Sermon on Pentecost by Archbishop Tikhon (Troitsky) of San Francisco and Western America
Today the Holy Church remembers that event which in one instant made of fishermen of Galilee into preachers to the entire world. The descent of the Holy Spirit gave these simple men, who frequently disappointed the Lord with their roughness and weakness, great spiritual power, such power, such invincible might, before which even the centuries-old religion of Rome crumbled, which had been interwoven so closely with the government, and the pagan philosophical wisdom of its representatives, and finally, the very structure of state and daily practices with which they attempted to conquer the entire world.
Ponder this Apostolic power of inspiration. Every person, every society studies one specialty or another, and each of these is evaluated for its usefulness. So mechanics and physicists gain renown for providing mankind with great powers to augment their natural weaknesses: medicine teaches us to drive out the ailments of the body; history teaches civil experience, linguistics the understanding of foreign tongues. But how meager are these various fields in comparison with that power of influence over the human heart, that moral stature which the Apostles received on this day? It is enough to take the most perfunctory look at human nature. For can any special field, any area of expertise fill the human soul, satisfy it totally? No!
No matter how zealously a farmer tends to his fields, how eagerly a soldier fulfills his duty, how much a scholar immerses himself in study, still, none of these are able to drown out that special voice, a certain loftier calling, reminding a person of selfless works in order to strive towards moral perfection. This goal, that mandatory duty of man, his sole worthy effort, if he wishes to undertake it, will quickly make him realize that it is impossible to do so with his usual, natural means.
Wickedness has so eroded the human nature that the words of the Apostle are manifest: “For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). This moral frailty, this weakness of spirit which not a single intellect, not any power of inspiration, can overcome, created within Russian society the sense that almost everyone accepted the aimless stagnation of self-love, they began to feel all other goals of life to be merely a dream of younger years. No wonder the poet [Nikolai Nekrasov-transl.] exclaims that we “are fated only to strive for good, but to achieve nothing!”
And so, life itself persistently confirms the teaching of Divine Scripture that our nature is damaged by sin, that we require renewal by grace, high spiritual aid, which was for the first time granted to the Apostles. Only with genuine, living faith in this higher aid, which we receive in the holy Mysteries, with our vivid recognition that in the matter of moral effort-you are not alone, that this podvig is not only your personal endeavor, which counters the habits and laws of life, but on the contrary, in serving good and struggling against passions, you have the Almighty Helper and Protector in the Holy Spirit, that His Highest Will directs life, that over and above the fuss and trifles of men’s passions, invisibly to us, God’s Providence is at work towards our salvation. In a word, through communion with our Heavenly Father, we can stay afloat in personal moral perfection and selfless, self-denying service to our neighbors.
Celebrating today with the Church the most-glorious descent of the Divine Spirit upon the Apostles, let us remember that from the moment of our baptism we bear within ourselves this heavenly Treasure of the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit, which can either enrich us for all of eternity, should we preserve it in our pure hearts, if we augment the talents granted to us of faith and piety, truth and sanctity, love and mercy; or subject us to eternal suffering if we are lost in a life of waste, sin and unrepentance. Let us fear to fail the Spirit of God Which lives in us through lawlessness, so that we do not share the fate of those who crucified Christ; let us warm within ourselves the grace of the Holy Spirit through pious prayer and learning of the Word of God; let us exercise our powers of grace granted by the Holy Spirit, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), so that in thought and desire and action to strive towards that which is true, is honest, is pure, is loving, what is praiseworthy; so that throughout our lives and works the fruits of the Holy Spirit living within us are brought forth-love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, mercy, faith, humility, restraint. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), says Apostle Paul. Amen.