Thirst for the Holy Spirit: On the Feast of Mid-Pentecost

Lay Sermon by Eugene Rose. May 1965

For too many of us, perhaps, the weeks following the radiant Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ are a time of relaxation and even of indulgence; the rigors of the Fast being ended, the body revels while the spirit grows weak.  But if this is unfortunately so, it is our own fault and not the fault of the Holy Church; for she never ceases to draw our minds upward and instruct us as to what thoughts and actions are appropriate for Orthodox Christians in this holy season.

0_88494_52039e05_XXLEach Sunday after Easter has a special name drawn from the appointed Gospel reading; between Easter and the Ascension there are the Sundays of St. Thomas, of the Myrrh bearers, of the Paralytic, of the Samaritan Woman, of the Blind Man.  Another special feast, to which too little attention is usually paid, occurs on the Wednesday of the fourth week after Easter and is called “Mid-Pentecost.”  This feast commemorates the event in the life of the Savior when, in the middle of the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles, He taught in the Temple concerning His being sent from God and concerning the living water of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which all those who thirst may receive from Him (St. John 7:14-39).

As celebrated by Orthodox Christians, this feast occurs exactly midway between Easter and Pentecost and serves as a link between them.  It continues the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection, emphasizing His Divine nature and glory; for it was proper to no one but to God to conquer death.  At the same time it reminds us of the approaching Descent of the Holy Spirit and prepares us for it, teaching us to find in Christ our God the Source of life and grace, He Who sends the Holy Spirit (St. John 16:7), and to become ourselves not merely recipients, but even givers of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (St. John 7:38).

Faith has grown weak in our day, and few live up to this teaching: but even for the weakest there is at least one lesson to be learned from the teaching of this feast of Mid-Pentecost: thirst.  Even while feasting on the good things of this earth that are permitted to us in this joyful season, we should yet thirst for what lies above the earth, for the Holy Spirit Whose coming we await even while we enjoy the presence among us of the Risen Lord.  Thus we sing in the Troparion of the feast:

 Tone VIII

Having come to the middle of the feast,

refresh my thirsty soul with the streams of piety;

for Thou, O Savior, didst say to all:

Let him who thirsts come to Me and drink.

O Christ our God, Source of Life, glory to Thee.

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