Tropar of Pentecost
Blessed art Thou O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as supremely wise, by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit; through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net, O Lover of mankind, glory be to Thee!
Some teachers in the Church have referred to the feast of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. This is the day when early Church received the baptism foretold by our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the day when the members of the Church received a spiritual birth, a birth in the Holy Spirit. Therefore I would like to say something about the sacrament of Baptism which originated with this event of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
St. Diadochos of Photiki has something informative and eye opening to tell us about the grace we receive in Baptism. St. Diadokos was born at the beginning of the fifth century. During his tenure as bishop the Church was troubled by the Messalians. “They claimed that Baptism and the other sacraments were powerless to drive the demon completely out of the soul, and that it continued to co-habit with grace in the heart of the Christian. According to them, only constant prayer can drive Satan out of the heart and, once it is acquired, the ‘perfect’ have no further need to be bound either by the sacraments or the rest of the Church’s life.” (The Synaxarion, Volume Four, Holy Covent of The Annunciation of our Lady, Ormylia [Chalkidike], pp. 261-2)
In reply to this error St. Diadochos writes:
Before holy baptism, grace encourages the soul towards good from the outside, while Satan lurks in its depths, trying to block all the intellect’s way of approach to the divine. But from the moment that we are reborn through baptism, the demon is outside, grace is within. Thus, whereas before baptism error ruled the soul, after baptism truth rules it. Nevertheless, even after baptism Satan still acts on the soul, often, indeed, to a greater degree than before. This is not because he is present in the soul together with grace; on the contrary, it is because he uses the body’s humours (1) to befog the intellect with the delight of mindless pleasures. (The Philokalia, Volume One, p 279)
Later on, he tells us of the gifts given in baptism as follows:
Divine grace confers on us two gifts through the baptism of regeneration, one being infinitely superior to the other. The first gift is given to us at once, when grace renews us in the actual waters of baptism and cleanses all the lineaments of our soul, that is, the image of God in us, by washing away every stain of sin. The second—our likeness to God—requires our co-operation. When the intellect begins to perceive the Holy Spirit with full consciousness, we should realize that grace is beginning to paint the divine likeness over the divine image in us. Artists first draw the outline of a man in monochrome, and then add one colour after another, until little by little they capture the likeness of the subject down to the smallest details. In the same way the grace of God starts by remaking the divine image in man into what it was when he was first created. But when it sees us longing with all our heart for the beauty of the divine likeness and humbly standing naked in its atelier (2), then by making one virtue after another come into flower and exalting the beauty of the soul ‘from glory to glory’ (2 Cor. 3:18), it depicts the divine likeness on the soul. (ibid. p. 288)
Yet, with all this, he shows us that progress is still to be made:
Our power of perception shows us that we are being formed into the divine likeness; but the perfecting of this likeness we shall know only by the light of grace. For through its power of perception the intellect regains all the virtues, other than spiritual love…but no one can acquire spiritual love unless he experiences fully and clearly the illumination of the Holy Spirit. If the intellect does not receive the perfection of the divine likeness through such illumination, although it may have almost every other virtue, it will still have no share in perfect love. Only when it has been made like God—in so far, of course, as this is possible—does it bear the likeness of divine love as well. (ibid.)
So here, St. Diadochos, tells us something of the struggle of the baptized Christian soldier. We are called to preserve that which is in the image and ascend to that which is the likeness of our God. By the power of the All-Holy Spirit, together with our ascetic labors may we acquire such a state. Amen.
1 Humour: In early Western physiological theory, one of the four body fluids thought to determine a person’s temperament and features. As hypothesized by Galen, the four cardinal humours were blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile). The variant mixture of these humours in each person determined his “complexion” or temperament and his mental and physical qualities. The ideal person had the perfectly proportioned mixture of the four fluids; a disproportionate amount of one humour created a personality dominated by one set of related emotions (e.g., a choleric man was easily angered, proud, ambitious, and vengeful).
2 Atelier is the French word for “workshop”, and in English is used primarily for the workshop of an artist in the fine arts or decorative arts, where a principal master and a number of assistants, students, and apprentices worked together producing pieces released in the master’s name.