Attended the Vespers service for the feast of Pentecost, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Not even Pascha, I don't think, truly fills me with as much gratitude as this feast. True, the Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord renewed the nature of man, opening the doors of Heaven to mankind and providing for us the Firstfruits of the union of God and Man, but it is this feast which offers to each individual believer, as well as the Church as a whole, to have this prototypical union--already fulfilled in the union of the divine and human natures of Christ--manifested in the lives of each member of Christ's Body here on earth.
I think back, four years now, to my chrismation, which is my own personal Pentecost. The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit was bestowed on me then, and something amazing happened. The incarnate life of God which was lost to us in the Fall was reestablished within my body, soul and spirit. The third Person of the Trinity came to dwell within me, leading me to union with the Son, Who would bring me whole into the presence of the Father. It is for this reason that the icon usually known as the Hospitality of Abraham, the most well known of which was written by the hand of the iconographer (and perhaps future saint) Andrei Rublev, is displayed in Orthodox Churches:
The Hospitality of Abraham
We celebrate not only the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the final act of the Godhead to bring us into His presence. The Spirit gives life to us, bringing us into the Body of Christ, wherein we may partake of the divine nature of the Son, through Whose nature we become reconciled to our Father and Creator.
The troparion, kontakion and stichera of Pentecost, from the service tonight (they say it better than I ever could). It's long, but worth it:
Troparion:And from the service of Pentecost Sunday:
Blessed art thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to thee.
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he divided the nations; but when he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity, and with one voice, we glorify the all-holy Spirit.
Lo, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the presence of the Spirit, the fulfillment of the promise and the completion of hope. How wonderful is this mystery; for it is great and most solemn. Wherefore, we cry unto thee, O Lord and Creator of all, glory to thee.
Thou hast renewed for thy Disciples, O Christ, a different kind of tongues, that they might therewith proclaim that thou art the immortal Word and God who granteth our souls the Great Mercy.
The Holy Spirit provideth all; overfloweth with prophecy; fulfilleth the Priesthood; and hath taught wisdom to the illiterate. He hath revealed the fishermen as theologians. He bringeth together all the laws of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, equal to the Father in Substance and the throne, glory to thee.
We have seen the true Light we have received the Holy Spirit; we have found the true Faith. Wherefore, let us worship the indivisible Trinity; for he hath saved us.
By the Prophets thou didst tell us the way of salvation, O our Savior, and by the grace of thy Spirit. Thou art God from the beginning; and for time to come, and unto the ages, verily, thou art our God.
In thy dwelling-places I offer praise, O Savior of the world, and by the bending of the knees I worship thine unconquerable might. In the evening, on the morrow, at midnight, and at all times, I bless thee, O Lord.
As we believers bend, O Lord, in thy dwelling- places, the knees of the soul and the body together, we praise thee, O Father without beginning, the Son equally without beginning, and the most Holy Spirit coeternal with thee, the Illuminator and Sanctifier of our souls.
Let us praise the consubstantial Trinity, the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit; for thus did all the Prophets preach, and the Apostles with the Martyrs too.
Come ye nations, let us worship the three-personed Godbead, a Son in the Father, with a Holy Spirit; for the Father timelessly hath begotten the Son, equal to him in eternity and the throne; and the Holy Spirit was in the Father, glorified with the Son, one Might, one Substance, one Godhead, which we all worship, saying, Holy God who created everything through the Son with the help of the Holy Spirit; Holy Mighty, in whom we knew the Father, and through whom the Holy Spirit came to the world; Holy Immortal One, the comforting Spirit, proceeding from the Father and resting in the Son; O Holy Trinity, glory to thee.
When thou didst send thy Spirit, O Lord, the Apostles, being seated, the sons of the Hebrews took note, and were astonished; for they heard them speak in strange tongues, according as the Spirit bestowed on them; for they were illiterate. They philosophized, driving the Gentiles to the Faith, as they preached of things divine. Wherefore, we cry to thee, O thou who wast revealed on earth and didst save us from error, glory to thee, O Lord.
Being ignorant of the power of thy most Holy Spirit who came to thine Apostles, the Gentiles imagined that the gift of tongues was drunkenness. But we who are confirmed by them cry ceaselessly, beseeching, Thy Holy Spirit take not from us, O Lover of mankind.
The coming of the Holy Spirit, O Lord, and his encompassing of thy Disciples, revealed them as speaking with other tongues, hence the miraculous wonder. As for the unbelievers, they thought it drunkenness, and the believers, a cause of salvation to them. Wherefore, we beseech thee to make us ready for his illumination, O Lover of mankind.
Of old there was confusion of tongues because of the boldness of the tower-builders. But those tongues have not uttered wisdom for the glory of divine knowledge. There God condemned the infidels to punishment, and here with the Spirit Christ illuminated the fishermen. At that time the confusion of tongues was designed for vengeance, and now the unison of tongues hath been renewed for the salvation of our souls.
Let us, O believers, celebrate with joy the last Feast, which is also the last of the Feast‑Pentecost which is the end and fulfillment of the preordained promise; for then did come down the fire of the Comforter upon the earth in the likeness of tongues, lighting the Disciples and revealing them plainly as initiates of heavenly things. Verily, the light of the Comforter hath come and lighted the world.
The spring of the Spirit hath come to those on earth, dividing supersensuously into fire‑bearing rivers, moistening the Apostles and illuminating them. The fire hath become to them a dewy cloud, lighting, and raining flames upon them, from whom we received grace by the fire and the water. Verily the fire of the Comforter hath come and lighted the world.
After thy rising from the tomb, O Christ, and thy divine ascent to the celestial heights, thou didst send thy glory, O compassionate One, to thy Godhead seeing Disciples, renewing in them a right spirit. Wherefore, like a musical harp, they proclaimed their words unto all mystically, through the instrument of thy dispensation.
Let us praise Him who overwhelmed Pharaoh and his chariots in the sea; who crusheth wars with a mighty hand; for He hath been glorified.
Thou didst call unto thy Disciples, O Christ, saying, "Stay ye in Jerusalem till ye be endued with power from on high, and I will send you another Comforter like me, who is my Spirit and the Spirit of the Father, and in Him ye shall be strengthened."
When the Prophet perceived thy coming in the last days, O Christ, he lifted his voice crying, "I have heard, O Lord, the hearing of thy might; for thou didst verily come to save all thine anointed ones.
The Spirit of salvation, O Lord, who for fear of thee was conceived in the belly of the Prophets and wast begotten on earth, hath created the hearts of the Apostles pure, being renewed in the faithful; for thy commands are light and peace.
My soul hath been stirred with the agitation of worldly concerns. Yea, I am drowned therein, from the sins that accompany me, and cast to the soul-corrupting beast. Wherefore, like Jonah, I cry unto thee, "O Christ, lift me out of the mortifying depth."
The righteous youths who were thrown into the furnace of fire, changed the flames into dew when thy lifted their voices in songs of praise, crying thus, "Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers."
The unconsumed bush which mingled with fire in Sinai made God known to the heavy-tongued and hoarse-voiced Moses. In like manner, God's zeal manifested the three youths as unconsumed by fire, but praising thus, "Praise the Lord, all His works, and exalt Him more and more unto the ages."
Of old the fire-breathing, zealous Elijah did mount with joy the all-flaming chariot. Wherefore, this sign did explain the rising of the gentle breeze illuminating the Apostles from on High, through which they were lighted, making known to all the Trinity.
Strange things contrary to the law of nature are now heard; for by the one voice, which the Disciples received in diverse kinds, through the grace of the Spirit, all the nations, tribes, and tongues heard the great things of God, and received the knowledge of the Trinity.
We on whom the grace coming from God did blow, have become luminous and bright, changed in a resplendent manner of exceeding beauty, comprehending the indivisible equipotent, triluminous, wise Essence. Wherefore, let us glorify Him.
All-Holy Spirit, issuing from the Father and coming through the Son upon the illiterate Disciples, save and sanctify all those who know thee as God.
Light is the Father. and Light the Son; Light is the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles in fiery tongues, through which the whole universe was illuminated to worship the holy Trinity.
Today all the nations in the city of David beheld wonders, when the Holy Spirit descended in fiery tongues, as the God-inspired Luke spake; for he said, The Disciples of Christ being gathered together, there was a sound as of a mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And they began to speak strange doctrines and strange teachings with divers tongues, to the holy Trinity.
The Holy Spirit hath ever been, is and ever shall be; for he is wholly without beginning and without end. Yet he is in covenant with the Father and the Son, counted as Life and Life-giver, Light and Light-giver, good by nature and a Fountain of goodness, through whom the Father is known and the Son glorified. And by all it is understood that one power, one rank, one worship arc of the Holy Trinity.
Light, Life, and a living supersensuous Fountain is the Holy Spirit, good, upright, supersensuous Spirit of understanding, and purifying offenses, God understanding, presiding, and purifying offenses, God and deifying, Fire projecting from Fire, speaking, active, Distributor of gifts, through whom all the Prophets, the Apostles of God, and the Martyrs are crowned, a strange Report, a strange sight, a Fire divided for the distribution of gifts.
O heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who art, in all places, and fillest all things, Treasury of good things, and Giver of life, come, and take up thine abode in us, and cleanse us from every stain; and save, O good One, our souls.