The Lord gave His disciples a commandment: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised” (Acts 1:4). The Disciples obeyed Christ’s command with great joy. And they were continually in the temple, praising God” (Acts 24:52-53). Indeed, as it says in the Acts of the Apostles, they went up into the upper room and “they all joined together persevering in prayer and supplication, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus (Theotokos), and with His brothers (St. Luke 24:52-53).
Interpreting these passages, in which we can see both Christ’s command and the Disciples’ obedience to it, we can observe some interesting points.
First, the Disciples left the Mount of Olives with great joy. Although they had been deprived of Christ, they were exceedingly glad, precisely because they had the assurance that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and then they would be members of His Body. Actually, being deprived of Christ in the flesh was a blessing, because they gained another communion and unity with Him. Moreover, Christ had assured them: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (St. John 12:32). Thus the Disciples’ joy had two reasons, first, the hope of partaking of the Holy Spirit and second, the fact that they were granted to be personal eye-and-ear-witnesses of such great mysteries.
Second. Between the Ascension and Pentecost there was a period of prayer, supplications and stillness, hesychia (silence) of both body and soul. No one can partake of the Holy Spirit unless he is in a state of prayer and inner nepsis*. Moreover, the practical life, which is the keeping of Christ’s commandments, prepares the ground for what is called pure prayer, and prayer is the basic precondition for acquiring and partaking of the gift of the All-Holy Spirit.
Third. The Disciples are constantly gathered together, persevering, with the Panagia (All-Holy Mother of God), in their midst. This shows the value of the worship of the Church, because at its center is the person most beloved to Christ and to the Christians, the Panagia. The Theotokos did not claim any authority or any function in the Church, but she was at the center of worship, the most precious treasure which the Church had and has. (My question therefore is, why, according to the Roman Catholic Church, the Mother of God would claim, “I am the immaculate conception” to the children at Fatima? When the Theotokos never made any such claim while she was living on earth.
Fourth. We should always obey Christ’s Commandments, because they have a good and holy result. If the Disciples had not returned to Jerusalem, if in their distress they had departed each to his own home, they would not have been granted the great gift of receiving the Holy Spirit and of becoming members of the Body of Christ. Thus they did not simply keep the Commandment, but they were protected by it.
What took place in the life of Christ should also take place in the life of the Christians. Moreover, the imitation of Christ isnot just outward conformity to some precepts and external commandments, but participation in Christ. We must live Christ’s passion, Cross and Resurrection in our own life…
We must go up to where Christ is and enjoy His Ascension, using action and vision of God. The action is purification of the heart by keeping the Gospel Commandments, and the vision is illumination of the nous and its ascent to spiritual visions of God.
by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios
* Nepsis is a state of watchfulness or sobriety acquired following a long period of catharsis. Perhaps most associated with Orthodox monasticism, innumerable references to nepsis are made in The Philokalia (the full title of The Philokalia being The Philokalia of the Neptic Fathers).