Sunday, November 30, 2008

Homily Four

Acts 2:1-13

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

There they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?

"And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

"Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

"Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes

"Cretans and Arabs-- we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"

Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."


I'm interested by the phrase "all with one accord" and would like to look this up in Greek. (ομοθυμαδον : homo-thema-ADV, or homothemously, or "with one theme")

It's interesting to note that when the apostles began speaking "in tongues," they were all using real human languages. The didn't know these languages, but yet they were using them. I'm wondering now about the tradition among some groups of "speaking in tongues" which usually implies something other than a human language. Are there Scriptural roots to this practice?

And it's worth noting what the apostles said in all these languages-- they proclaimed the wonderful works of God.


Chrysostom begins his homily by asking why the coming of the Holy Spirit came about with "sensible tokens." For two reasons, he says-- first that, if even with miraculous sounds there were still some who thought the apostles were drunk, then without any signs none would have believed. And secondly, that the loud sound like a rushing wind was so startling that it brought people all together out into the streets, where they could see the apostles.

Chrysostom notes that the tongues like fire were "cloven"-- that is, all distributed from one source, and that they came upon all apostles-- not just the Twelve, but the entire 120. "Observe now," says Chrysostom, "how there is no longer any occasion for that person to grieve, who was not elected as was Matthias." (25)

The circumstances of Pentecost bear note: "Observe, how when one is continuing in prayer, when one is in charity, then it is that the Spirit draws near." (26)

And Chrysostom notes that not only were people from diverse countries amazed at the apostles' speaking in their own tongue, but they were also amazed by the content of that speech: "we do hear them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." (26)

The apostles, upon receiving the Holy Spirit, responded better than their predecessors in hearing God's call:

they said not, they were "weak in voice, and of a slow tongue." For Moses had taught them better. They said not, they were too young. Jeremiah had made them wise. (27)

The rest of the sermon is about Peter's particular role in this event.

[The eleven] expressed themselves through one common voice, and he was the mouth of all... He who had not endured the questioning of a poor girl, now in the midst of the people, all breathing murder, discourses with such confidence, that this very thing becomes an unquestionable proof of the Resurrection... For wherever the Holy Spirit is present, He makes men of gold out of men of clay. (28-29)

The conclusion of the homily compares Peter to the Greek philosophers; comparing Plato and Pythagoras unfavorably-- despite all their learning and airs-- to the "uncouth rustic" of Bethsaida:

Where now is Greece, with her big pretentions? Where the name of Athens? Where the ravings of the philosophers? He of Galilee, he of Bethsaida, he, the uncouth rustic, has overcome them all. (29)

Why then, it is asked, did not Christ exercise His influence upon Plato, and upon Pythagoras? Because the mind of Peter was much more philosophical than their minds. They were in truth children shifted about on all sides by vain glory; but this man was a philosopher, one apt to receive grace. (29-30)

For where an action is done for glory, all is worthless. For though a man possess all, yet if he have not the mastery over this, he forfeits all claim to true philosophy, he is in bondage to the more tyrannical and shameful passion. Contempt of glory; this it is that is sufficient to teach all that is good, and to banish from the soul every pernicious passion. (31)

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