Christ is Risen!
We find ourselves approaching Mid-Pentecost this Wednesday. Mid-Pentecost, what is that? Pentecost is the Feast celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday and halfway in between on the 25th day is Mid-Pentecost; always celebrated on a Wednesday. This past Sunday, was the 4th Sunday of Pascha, Sunday of the Paralytic. We heard in the Gospel of John that day: there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (5:1) On this upcoming Wednesday, also from the Gospel of John, we will hear: now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught. (7:14) Of what feast is John speaking about? The feast in both instances was the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot. This is a Jewish Feast celebrated in the month of Tishri. It starts on the 15th of that month and lasts for eight days. This Feast ranges from September to October in the Gregorian Calendar. It commemorates the forty years the Jews lived in tabernacles or tents in the wilderness and ate manna. 50 days after Passover, the Jews celebrate the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. This was the giving of the Mosaic Law by God to the people and their entrance into the Promised Land. On this day the Jews offer bread to God as a sacrifice, made with new wheat. The new wheat signifies the new life the Jews began in the Promised Land after 40 years in the wilderness eating manna.
The Gospel reading this past Sunday referred to the healing of the Paralytic on the Sabbath and makes reference to the “middle of the feast” of Tabernacles. The apolytikion of Mid-Pentecost, however, refers to next Sunday which is the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman: O Lord, midway through the feast, give drink to my thirsty soul from the waters of true religion. For to all You the Savior cried aloud, “Let whoever is thirsty come to Me and drink.” O Christ our God, the fountain of life, glory to You. On that particular Sunday, Christ speaks about the “Living Water” which we can only receive from Him. So Mid-Pentecost not only bridges Pascha and Pentecost but also the two Sundays mentioned. Mid-Pentecost is not the only Feast that refers to Sukkot. The other Feast is the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. Jesus was a pious Jew who in His earthly life observed the Mosaic Law but also fulfilled it. The healing of the Paralytic on the Sabbath confirms that Jesus desires mercy not sacrifice since the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mk 2:27) Next Sunday, Christ engages with the Samaritan Woman. Jews did not have good relations with Samaritans and Hebrew men did not talk to strange women in public. Yet, Christ transcends the Law, He was crucified for us and our salvation, all mankind.
Mid-Pentecost is a bridge between two Feasts but in a way uniting them almost as one Feast. It is all part of the fulfillment of God’s divine plan. The Doxastikon of the Orthros for Mid-Pentecost sums it all up: We were illumined, O brethren, by the Resurrection of Christ the Savior. And now we have reached the middle of the feast of the Lord. Let us sincerely keep the commandments of God, so that we may become worthy to celebrate the Ascension as well, and witness the coming of the Holy Spirit. Before His Passion, Christ told His Disciples: Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the Chief Priests and to the Scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again. (Mt 20: 18-19) Also before His Passion, Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit that He would send on Pentecost: It is your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart I will send Him to you..(John 16:7)…However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come (ibid, 13)
Sometimes it gets confusing, the Son ascends yet the Spirit descends. Has Jesus departed us? Was the Spirit present with us when Jesus was here? These are some common questions. The Holy Spirit is eternal, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity who proceeds from the Father. He is the Creator of Life and consubstantial with the Father. From the 1st verse of Genesis we hear about the Holy Spirit: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.(1-2) The Holy Trinity was revealed at Epiphany and at the Transfiguration. Τhis confirms that the Holy Spirit art in all places and fillest all things. After His Ascension, Jesus sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that we know the Son and by through the Son that we know the Father. Jesus said: No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. (Jn 14:6-7) It is hard to grasp all this and make sense of it all; let us not panic. We hear the priest intone in the Divine Liturgy: for thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same, thou and thine Only-Begotten Son and thy Holy Spirit. God reveals Himself to us, we just need to have faith.
As we celebrate this great Feast, let us do so with the joy, proclaiming His Resurrection and in anticipation of His Ascension and the Descent and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
A Blessed Feast to all!