May 2009 - Vol. 30

Quotes From Early Church Fathers on Pentecost

Pentecost - painting by El Greco, 17th century

Pentecost and the Sending 
of the Holy Spirit 

.by Irenaeus of Lyons

When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.

He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting Godís creation. The Spirit accomplished the Fatherís will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.

Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lordís ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.

This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of broad, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.

If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.


Irenaeus was an important second century church father (130-200 AD). He was born in Smyrna in Asia Minor, where he studied under bishop Polycarp, who in turn had been a disciple of John the Apostle.  He studied in Rome under Justin Martyr. Around 178 AD he was made bishop of Lyons in Southern Gaul. In contrast to Justin - whose writings he used and respected - Irenaeus rejected the philosophical approach to Christianity, which for him "rested on revelation, tradition, and on the power of the Holy Spirit." He did not entirely abandon philosophy and many of his works are indebted to it. He saw his main ministry in refuting the heresy of  the Gnostic teachers. 

Irenaeus is the first great theologian of the early church. His major work, Against Heresies, written around 180 AD, was a refutation of Gnostic errors. He exposed the absurdities of the Gnostic cults of the day and included a strong presentation and defense of orthodox belief. His work is the earliest compendium of Christian theology surviving from ancient times and is the first work that cites virtually every book of the Christian writings that we now call the New Testament.

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Quotes from Early Church Fathers on Pentecost
> The Glory of the Holy Spirit, by Gregory of Nyssa
> Pentecost and the Sending of the Holy Spirit, by Irenaeus of Lyons
> The Anointing with the Holy Spirit, by Cyril of Jerusalem
> The Spirit Restores Paradise to Us, by Basil the Great ..
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