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June 4, 2006, Pentecost (Whitsunday), All Souls'
By one spirit we are
all baptized into one body.
This is the Feast of Pentecost
when we recall how God the Holy Ghost descended upon the
infant Christian Church and brought that church to new,
eternal spiritual life. This is, as it were, the
birthday of the church. This is the day we give thanks
for the gift of The Comforter, God the Holy Spirit.
Between the time our Lord
Jesus rose from the dead in resurrection and his
glorious ascension to Heaven, a period of forty days
elapsed. During that time, our Lord visited with his
disciples, teaching them, and promising that although he
would ascend to Heaven, he would never leave or forsake
his church and would abide with us forever. How is this
possible? Our Lord Jesus promised that God would be
present with us by the indwelling presence and power of
the Holy Ghost. In fact, Jesus told us that when the
Holy Ghost dwells with the church, God the Father and
God the Son also would abide with the church. If you
have trouble understanding this, it likely has to do
with your inability to fully grasp the doctrine of the
Holy Trinity. And, if this is the case, then welcome to
the club of most of us.
Our Creeds teach us that:
Such as the Father
is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
So, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy
Ghost is God.
And yet, there are not three Gods, but one God.
I know this is difficult to
understand, but consider this. When we speak of God the
Holy Trinity, we speak of “him”, not of “them.” We
worship God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and He is one
God. This is all by way of saying that on the Feast of
Pentecost, God Himself descended and brought His church
to life. God dwells with His church. The God who created
Heaven and Earth sustains the church with His grace.
Think about what all this means. The church refers to
the Bible as “God’s Word Written.” The authors of the
Scriptures were inspired by God. The Holy Spirit who
inspired the Bible’s authors now inspires His church,
leading us into all truth. We cannot be faithful to Him
without also being faithful to His Word. We certainly
cannot claim to be faithful while contradicting His
The question which remains is
will we be faithful? In our discursiveness, we tend to
make things more complicated than they need to be. The
real question for Christians is not whether we are
conservative or liberal, traditional or modernist, but
whether or not we are faithful. Do we listen to the
voice of the One True Shepherd or do we prefer the
voices of strangers?
The church whose birth we
celebrate exists as one body in Heaven and on Earth. It
is vitally important that we recognize this fact. The
church is the body of Christ. We are one body. This
means that we must not make important decisions without
considering the entire body. What our brothers and
sisters all around the world think matters to us because
we are one. Furthermore, if you are at any meeting of
the church faced with voting on some important
questions, you must ask not only what your brothers and
sisters around the world might think, but you must also
ask what St. Peter and St. Paul might think; what the
Apostles and the Martyrs might think; what St. Augustine
and the Church Fathers might think; what the Blessed
Virgin Mary might think. Why? This is important because
they are all still members of the church. They are
members in glory, more truly alive than we are at
present. You are either a member of the Body of Christ
or you are not, but there is no such thing as a past
member. There are members on Earth and members in glory,
but it is all one body. Of course, what I am speaking
about is what we mean by the importance of tradition.
Tradition is so important precisely because the church
is a living body existing at once in time and eternity.
We seek the wisdom of tradition not because we are
clinging to the past but because we want to get the
present right. Tradition is important not because it’s
our link to the past but because it is our link to those
presently members of Christ’s body – in glory.
Because the church is one body
in Heaven and Earth, when we worship and when we
celebrate the Holy Communion, we are participating in
time in the eternal worship of the church in glory. We
are participating in a partial and limited way in the
eternal celebration of the knowledge and love and peace
and joy of God together with all the company of Heaven,
including those we love but see no longer.
St. John writes of the nature
of God using just three words: God is love. Had St. John
simply written, “God is…” he would have captured the
wisdom of the ancient world. And yet, St. John writes
“God is love” and gives us the Christian revelation. The
Heavenly Father loves the Heavenly Son, and the Son
loves the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the
Father and the Son just as the Heavenly love proceeds.
To say that God the Holy Spirit dwells within the church
is to say that the very principle of the church’s life
is the loving knowledge of God which is the Comforter’s
The love of the Heavenly
Father for the Son is the love in which the Son took our
nature upon him and offered himself for us as one of us.
This love is our life. It is who we are as Christians.
Let us celebrate this Feast of Pentecost by faithfully
following the God who calls us into being and fills us
with His love. Let us celebrate this Pentecost by truly
becoming who we really are, the Body of Christ in whom
Christ dwells. Let us live out the glorious liberty of
the sons of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is His
love which created the world and gave us life. It is His
love which “moves the Sun and all the other stars.” It
is His love which is our spiritual life.
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