Today we resume the series on St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures. The second part of his 17th lecture is featured for today:
13. Jesus therefore went up into heaven, and fulfilled the promise. For He said to them, I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter. John 14:16 So they were sitting, looking for the coming of the Holy Ghost; and when the day of Pentecost was fully come, here, in this city of Jerusalem,— (for this honour also belongs to us ; and we speak not of the good things which have happened among others, but of those which have been vouchsafed among ourselves,)— on the day of Pentecost, I say, they were sitting, and the Comforter came down from heaven, the Guardian and Sanctifier of the Church, the Ruler of souls, the Pilot of the tempest-tossed, who leads the wanderers to the light, and presides over the combatants, and crowns the victors.
14. But He came down to clothe the Apostles with power, and to baptize them; for the Lord says, you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Acts 1:5 This grace was not in part, but His power was in full perfection; for as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is encompassed on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Holy Ghost. The water however flows round the outside only, but the Spirit baptizes also the soul within, and that completely. And wherefore do you wonder? Take an example from matter; poor indeed and common, yet useful for the simpler sort. If the fire passing in through the mass of the iron makes the whole of it fire, so that what was cold becomes burning and what was black is made bright—if fire which is a body thus penetrates and works without hindrance in iron which is also a body, why wonder that the Holy Ghost enters into the very inmost recesses of the soul?
15. And lest men should be ignorant of the greatness of the mighty gift coming down to them, there sounded as it were a heavenly trumpet, For suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind Acts 2:2, signifying the presence of Him who was to grant power unto men to seize with violence the kingdom of God; that both their eyes might see the fiery tongues, and their ears hear the sound. And it filled all the house where they were sitting; for the house became the vessel of the spiritual water; as the disciples sat within, the whole house was filled. Thus they were entirely baptized according to the promise, and invested soul and body with a divine garment of salvation. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.
16. And they began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The Galilean Peter or Andrew spoke Persian or Median. John and the rest of the Apostles spoke every tongue to those of Gentile extraction; for not in our time have multitudes of strangers first begun to assemble here from all quarters, but they have done so since that time. What teacher can be found so great as to teach men all at once things which they have not learned? So many years are they in learning by grammar and other arts to speak only Greek well; nor yet do all speak this equally well; the Rhetorician perhaps succeeds in speaking well, and the Grammarian sometimes not well, and the skilful Grammarian is ignorant of the subjects of philosophy. But the Holy Spirit taught them many languages at once, languages which in all their life they never knew. This is in truth vast wisdom, this is power divine. What a contrast of their long ignorance in time past to their sudden, complete and varied and unaccustomed exercise of these languages!
17. The multitude of the hearers was confounded—it was a second confusion, in the room of that first evil one at Babylon. For in that confusion of tongues there was division of purpose, because their thought was at enmity with God; but here minds were restored and united, because the object of interest was godly. The means of falling were the means of recovery. Wherefore they marvelled, saying Acts 2:8, How hear we them speaking? No marvel if you be ignorant; for even Nicodemus was ignorant of the coming of the Spirit, and to him it was said, The Spirit breathes where it lists, and you hear the voice thereof, but canst not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes ; but if, even though I hear His voice, I know not whence he comes, how can I explain, what He is Himself in substance?
18. But others mocking said, They are full of new wine Acts 2:13, and they spoke truly though in mockery. For in truth the wine was new, even the grace of the New Testament; but this new wine was from a spiritual Vine, which had oftentimes ere this borne fruit in Prophets, and had budded in the New Testament. For as in things sensible, the vine ever remains the same, but bears new fruits in its seasons, so also the self-same Spirit continuing what He is, as He had often wrought in Prophets, now manifested a new and marvellous work. For though His grace had come before to the Fathers also, yet here it came exuberantly; for formerly men only partook of the Holy Ghost, but now they were baptized completely.
19. But Peter who had the Holy Ghost, and who knew what he possessed, says, Men of Israel, you who preach Joel, but know not the things which are written, these men are not drunken as you suppose. Drunken they are, not however as you suppose, but according to that which is written, They shall be drunken with the fatness of your house; and you shall make them drink of the torrents of your pleasure. They are drunken, with a sober drunkenness, deadly to sin and life-giving to the heart, a drunkenness contrary to that of the body; for this last causes forgetfulness even of what was known, but that bestows the knowledge even of what was not known. They are drunken, for they have drunk the wine of the spiritual vine, which says, I am the vine and you are the branches. John 15:5 But if you are not persuaded by me, understand what I tell you from the very time of the day; for it is the third hour of the day. For He who, as Mark relates, was crucified at the third hour, now at the third hour sent down His grace. For His grace is not other than the Spirit’s grace, but He who was then crucified, who also gave the promise, made good that which He promised. And if you would receive a testimony also, Listen, he says:But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass after this, says God, I will pour forth of My Spirit Joel 2:28 — (and this word, I will pour forth, implied a rich gift; for God gives not the Spirit by measure, for the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand John 3:34-35; and He has given Him the power also of bestowing the grace of the All-holy Spirit on whomsoever He will)— I will pour forth of My Spirit unto all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; and afterwards, Yea, and on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy Joel 2:29 .The Holy Ghost is no respecter of persons; for He seeks not dignities, but piety of soul. Let neither the rich be puffed up, nor the poor dejected, but only let each prepare himself for reception of the Heavenly gift.
20. We have said much today, and perchance you are weary of listening; yet more still remains. And in truth for the doctrine of the Holy Ghost there were need of a third lecture; and of many besides. But we must have your indulgence on both points. For as the Holy Festival of Easter is now at hand we have this day lengthened our discourse and yet we had not room to bring before you all the testimonies from the New Testament which we ought. For many passages are still to come from the Acts of the Apostles in which the grace of the Holy Ghost wrought mightily in Peter and in all the Apostles together; many also from the Catholic Epistles, and the fourteen Epistles of Paul; out of all which we will now endeavour to gather a few, like flowers from a large meadow, merely by way of remembrance.
21. For in the power of the Holy Ghost, by the will of Father and Son, Peter stood with the Eleven, and lifting up his voice, (according to the text, Lift up your voice with strength, you that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem Isaiah 40:9), captured in the spiritual net of his words, about three thousand souls. So great was the grace which wrought in all the Apostles together, that, out of the Jews, those crucifiers of Christ, this great number believed, and were baptized in the Name of Christ, and continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and in the prayers. Acts 2:42 And again in the same power of the Holy Ghost, Peter and John went up into the Temple at the hour of prayer, which was the ninth hour , and in the Name of Jesus healed the man at the Beautiful gate, who had been lame from his mother’s womb for forty years; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken, Then shall the lame man leap as an hart. Isaiah 35:6 And thus, as they captured in the spiritual net of their doctrine five thousand believers at once, so they confuted the misguided rulers of the people and chief priests, and that, not through their own wisdom, for they were unlearned and ignorant men Acts 4:13, but through the mighty power of the Holy Ghost; for it is written, Then Peter filled with the Holy Ghost said to them. So great also was the grace of the Holy Ghost, which wrought by means of the Twelve Apostles in them who believed, that they were of one heart and of one soul , and their enjoyment of their goods was common, the possessors piously offering the prices of their possessions, and no one among them wanting anything; while Ananias and Sapphira, who attempted to lie to the Holy Ghost, underwent their befitting punishment.
22. And by the hands of the Apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people. Acts 5:12 And so great was the spiritual grace shed around the Apostles, that gentle as they were, they were the objects of dread; for of the rest dared no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them; and multitudes were added of those who believed on the Lord, both of men and women; and the streets were filled with the sick on their beds and couches, that as Peter passed by, at least his shadow might overshadow some of them. And the multitude also of the cities round about came unto this holy Jerusalem, bringing sick folk, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits, and they were healed every one in this power of the Holy Ghost.
23. Again, after the Twelve Apostles had been cast into prison by the chief priests for preaching Christ, and had been marvellously delivered from it at night by an Angel, and were brought before them in the judgment hall from the Temple, they fearlessly rebuked them in their discourse to them concerning Christ, and added this, that God has also given His Holy Spirit to them that obey Him. And when they had been scourged, they went their way rejoicing, and ceased not to teach and preach Jesus as the Christ Acts 5:42 .
24. And it was not in the Twelve Apostles only that the grace of the Holy Spirit wrought, but also in the first-born children of this once barren Church, I mean the seven Deacons; for these also were chosen, as it is written, being full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom. Of whom Stephen, rightly so named , the first fruits of the Martyrs, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, wrought great wonders and miracles among the people, and vanquished those who disputed with him; for they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. But when he was maliciously accused and brought to the judgment hall, he was radiant with angelic brightness; for all they who sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face, as it had been the face of an Angel. And having by his wise defence confuted the Jews, those stiffnecked men, uncircumcised in heart and ears, ever resisting the Holy Ghost , he beheld the heavens opened, and saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. He saw Him, not by his own power, but, as the Divine Scripture says, being full of the Holy Ghost, he looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.