Questions about Pentecost


What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit?







The ministry of the Holy Spirit was carefully described by Christ shortly before His death and resurrection, and after He rose from the dead, until His glorious Ascension. Some of His teaching was preserved in the Holy Scriptures, although not all, but all of His teaching has been faithfully preserved by the church. The service of Pentecost, and the Sunday matins hymns of ascents especially explain the "economy" of the Holy Spirit, but this teaching is contained in many services and the writings of the Fathers.

The Holy Spirit reveals truth to a man, enlightens him, and purifies him with fire. The Holy Spirit, Who guides into all truth, reveals the mystical dogmas of Christ and the Holy Trinity. By the Holy Spirit, the prophets prophesied, the apostles taught, and the councils of the church defined the divine dogmas concerning the All Holy Trinity, and other things in the life in the church. By the Holy Spirit, the weak were made strong, and the faint-hearted brave, and seeing the things of God, are made able to endure grievous martrydoms. By the Holy Spirit, ordinary bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. By the Holy Spirit, a man has his sin revealed, and has the means to change. By the Holy Spirit, the simple are made wise. By the Holy Spirit, a man sees things that cannot even be uttered, the deep things of God, after the Spirit prepares him. By the Holy Spirit, a man prays in spirit and truth, according to his need and the will of God. By the Holy Spirit, the Christian life is lived.

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; {17} Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:16-17)

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26)

"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:" (John 15:26)

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. {14} He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John 16:13-14)

"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. {10} But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. {11} For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. {12} Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. {13} Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Cor 2:9-13)

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: {17} And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. {26} 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 8:16-26)

"The Holy Spirit provideth all things; He gusheth forth prophecy; He perfecteth the priesthood; He hath taught wisdom to the illiterate. He hath shown forth the fishermen as theologians. He holdeth together the whole institution of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, one in essence and throne with the Father and the Son, glory be to Thee." (Pentecost Vespers, Lord I have cried, 3rd Sticheron)

"O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save, our souls, O Good One." (Pentecost Vespers, the third sticheron of the Aposticha, and numerous other places)

"The Holy Spirit is Light and Life, and a living, noetic Fountain, a Spirit of wisdom, a Spirit of understanding; a good, an upright, a noetic Spirit, presiding in power and purging offenses. He is God, and doth deify; He is Fire, issuing from Fire, speaking, working, distributing the gifts; through Whom all the Prophets, and the Apostles of God, and all the Martyrs received their crowns. Strange is this report, strange and new this sight, a Fire divided that these gifts may be apportioned." (Pentecost Matins, Third sticheron at the Praises)

The Sunday matins service is indispensable for the proper understanding of the ministry and action of the Holy Spirit, especially the 3 (4 parts if in the eighth tone), part Hymns of Ascents which impress the soul profoundly with their deep theology sung to sweet melody. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox never or almost never hear these beautiful hymns, which occur in the middle of matins. Perhaps 4 things can occur in reference to Sunday matins, and 3 of them are bad. In a shocking number of churches, matins is not even served, or is served in a severely truncated manner, either out of the spirit of ecumenism, ignorance, laziness or indifference to the divine law of God. Many do not attend vigil as a rule, or the morning orthos, or they leave God's house early, or come late. In the best of circumstances, the holy services are served completely and piously, and the faithful Christian considers his time these services to be more important that any agenda, or schedule, or worldly priority.

"By the Holy Spirit is every soul given life, exalted by purity, and made radiant by the unity of the Trinity in a sacred and mystical manner." (Sunday Octoechos, the Hymns of Ascent, Tone 2)



What are two symbols for the Holy Spirit? Explain why symbols are used to depict Him, and the reason for these particular symbols. How did the Holy Spirit manifest Himself on the day of Pentecost? Describe three ways.







At the Theophany of the Lord (His baptism) the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove. This symbol has been used iconographically from the earliest times. At Pentecost, He appeared as tongues of fire. He was also manifested by the mighty wind, and by the Apostles speaking in Tongues.

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him" (Mat 3:16)

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. {2} And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. {3} And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. {4} And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)

"Coming down to those on earth, the Holy Spirit's spring was seen in the form of fiery streams apportioned spiritually to all, as it bedewed and enlightened the Lord's Apostles. And thus, the fire became a cloud bedewing them, filling them with light, and raining flames on them. And through them, grace hath been vouchsafed us by fire and water in very truth. Behold, the Comforter's light is come and hath illumined the whole world." (Pentecost Matins, Sessional hymn after the 2nd reading from the Psalter)

"That is the reason why the Holy Spirit comes in the form of a dove: it is a simple joyous creature, not bitter with gall, not biting savagely, without vicious rearing claws; it loves to dwell with humankind, it keeps to one house for assembling; when they mate they hatch their young together, when they fly anywhere they keep their formulation, the resorts they live in are shared in common, by their billing too they pay tribute to concord and peace, in all things they fulfil the law of unanimity. The same is the simplicity of the Church which we need to learn, this is the charity we must acquire, that we may imitate the doves in our love for the brethren, and rival lambs and sheep in their meekness and gentleness." St. Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church



What is the complete text of the most famous prayer to the Holy Spirit? Which services is it used in? There are certain days when it is not used. When?







The Most common prayer to the Holy spirit is "O Heavenly King":

"O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save, our souls, O Good One."

This prayer is at the beginning of many services, as the start of the Trisagion prayers, which, although simple and oft repeated, contain a profundity of theology

The Trisagion prayers are as follows

O Heavenly King...

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, blot out our sins. O Master, pardon our iniquities. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name's sake.

Lord have mercy. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, Who art in the Heavens, hallowed by Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Priest: For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

A layman "Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Amen".

These prayers are in

  • Morning prayers
  • Evening prayers
  • Midnight Office
  • Daily matins
  • The 3rd and 9th hour
  • Daily vespers
  • Compline

This prayer also is often used before the beginning of any work, Or before instruction, and is in several "trebnic" services.

The prayer is not said "aloud" in divine liturgy, but the Priest prays it silently (in a quiet, usually almost inaudible voice) just before liturgy begins.

Heavenly King is omitted in all prayers and services from Pascha until the Vigil for Pentecost.



Describe the procession of the Holy Spirit, and the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the other persons of the Godhead. Is it important to be exact? Describe a popular heresy concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit, and the Two divinely inspired documents that directly refute this heresy. What are the implications for those who believe this heresy?







The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. This is a divinely revealed dogma, first expressed exactly by Jesus Christ Himself, when he said "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26) This dogma was later formalized in the Symbol of Faith, in the Second Ecumenical council, with the following article concerning the Holy Spirit: "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life; Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the prophets."

Belief in this dogma is obligatory. Those who add "and from the son" (the Filiqoue) sin against the words of Christ Himself, and the divinely revealed dogmas of the church, and those who persist in this heresy are outside of the church. There is no room for compromise concerning this dogma, especially since the councils themselves forbad any change to the symbol of faith. In our age, dogma is passe, and there is a rush for unity in organization, and mutual "acceptance" of one another's beliefs, whether they be the revealed beliefs of the Christian faith or not. Therefore, the dispute over the Filioque is thought to be a mere "misunderstanding" over terminology, but the Orthodox, who hear in their services this dogma expressed with startling clarity, and read the lives of Saints who endured exile for this dogma, believe it without wavering.



Describe the gift of tongues, and comment upon the claims of many who say they have this gift today







On the first Christian Pentecost, the Apostles spoke, and people understood their preaching in their own tongues. It is not entirely clear whether the gift was in the "speaking" or in the "hearing", but the result was that all men heard the gospel (good tidings) in their own tongue. The apostles did not speak in an ecstatic prayer language, as the modern day heretical Pentecostal sects, and other Protestants and Roman Catholics infected with this false teaching practice.



Describe the day of Pentecost, from memory. If you do not remember much, maybe you need to read the scriptures more often? We have a lot of time to be dead, but not much to learn the things that pertain to our salvation.







On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in the upper room, praying. Suddenly, there was a sound, like a mighty wind, and the Holy Spirit descended on each of them in the form of tongues of fire. This fire was not the Holy Spirit, but a symbol of His presence. They Apostles were able to preach the gospel and be understood by each man in his own tongue.



What very important prayer did the Holy Prophet David make concerning the Holy Spirit, and what are its implications? Hint - All Orthodox Christians should be saying this prayer every day.







In Psalm 50, the Holy Prophet and King David, who had, as a man, fallen into grievous adultery and murder, prayed
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me."

We must understand that we can lose the Holy Spirit by sinning, and not repenting. The church services are full of advice in this regard.



How is the Holy Spirit given? Can He be lost? How?







Chrismation confers the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the newly baptized Christian.

It is the clear teaching of the church that the Holy Spirit can be lost because of unrepentant sin. Why else would the Prophet David, in his repentant psalm (50) which he prayed after he realized the full weight of his guilt for the murder or Urias, the husband of Bathsheba, whom he had committed adultery with say: "Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me "?

"The Spirit does not take up His abode in someone's life through a physical approach; how could a corporeal being approach the Bodiless one? Instead, the Spirit comes to us when we withdraw ourselves from evil passions, which have crept into the soul through its friendship with the flesh, alienating us from a close relationship with God. Only when a man has been cleansed from the shame of his evil, and has returned to his natural beauty, and the original form of the Royal Image has been restored in him, is it possible for him to approach the Paraclete. Then, like the sun, He will show you in Himself the image of the invisible, and with purified eyes you will see in this blessed image the unspeakable beauty of its prototype." St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit.



Why is the feast of Pentecost called 'Pentecost"? What Jewish feast was occurring at the same time? Explain some of the implications of the juxtaposition of the Jewish feast and the Giving of the Holy Spirit to the church.







The giving of the Holy Spirit occurred fifty days after the resurrection. In Greek "Pentekoste" means "Fiftieth Day". This was also during the Jewish feast called "Pentecost", which celebrated the giving of the law. Only through the Holy Spirit may we actually fulfil the law. The Holy Spirit reveals the law to our hearts.



Describe the services for Pentecost, and do not neglect to mention any special prayers that are said. This day is also unique in that the main scriptural text for the feast is not from the Gospels. Why?







Pentecost is a "Great Feast" of the Lord, and supersedes the Sunday Octoechos, which is usually the primary commemoration on Sunday. On the eve of Pentecost (Saturday evening), a vigil is served, consisting of Great Vespers, Litya, matins, and the First hour. All variable texts are from the Pentocostarian. Certain parts of the service normal sung on Sunday are omitted, such as "Having beheld the resurrection" (after the gospel), and "Holy is the Lord our God" (the expostilarion before the praises), and The Evlogitaria of the resurrection

On Sunday morning the Divine Liturgy is sung with special Festal antiphons for Pentecost, and an entrance hymn at the Small Entrance. "As many have been baptized into Christ..." is sung instead of the "Holy God...".

The vespers for the evening of the Monday of the Holy Spirit (served Sunday evening, and in some parishes, almost immediately after divine liturgy) includes three long prayers, called the kneeling prayers, which are said by the priest, while everyone kneels (for the first time since Holy Wednesday, before Pascha).


We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas