“O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth, come and dwell in us.”
Thus we pray today, as we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles: thus also prayed the apostles, as they awaited the Comforter promised to them from the Heavenly Father. And it was not in vain that they appealed to Him. When all the apostles, as the writer of their acts describes, were together and “with one accord” on the day of the Pentecost, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting, and there appeared unto them tongues like as of fire, and sat upon 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).
In such a wondrous manner did the Holy Spirit mark His descent upon Christ’s apostles! But did He hear our appeal? Soon we will finish our prayers, and we will leave the church, but we have not yet seen any tongues of fire, nor heard any sounds from heaven… However, the faithful have no need of such an amazing miracle as the one manifested by the Holy Spirit upon the apostles for the sake of persuading unbelievers. For us it would be enough if, without any sound or fiery tongues, He would touch us with a spark of His grace and engender within our hearts that spiritual illumination, that ardent love for God, and that fiery aspiration towards holiness which accompanies the presence of God’s Spirit in man.
And in order for Him, the Heavenly King, to be willing to come and dwell in us, we must do that which people usually do when they wish to invite an honoured guest. In this case, as we know, they meticulously put in order their home, in which they intend to welcome this guest, put on their best clothes and various adornments, go out to meet the expected guest, and cordially invite him to come in. This is what we should be doing now, though not physically, but spiritually.
Firstly, in inviting the Holy Spirit, we must prepare ourselves as a worthy abode for Him, and for this, we must assiduously cleanse ourselves, as the apostle commands, of all impurity of flesh and spirit, i.e. of all sins of the flesh and heart. Our sins are so displeasing to the Holy Spirit, that not only can He not look upon them, but He distances Himself completely from those people who are tainted with them. This is confirmed by the prophet, who says to the Jews: “Your sins have hid His [God’s] face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, if we wish for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we must completely cleanse ourselves of our sins. How do we do it? We must sincerely confess our sins before God, calling out like the publican: “O God, have mercy upon us, sinners,” and assiduously guard ourselves against these sins. By means of such confession, we will sweep our sins out of our hearts, like some dirt from a house, and will make ourselves a pure abode for the Holy Spirit.
However, to welcome the Holy Spirit in a worthy manner, it is not enough to cleanse ourselves of our sins, but we must also adorn ourselves with virtue, we must put on the “new man,” created by God in truth and in the image of truth, and ready for all good works. This is necessary not only for the Holy Spirit, Who loves all that is pure and good, to come and dwell in us more willingly, but also for Him not to become angered and depart from us if we appear before Him in tatters, i.e. the clothes of sin, or if we appear naked, i.e. unadorned with good deeds. Remember how the Lord acted in the Gospel parable towards the man who dared come to His wedding feast without decent wedding garments? He commanded His servants to bind the impure one and thrown him out into outer darkness (Matthew 22:11-13). So will He act towards all those who are not concerned with adorning themselves with Christian virtues, which are like the threads that make up the garments in which the Lord wishes to see us dressed. Therefore, together with the apostle, I will tell you to “put on… mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering” and other Christian virtues, “and above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:12, 14).
Having become adorned in such fashion, we must prepare ourselves for receiving the Holy Spirit and ardently entreat Him to be willing to come and dwell in us. How should we entreat Him, so that He would come and dwell in us?
Firstly, we must pray for His descent with unshakeable faith in that God the Father, for the sake of His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and out of His love for mankind will send us His Holy Spirit for our sanctification and strengthening in the attainment of salvation; only with such a faith would we be able to receive the promise, while without such faith it is impossible to please God and, consequently, be worthy of grace-filled contact with Him.
Secondly, we must pray with unshakeable hope in that the Holy Spirit, being good and loving mankind, will hear our prayer to Him and will come and dwell in us, for ”hope maketh not ashamed” (Romans 5:5).
And finally, we must call upon the Holy Spirit with sincere love for the Son of God, our Saviour, through Whom the Spirit is sent to the faithful: “Whoever love Me, will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23), and wherever God the Father is, there His Spirit is also. In short, if we wish the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us, we must call upon Him with faith, hope, and love: faith opens for him the way into our hearts, hope leads Him into them, while love receives Him and unites Him with us in such a way, that we become one in spirit with the Lord.
Bearing this in mind, let us silently confess our sins before the Holy Spirit, let us give Him our promise to become more virtuous, and let us earnestly appeal to Him with faith, hope, and love. “O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth, come and dwell in us!” He, the Most-good, will hear our prayer, will come and dwell in us, and will illuminate our hearts with His grace. Amen.
(Priest Gregory Dyachenko)