By Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
Nothing is more elemental to life than water. Water sustains life; all the processes of our bodies are dependent on it. In fact, more than anything else, our bodies are composed of water. To thirst is to desire that which sustains us on the most basic level.
On May 18th of this year, the Church celebrates the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, that Wednesday marking the mid-point between Pascha and Pentecost. On that day the Church continues to celebrate what has already come – the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity – while looking forward to what is to come – the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity.
On this day we celebrate both the establishment and the experience of our salvation, our union with God. For it is the Cross and Resurrection that establishes the means of that salvation and it is in the Church, established on the Day of Pentecost, where we experience that salvation.
At Mid-Pentecost we celebrate the enormity of God’s love for us, the full revelation of the means established for our salvation. On the Cross, Christ conquers sin and death, the empty tomb proclaims the fruit of that victory and the Church is the kingdom established by the Holy Spirit and headed by Jesus Christ – the One who conquers.
At Divine Liturgy for the feast, the Gospel read is John 14:14-30. This gospel relates the account of Jesus speaking at the Midfeast of the Feast of Tabernacles, an eight-day harvest festival during which the nation of Israel commemorated the wanderings of ancient Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. During the feast, one ceremony consisted of carrying water from the pool of Siloam and pouring it as a libation in the temple. This ceremony commemorated the water that flowed from the rock that Moses struck in the wilderness. On this occasion, Christ proclaims, “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 17:37-38),
The fathers of the Church have always seen this living water to be the Holy Spirit who was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, establishing the Holy Church. And so we stand at the feast of Mid-Pentecost gazing in awe and joy at this living stream – its headwaters being the Cross (“out of His side flowed blood and water”); its course flowing through God’s Church, sustaining and nourishing us in this life; and its culmination being Heaven itself. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev.22:1). And again: “And the Spirit and the bride say ‘Come’ and let him who hears say ‘Come’. And let him who thirst come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev.22:17).
How wondrous is God’s love! How grand His purposes for those who love Him! He has immersed us in the streams of eternal life. The living water that flows from the cross through the Church to Heaven itself is given by God to sustain us and nourish us in the fullness of eternal life.
Even as it is the tradition of the Church to bless gardens with Holy Water at Mid-Pentecost asking God for the fruits of the earth, so too, here at Mid-Pentecost let us contemplate and celebrate the fruits nourished within us by streams of living water – the waters that flow from the cross through the Church to eternal life in heaven.