in abundance.
Believers, who are purified by Christ’s commandments, do not simply have some vague spiritual illumination and or human enlightenment, but that the Holy Spirit Himself abides in them; as it is written, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and, The kingdom of God is within you. The glory of the Holy Spirit is called the kingdom of heaven, and the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling in us through faith. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
“Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Since the Jews both high and low kept taking Him for a Galilean and referring to Him as a prophet at the best, a deceiver at the worst, Christ relieved them of such a mistaken opinion and such a false report, clearly showing them that He was not one of the prophets, as they thought, but Master of the whole world. I am the light of the world, He said. Not the light of Judaea or Galilee alone, but the light of all the world. Christ calls Himself the Light of the world, for in Him is indeed the light of the divine glory; He shines With the radiance of the understanding upon those who are spiritually purified. He enlightens those who are held in the darkness of ignorance. Christ is the Light, because He is the illuminator of souls which are being purified in word and life. If sin and ignorance are darkness, then certainly knowledge and life in God are light.
He that follows Him will not abide in error and sin, and will not walk in darkness, but in the light of life, of truth and justice. Who is he that follows Christ? He who is pious, who lives righteously, reverently and respectably, walking as in the day. Let us, then, brethren, live piously, righteously and blamelessly, and walk honourably, and follow the light of faith (and) of Christ’s commandments; let us not dwell in the outer darkness of sin, wickedness and error; but let us have the light of eternal life.
Now that we have reached the day of Pentecost, and the Most Holy Spirit has been revealed in fiery tongues, we all bend our knees, being unable to bear such a vision; thus, also, we show that through the Holy Spirit we have learned the perfect worship of the Trinity. Let us bend our knees in purity of heart, and we adore the holy, life-giving and undivided Trinity, and let us all learn from the divine Scriptures: let us learn all things which are for our profit and for the salvation of our souls.