“Out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water”

Why the belly?

John 7:37-52; 8:12  



In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


“He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water”.


So our Lord said on a feast of Pentecost -- before the feast of Pentecost that we celebrate, during His earthly ministry when He promised the Spirit; because the living water is the Spirit, and concerning it we hear this wonderful image:


“Out of his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water.”


Now what is the belly for, what does the belly signify?


There’s a place where it says their god is their belly. The belly can be about corruption, selfishness, death, indulgence; the belly is about the earth. The belly commands that we eat every day. Sometimes the belly commands that we eat too much. It makes us tired, unwilling to pray, unwilling to work. The belly is one of the least honored members of the body.


Certainly, couldn’t there be a better place for the waters to flow? What about from the head, from the eyes, from the hands? The Lord said from his belly shall flow forth rivers of living water. Why is this?


The Lord Jesus Christ came to make it possible for us to be incorrupt. The belly, certainly, is the sign of corruption, the sign of our being rooted to the earth. He can clean up everything.


When he sent His Holy Spirit upon mankind it was so that the things of Christ would be revealed to those who would be willing to listen, and they would become completely alive. Everything would be cleaned; just as water that is rushing, cleans and freshens everything. So that even those parts of us which are dirty, which resist becoming perfected, the Lord will indeed perfect.


Water can not be held back when it is in a torrent; everything in its path is pushed out of the way. So it is with the Holy Spirit. But there is a difference: when a flood comes upon us it’s not of our own will that the water comes, and the water destroys things that are precious to us. But the flood of the Holy Spirit comes only if we desire it. If, of our will, we desire to follow the things of God, then indeed the torrent will come. The torrent will flow and never end. Anything that is ungodly that is in our way of the keeping of the commandments will be scoured away, will be pushed away, and the water will flow eternally-- out of our belly, out of every part of us.


Now, the Pharisees’ captains-- the soldiers who were attending to their dirty work-- certainly spoke correctly: never had any man spoken as this man; never has any man done as this man. He lived the life of perfection in the body, and made us capable, and He promised that He would make us capable. And the Holy Spirit enables us to realize the power of the Resurrection, to become eternally fresh and new, to become perfected, even out of our belly.


Now, the Holy Spirit is also fire. Not just water, but also fire; Now these are two things that in Nature do not exist together—one destroys the other. But according to God, these things can coexist.


Fire burns away that which is trash, that which is unclean. Fire purifies. Fire softens. Fire warms. And we need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn away impurity in our soul, and we need the warmth of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. He is called Comforter—He comforts with fire; He comforts by warming our hearts, by giving us that sure and certain hope that indeed we can be changed.


And He is water, eternally giving us life, refreshment, invigorating us; a spring that never, ever ends. A drought will never come upon he who has the Spirit; fire and water in the soul of a Christian, each doing their part, each from the same Spirit.


The Holy Spirit abides in a Christian. Until the promise was given, the Holy Spirit did not live in men; all the things that were accomplished were accomplished by the Spirit outside. Even the prophets who spoke by the Spirit: the Spirit did not live in them. He inspired them, and they were still unable to accomplish perfection. But now the Comforter is given to us, and we can become perfected. Anything that’s impure, anything that’s temporal can all be changed-- can become perfected, can become clean, can become light, life. Today when we celebrate the fulfillment of the Resurrection in man the Lord has given us everything now we need.


He lived on the earth and showed us the way of life that is perfect; the way of life that leads to eternal life, to true happiness, no other kind of happiness is possible. Only by following the will of God can we truly be happy. He showed us this. He showed us the way to live, of having priorities, to follow the commandments. But showing this would not do us any good, unless He also made us capable of doing what He shows us, because we weren’t capable of following His examples; we’re strangers and aliens as the apostle said, far from God, unable to follow the commandments, not completely, not so that we could have rivers of living water in our belly springing out; not so that we could be completely perfected, have nothing ever that is corruptible in us. So He died, and resurrected Himself so that our bodies can be resurrected, can defeat corruption.


But even this is not enough. How many people live in the Resurrection? We still see sin, suffering, unbelief, sadness in the world. The Resurrection is for all men, but not all men are able to apprehend it, to clasp it to their bosom.


We need a Comforter, a Guide, and a Helper; that is the Holy Spirit. He is given so that we can live in the Resurrection; so we can apply the lessons the Lord has given us-- and continues to give us on a moment by moment basis-- of how to live, how to think, how to be, how to feel. All these lessons can be applied because the Comforter tells us in groanings that can not be uttered[1]. Most of what the Holy Spirit does for us we do not see, or feel, or even know, but he does enlighten, and He does change, and He does make alive, Without the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection would only be a painting on the wall inaccessible to us, beautiful to be sure, but not something that belongs to us. The Holy Spirit makes it belong to us, because we can be changed. We don’t have to live with incorruption.


Out of our belly shall flow forth rivers of living water, because our Lord showed us how to live. He made us capable of living, and gave us a Guide to show us, continually, how to live and to strengthen us.


May the fire and the water of the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten and help all of us, and make us incorrupt forever. Amen.



Note: After this homily was published on our BLOG, Fr Milovan Katanic posted a meditation ( which was, as he said, inspired by this sermon, and contained many edifying observations. Fr Milovan has an excellent blog, called “Again & Again”, which I read frequently and recommend -



John 7:37-52; 8:12   37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) 40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? 43 So there was a division among the people because of him. 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. 45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. 12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26)