|Stewardship of our Anticipation of the Holy Spirit|
Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, just before ascending into heaven, declared to his disciples, "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24: 39). He commanded them to wait for the Gift of the Comforter-the Divine Promise prophesied by the Holy Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:29). The disciples joyfully anticipated this Divine Promise. They waited vigilantly and patiently for its coming. They obeyed Christ's direction for receiving it.
The Holy Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord reveals to us the nature of Christ's love for us, as well as the disciples' love for Christ. He is willing to be incarnate as a mortal man, take on our nature, die for us, resurrect on the third day, and ascend into heaven so that everything that we are as human beings might be brought before the Face of God. The disciples are willing to go to the place of persecution and derision because He commands it. They are willing to do nothing other than tarry-wait-for the fulfillment of God's Promise. They now forsake the cares of this world and their own feeble desires to unite themselves to God's Will.
As St. John Chrysostom reminds us, the Lord would never send out His disciples without arming them first. Just as a company of soldiers are first armed before going out to battle, so too were the disciples armed with the Holy Spirit prior to going out into the world to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Lord! (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Ch.1). Thus, they willingly wait for the Father's Promise, without ever knowing when it will be fulfilled! Our Lord never verified the exact time of the coming of the Holy Spirit-yet the disciples remain vigilant.
What do we do with the anticipation of communion with God through the Holy Spirit? How often do we joyfully await the promise of union with our Lord through Holy Communion? Do we remain vigilant, waiting for the presence of the Lord to become a wellspring of eternal Life within us? Do we ever watch-looking to the Lord's Second Coming? Or, do we instead succumb to the cares and pleasures of this world...?
Essentially, these questions ask us what is our primary focus: this world, or Life. The disciples' experience of Christ in their lives encourages them to continue to live for and in Him. They did not follow Him because their parents did. They did not follow him because they were taught about His two natures. They did follow Him because they experienced the fire of His Love. They did follow Him because they recognized the need for change in themselves-a change made through this Fiery Love. How do we experience Christ's Fiery Love in our lives?
There was a nun who lived in a monastery in Paris, France who was afflicted with a multitude of ailments for many years. One morning, she awoke to all of them having completely disappeared. Frightened, she ran to the Igumanija (Mother Abbess) and explained the situation. The Igumanija asked, "Why are you afraid, if you have been healed?" "Why has God forgotten His handmaiden!?" she replied. "When I was afflicted, I knew God's Fiery Love was actively transforming me through the affliction. Now, I feel alone..." She understood the nature of God's Love, and experienced Him through her very suffering!
Even more recently, Meriam Ibrahim of the Sudan shows us the way to experience God's Love here in this world. This Orthodox Christian woman is the daughter of an Ethiopian Orthodox mother and a Moslem father. Her father abandoned her at the age of three, leaving her mother to raise her alone. She was raised as a Christian; however, Sharia law states that she is Muslim by birth and thus, an apostate to Islam. She was convicted of apostasy and given four days to reject Christ...to which she replied, "I am a Christian and have always been a Christian." By living in Christ, she has become aflame with the fire of Divine Love-becoming a witnessing Beacon of Christ to the world. Her impending suffering and death has become a call for all Christians to witness for Christ through their lives.
Another way to experience God's Love is through the neighbors we encounter in the world. The Fiery Love of God actively encourages us to love freely, just as we are loved freely. The catastrophic floods in our Serbian homeland are an opportunity to love our neighbors in need-thus proving we are truly Christ's disciples.
Now is the time to live every day in anticipation and recognition of God's Love. Now is the time to give thanks for all of the dynamic opportunities He offers us in our lives to be transformed by His Love. Now is the time to be vigilant and watch-awaiting the next moment when we are to choose between our own pleasure and sacrificing ourselves for the sake of Christ. Now is the time to live from Communion to Communion-to live for that very union with our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christ ascended in glory, so that through Him, we might be brought before the Face of God. We are empowered to stand before the very Face of God through participating in Christ by the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us live every day in anticipation of this marvelous and loving gift. Let us continually look to the Life of the World to come!
By: Fr. Christopher Rocknage