Pentecost / St. Pachomius the Great / Martyr Basiliscus of Comana / Acts 2.1-11; John 7.37-52, 8.12
F/S/HS. Brothers and sisters—the Feast of Pentecost! The Feast that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the days following the Son’s Ascension to Heaven. The Feast wherein, for the first time since Holy Friday, we once again fall on bended knees in honor and gratitude for the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere and fillest all things.
Bishop Irenei Steenberg makes a compelling observation about the language that we use when we speak about the third member of the Holy Trinity. That language, he says, should be poetic, a language of what he calls prose prayer. Which is why my homily this morning will be that—prose prayer.
In 1921 and 1922, St. Nikolai Velimirovic took some time off from his many labors to dwell in nature and in prayer, at a 13th century monastery alongside Lake Ochrid. There, alongside these waters, he composed a series of prose prayers that he eventually named Prayers By The Lake. The volume is one I turn to often, finding great solace and consolation in these prose prayers. I want to share one of these prayers with you this morning, about the gift of God’s Holy Spirit who comes at Pentecost to dwell within us, guide us, comfort us, and convict us.
And so dear God, on this day of the Feast of Holy Pentecost, let us hear the heart, the prayer of Thy humble servant, Nikolai.
Help me to be born anew, O Holy Spirit, You who come at Pentecost to mystically dwell within us.
In vain do I try to clarify myself in the muddy river bed, wherein my life flows. I make a vow to You: I shall flow over dry stone, and shall no longer muddy myself. You will see Your face reflected in me, and will recognize it. Your angels will descend into me, and will not sense the descent.
Not a single willow will cast its shadow on my water, and not a single serpent will dare to enter my cool whirlpools.
Just help me to begin over again. I make a vow to You: I shall weave a new garment of new threads. I have tried long enough with my neighbors to sew new patches onto old garments. The patches fall off, the tatters fall apart, and our sordid nakedness makes us blush with shame.
The wise rishis beneath the Himalayans speak of new births, which they say number more than the sands of the sea. But what good are all these births to me, which serve only as a gateway for me to leave one prison to enter another?
I beseech You for one birth only, for being born anew in the Spirit. I was born of water and baptized with water, and am creeping over the earth like muddy water. Most assuredly You say to me, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Indeed, being born of water is only a prophecy of being born of the Spirit, and baptism with water is only a prophecy of the baptism with fire.
With water we are recruited as soldiers, but with the Spirit we are made victors.
Do not permit your soldier, O Holy Spirit, to fight for a lifetime and then conduce his soldiering with defeat. Let the victor be born in me, who will not doubt even for a second that he is born with victory.
Water gives birth to an army inclined to defeat, while the Holy Spirit gives birth to an army inclined to victory. Help me to be born anew, O consubstantial Trinity, so that there may appear in me the sort of man You had in Your mind before time. A man girded with Your strength, adorned with Your wisdom, illuminated with Your purity!
So that You might be entering my eyes, and not the world. So that my heart might yearn only for You.
And so that my soul might be impregnated by Your seed alone.
Do not abandon me, O Holy Spirit, to expire as an old man, to wear out as a threadbare garment, patched in vain and left unpatched.
The world has brought old age into my soul. It has stamped my entire soul and left its seals on her, so that from them she is suffering, agonizing, and—dying.
Once my soul is born anew in my bones, my bones will also be rejuvenated. And there will be only one seal in my soul—the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Seal!
In vain will the world try to stamp its seal on me, to brand me as its own sheep—it will find no place for its seal. For the one born anew will be filled with Your seal and Your life, O Life-creating Trinity. Come O Holy Spirit, raise me up and help me to be born anew!