The Holy Spirit, Sent to Strengthen
"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to 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).
The Glorious Feast of the Pentecost lasts for one day and falls on the fiftieth day after the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and disciples. After our Lord's Ascension into Heaven, His apostles and disciples gathered together in a Upper Room in Jerusalem with St. Mary and the holy women who had followed the Lord. Numbering around one hundred and twenty persons, they spent the days in prayer. On the tenth day a sound as of mighty wind filled the Upper Room and tongues of fire came down upon the head of all those in the room. The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in many strange tongues. After they were filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles were also filled with courage and feared nothing. Such was the strength of the Holy Spirit abiding within them.
The Helper refers to the Holy Spirit (parakletos). The Helper was present from the beginning, "the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit is indeed the Helper. He is His Coworker in making Heaven and Earth.
The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Father alone...
"But the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning" (John 15:26-27).
Athenagoras taught, "The Holy Spirit Himself which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him and returning back again like a beam of the sun."
St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, "The Holy Ghost is truly Spirit (not ghost) coming forth from the Father indeed, but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by generation but by procession." Many Biblical scholars prefer the name "Holy Spirit" to "Holy Ghost" for the reason that St. Gregory alludes.
St. Gregory of Nyssa also confirms the procession of the Holy Spirit and its characteristics..."Thus, the characteristic of the Father's Person cannot be transferred to the Son or to the Spirit. It is the characteristic of the Father to exist without cause. This does not apply to the Son and the Spirit, for the Son 'went out from the Father' (John 16:28). It is written in the Holy Scripture 'and the Spirit proceeds from God' and 'from the Father' (John 15:26)."
How Are We Helped?
We are helped through being strengthened through sanctification. The Holy Spirit strengthens us by:
- Sanctifying our mind St. Paul said, "for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit...But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (I Corinthians 12:8-11).
- Sanctifying our heart The Helper's holy dwelling where He uncovers sins, leads us to repentance. He is creating a heart for His dwelling..."to another faith by the same Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:9). "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me as the Holy Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39).
- Sanctifying our worship St. Paul said "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit...and for me that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel" (Ephesians 6:18-19).
- Sanctifying our gifts and talents St. Didymus the Blind said, "There is no way a person can attain any of God's gracious gifts unless he attains the Holy Spirit Who has all God's gifts."
What Type of Environment Does the Holy Spirit Thrive And Strengthen?
Perhaps the answer lies in the examination of the Upper Room where the Pentecost actually occurred. St. Mark's home, its Upper Room, is widely accepted as the place where the Pentecost took place. Why the home of St. Mark and his mother Mary?
The answer may simply lie in the fact that St. Mark was of Jewish descent of the tribe of Levi or that his home was in Jerusalem, a central location. It could have been that St. Mark was well educated in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Certainly language was a primary issue on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost demonstrated that people would need to be taught in the language and dialect of their region to be able to understand and continue faithfully in the teaching of the apostles and in prayer.
St. Mark's family was very religious and close to the Lord. St. Mark's uncle was Barnabus and his father's cousin was St. Peter who had become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Definitely St. Mark and his mother were a Godly family and well learned of the Holy Scripture from such strong relatives in the faith. St. Mark visited St. Peter's home often and learned the Christian teachings.
St. Mark, the man of the house with the Upper Room, was one of the seventy-two disciples. St. Mark was present at the Wedding of Cana of Galilee for the Lord's first miracle. He was the man carrying the jug when the two disciples went to prepare a place for the celebration of the Passover (Mark 14:13-14; Luke 22:11). St. Mark was the man who fled naked before the Crucifixion (Mark 14:51-52).
St. Mark's house was a house of prayer...
"He came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many gathered together praying" (Acts 12:12).
It was the first Christian Church where the Passover was eaten.
"Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, 'The Teacher says, 'My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples''" (Matthew 26:18).
The Upper Room of St. Mark's home was where the disciples hid after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and felt safe.
Certainly the place of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, that would strengthen the apostles and fill them with courage would have been the very place it occurred. St. Mark's home, the Upper Room was a special place, a pure place, and a place of memories of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy teachings. It was a place that held those who loved the Lord, and it was the container of an act that would forever unite the apostles.
The Holy Spirit strengthened their minds, their hearts, their worship of the Lord, and their gifts and talents. It would defend them from sin and despair in their lives.
"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to 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. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:7-8).
The Holy Spirit will convict the world. For all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ and refuse to accept Him with faith, conviction, and great heartfelt joy will witness life after death in the unquenchable fires of hell.
May the Helper sanctify and strengthen our lives as we allow the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
"To Him who loved us, washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (Revelations 1:5-6).
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States