"On the coming of the Holy
An anonymous homily translated from the Syriac
and the division of the tongues in the upper
found in a codex in the British Museum.
a victorious king returns to his city, he bestows gifts and
presents on all his soldiers. Our king, Who has won victory
over the world, said: "I have overcome the world" (Jn.
16:33). When our King, Who had never parted from His Father,
came back to Him victorious and ascended into Heaven, He
swiftly sent great gifts to His servants. David bears
witness to this, saying: ".....He hath ascended on high, He
hath led captivity captive, and hath given gifts unto men"
(Ps. 67:18, in the Syriac).
What is this captivity? Our freedom which had been
pledged to the will of Satan. But our Redeemer put him in
bonds, threw him down and hurled him into a fiery furnace.
And He gave power unto His servants, saying: "Ye will tread
on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the
enemy" (Lk 10:19). And when He had put Satan behind His back
and stripped his power by stripping Himself of His Body, He
rose as a King, having won a great victory. He ascended to
Heaven, attended by the glorifications of angels. He came
back and arrayed the apostles with weapons by the coming of
the Spirit. He spoke to us and taught us of His kinship with
The Holy Spirit came and made known to us the invisible
equality of the Trinity. He said unto His disciples: 'They
that believe in Me shall speak with new tongues" (Mk.
This was accomplished by the coming of the Spirit. When
the disciples were gathered together in the upper chamber,
as Scripture says, a voice was heard and a violent motion
took place. Light filled the house where they were
"And there appeared unto each one of them
tongues of fire"
(cf. Acts 2:3).
And there was a voice that was to awaken the drowsy
spirit of the Jews and to make them gather together and to
draw them towards this wondrous sight: tumult for those
outside, and light for those inside; dread for those
outside, and consolation for those inside.
"And they began to speak with diverse tongues,
as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4).
O upper chamber, that became a kneading-trough where the
dough was kneaded that leavened the whole earth! O upper
chamber, that became the mother of all the churches! O
wonderful bosom, that gave birth to temples for places of
worship! O upper chamber, that has seen the miracle that
occurred in the bush; when Moses saw it aflame without being
consumed, amazement laid hold of him. Come and see how
members of flesh are transformed amidst tongues of fire! O
upper chamber, that has astounded Jerusalem on account of
the prodigy, more than the furnace did the Babylonians!
The fire of the furnace consumed those outside and spared
those within; the fire in the upper chamber gathered
together those outside, so as to behold it, but it consoled
those within. The fire in the furnace blazed around the
bodies of the saints; this fire, however, burned in the
apostles' hearts. O fire, whose coming was a voice, whose
silence was light, whose activity was speech and whose truth
Now the apostles were sitting on watch for the coming of
the Spirit, like the soldiers of a King who wait for the
moment when they can take up their weapons and go to battle.
They were ready lamps awaiting the moment when they would be
able to receive the flame of the Holy Spirit and enlighten
the whole creation by their teaching. They were farmers who
carry the seed in the folds of their garments and who await
the moment when they will be ordered to sow. They were
prosperous merchants who waited to start on their journey to
distribute their goods over all the world. They were sailors
whose ship is anchored in the harbour of the Son's
commandment till a gentle breeze should blow for them. They
were shepherds who had received a staff of the great
Shepherd of the sheepfold, and who kept watch for the moment
when the flocks would fall to their share.
"Out of every nation under Heaven" (Acts 2:5), they were
gathered together there by the Spirit's activity, and "every
man heard them speak in his own language" (Acts 2:.6), and
they said: are not all these which speak Galileans?" (Acts
2:7). "How is it, then, that they speak in our tongues?"
But the Jews, who were always opposing the Holy Spirit,
said: 'These men are full of new wine and drunken." Ye have
told the truth, but not as ye yourselves suppose it! They
have not drunk wine from the vine. A new beverage has flowed
from Heaven for them. This is the Wine recently pressed on
Golgotha. The apostles drank and they inebriated all
creation with this drink. This is the Wine pressed by the
crucifiers of Jesus and they did not taste it; it has been
given to the faithful for remission of sins. This is the
Wine, not from "a very fruitful hill" (Is. 5:1), that
brought forth for the husbandmen "wild grapes" (v.2). For in
these days new clouds rose up from Galilee, bearing
plentiful blessings in order to pour them on the Vine
ploughed by the Cross. Tell me, O Jew, are the apostles
"full of wine and drunk?" Were the multitudes of the seventy
elders, of which thou hast spoken (Num. 11:16-30), drunken
with wine in the desert? Was the generation of the tower
(Gen. 11:1-9), which received seventy tongues, drunk with
wine? But when Noah, the just man, drank wine, his nakedness
was uncovered (Gen. 9:20-27). The priests in the tabernacle,
who drank wine, forgot what was proper, and they were
devoured by the fire in the presence of the Lord (Lev. 10;
1-5, 8-11). Thou seest that all times drunkenness has been
something shameful. How is it then that it has been
beneficial to the apostles, so that after drinking they
spoke in diverse tongues?
But what am I to say to the mindless Jew? "If they have
called the master of the house Beelzebub" (Mat. 10:25), how
much more shall they call them of his household
"They have eyes but shall not see" (Ps. 134:16).
The true light dawned in their scriptures, but those
blind men collide against each other in drunkenness. The
prophet cried out to them:
"In the last days, I will pour out my spirit
upon all flesh: and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:7; cf.
The Father promised, the Son wrought and the Spirit
fulfilled. The promise was in the Old Testament; the deed
was in the Synagogue, and the fulfillment was in the Church.
O wonder that was worked by the Spirit in His coming! For,
just as men who ensnare birds take all kinds of fowl with
them so that, once the snare is set, they can catch birds of
all kinds and species, so did the Spirit also do. He arrayed
the company of the apostles, He gave them new tongues, and
assembled unto them all the tribes of the earth. Thou hast
seen the power of the Spirit, do not abase His Person
beneath that of the Father. For we worship one Divine Nature
known in three Persons. Besides this true Faith, it is
necessary that good deeds be found in us also, so that the
Son might say to everyone of us when He will manifest
Himself in His Glory:
"Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Mat. 25:21).