Gospel Message & Recording
On the day that we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered in the upper room, as recorded in the Book of Acts chapter 2, we are preparing ourselves to be “refilled” with the Holy Spirit.
On the day of our Baptism, we were all filled with the Holy Spirit. But as time progressed, life took its toll on our spiritual condition. We were, over time, weakened. The fullness of the Holy Spirit that was in us at the time of Baptism has become half-empty or nearly empty. Never, however, can any person be fully empty--for we are created in the image and likeness of God; and therefore, no matter how far we stray from God, the “particles” of the Holy Spirit remain in us. How else could we explain the conversion of St. Paul! If such is the case of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, then we need to be “refilled” as often as possible. Just as we refill our water at a restaurant or refill our gasoline in our car, so also we have to refill ourselves with the power of the Holy Spirit on consistent basis. Since most Orthodox Christian do not practice this spiritual exercise, that is, of being “refilled,” Pentecost service becomes the one-day that makes up for our lack of spiritual awareness. However, this should not be the case—at least not for the serious Christian.
How do we refill ourselves with the Holy Spirit in this busy world we live in.
1. Repent: Repentance is key in refilling ourselves with the Holy Spirit. No one can enter the presence of God and receive His power until and unless there is a genuine repentance of sin. This means, truly feeling sorry for our lustful, hurtful, hateful, deceptive, jealous and rude behavior. Once we present this before God, we are then on the road to being refilled.
2. Pray: Consistent prayer is required, primarily on a daily basis. We all have shortcomings in this area, but use the following analogy to examine your prayer life: if someone were to take pictures of our day, at random moments, for about two weeks, it most likely will not be an accurate depiction of your spiritual life; however, imagine if someone were to take a video of your life for about two weeks. If God were to watch that video, He would see if there was a genuine struggle to pray everyday. The pictures are momentary shots. The video is holistic. Holistically, how are you doing in your prayer life? If you want to be refilled with the Holy Spirit then you must pray. And when you pray attempt the following:
a. Pray on your knees: The Service of Pentecost is also called the Service of Kneeling. There is something about kneeling that makes us concentrate on God. (At least this is my experience.) Kneeling is uncomfortable. It produces in our mind and soul a sense of surrender to God; thus, we grow in a greater level of humility.
b. Pray with hands lifted up: In the Malankara Orthodox Qurbana the Achen is always lifting up his hands to God in prayer. For some reason, there are certain Priests who don’t want the faithful to lift up their hands. I find this to be peculiar. As a Priest I encourage the faithful to lift up their hands and pray, when appropriate. During personal prayer time, it is important to lift up your hands to the Lord. When we lift up our hands we are signaling to God we are ready to receive His blessings.
3. Praise: It goes without saying that we are to live a life of holiness; and furthermore, it is not what we say but what we do that demonstrates that we are Christ’s and Christ is in us. But this does not mean that what we say has no value. On the contrary, our words matter (as I have preached before). Speaking about God, praising God, saying the name of Christ, saying Scripture, produces an atmosphere around us that is conducive to receiving the Holy Spirit. When you are with your friends, Christian or non-Christian, do you invoke the name of Jesus Christ. What do I mean? For example, do let people know that you will keep them in your prayers, when necessary or possible? (I understand there are times when you can’t do this.) Are your greetings expressing your Christian faith? For example, do you greet each other by saying, “Praise the Lord,” “Praise God.” Do you end your conversations by saying, “God bless you.” These are all ways that we can produce an environment for the Holy Spirit. Often we are more than willing to take part in “off-colored” sexual jokes, or engage in inappropriate talk. These examples that I stated above provide a way for us to defuse such situations. They even provide a signal for others that you are not willing to engage in such jokes or conversation.