Pope Shenouda III on Pentecost
In honor of the Feast, here is an article on that topic by the Coptic Pope, Shenouda III.
The Feast of Pentecost
by Pope Shenouda III
The Glorified Lord Christ lived with them in His body until He rose to Heaven then promised them the Holy Spirit to stay with them forever, the Spirit of truth, the Comforter. So what should we know about the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, therefore it existed since ever. We read about it in the first verses of the Genesis Book. The divine response says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gn 1:1, 2).
And Isaiah talks about the Holy Spirit and gives Him names in his saying: “The Spirit of the LORD…The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” (Is 11:2).
And we add to that in the third Hour Prayer (Terce) of every day and say: “a spirit of prophecy and chastity, a spirit of holiness, justice and authority” and call Him by saying: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who is present in all places and fills all, the treasury of good things and the Life-Giver”.
And the Lord says about Him in the St John’s Gospel “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (Jn 15:26). And the doctrine of being proceeded from the Father was mentioned by the Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in the Faith Creed. Yet our brothers, the Catholics add to it “Filioque” meaning “and from the Son”. And this is opposing to the Holy Trinity Doctrine. In assimilating the Holy Trinity to Fire we say: "Fire brings forth heat; and light proceeds from it” and we do not say that the light proceeds from heat! But the light and the heat both come from the origin, which is the fire and not one from the other.
The Holy Spirit used to work in the Old Testament as well.
In the story of Samson we read that “the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan” (Judges 13:25). And we also read that after Saul was anointed as king that “the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied” (1 S 10:10). This also happened when David was anointed by Prophet Samuel to be king “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam 16:13). And the way the Holy Spirit came upon both Saul and David was through the Anointing Oil that the Lord ordered them to prepare in Exodus Book (Ex 30:22-31). And Aaron was anointed as a high priest when Moses poured from this holy anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him (Lv 8:12), as we say in the psalm “It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.” (Ps 133:2). And with this anointing oil the tent of meeting along with the altars and the utensils were anointed and became holy (Ex 40, Lv 8). With this anointing oil also kings and prophets were anointed (1 Kings 19). And as a result to the anointing, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and so comes His gifts as well.
And we read in prophet Joel the Lord’s saying: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28).
And this is what happened on the fiftieth day (the Day of Pentecost), as St Peter the Apostle explained this verse from Prophet Joel’s Book (Ac 2:16, 17).
The Holy Spirit also could be transferred from one person to another.
This happened to the seventy elders on the days of Prophet Moses when the Lord said to him: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them” (Nm 11:16, 17). And here the bible says: “Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied” (Nm 11:25).
We notice that before Moses, when Joseph the Righteous interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, “Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?"” (Gn 41:38). And here was the Holy Spirit’s gift interpreting dreams, i.e., the Spirit of knowledge.
Also there is another work for God’s Spirit in every art, so as to what the tent of meeting needed “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship” (Ex 31:1- 5).
Here we see that the Holy Spirit works even in the talent of workmanship that is given to some even in jewelry and carving woods.
Among the most important characteristics of the Holy Spirit is that it is Who spoke in the prophets.
This is a statement in the content of the Faith Creed. This means that the Holy Spirit is the source of the divine response of the Holy books. the Holy Spirit was the source of all what the prophets and apostles said in the holy books.
In this St Peter the Apostle said in his second epistle “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 P 1:21).
Nowadays, in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given through three ways: The holy anointing, laying priests’ hands and the holy breath.
As for the holy breath, it was written in St John’s Gospel that our Lord Jesus, after His Resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples, the saints, in the upper room, He told them “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."” (Jn 20:21-23).
In the ordination of the bishop or the priest we breathe in his face and say “Accept the Holy Spirit”, so he opens his mouth to accept the holy breath and says with the psalm “I opened my mouth and accepted myself a spirit”.
As for laying hands, the Holy Spirit in the time of our fathers the apostles was given through the apostles laying hands. This was mentioned in giving the Holy Spirit to the People of Samaria. The Apostles Synod in Jerusalem sent them St Peter and St John “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Ac 8:14-17). And the same was done to the People of Ephesus “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Ac 19:7). Same applied to the Priesthood Sacrament, St Paul the Apostle said to his disciple Timothy “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Ti 1:6).
The holy anointing was also known in the apostolic age. St John the Apostle says about that: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One…” (1 Jn 2:20) “… But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you” (1 Jn 2:27).
We, in anointing children after baptism: we anoint them with the Holy Chrism (Myron) and lay hands on them and breathe in their faces. And say to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
With the Holy Anointing Sacrament, we become temples for the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit dwells in us. St Paul the Apostle talks about that in his first epistle to Corinthians and says: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Co 3:16), and “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Co 6:19). Then every one of should remember that on the day he was anointed with the Holy Chrism (Myron) that he became a temple for the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit became dwelling in him.
The Holy Spirit works in priesthood and priesthood is granted through the Holy Spirit. It has the power of forgiving sins. But someone may say: How is that? And no one can forgive sins except God alone! We say: Yes, the Holy Spirit that is in the priest is one who forgives sins. As we say in the Holy Liturgy “be absolved by my mouth through the Holy Spirit,” so it is the Holy Spirit that forgives sins. And this forgiveness comes from the priest’s mouth. And the absolution that the priest gives through the absolution prayer in which he says: may God absolve you, may God pardon you, may God forgive you. And the Holy Spirit is present also in all the Church Sacraments. He also is present in all the Holy Synod decisions. In the first decision that came from the Synod in Jerusalem on the days of our fathers the apostles, they said: “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” (Ac 15:28).
The Holy Spirit works in the Service too. The Church fathers, the apostles did not start the service until the Holy Spirit came upon them and the Lord’s promise saying: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Ac 1:8) was fulfilled in them. The Holy Spirit was the One choosing the servants, like when He said: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Ac 13:2, 4). And it was Him who directed the servants in their paths and worked in them and using them.
Asking for the Holy Spirit is a point of our daily prayer of the Third Hour (Terce). We ask it to come upon us and purify us from all defilement of body and spirit. And we cry to God saying: Your Holy Spirit, O Lord, do not take away from us.
It is part of our freedom to accept the Holy Spirit, work with Him, and go into the “Holy Spirit Partaking”. And we are also free to reject and quench the Spirit and fight the Spirit. And the most serious thing is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, meaning to reject it completely all through the life. But how beautiful is the bible’s saying: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Ro 8:14).
Here I would like to warn those who are deceived and think that every spirit that leads them is God’s Spirit!! The apostle says: “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn 4:1).