Fr. Ernesto has a concise and helpful article on Pentecost and legalism. You can go directly to his site from my blog roll.
Tonight is the beginning of Pentecost. It is a remembrance of the coming of the Holy Spirit in power to guide and lead the Church in the same way that Our Lord Jesus Christ guided and led the disciples during his time here on Earth. But, it also reminds me of what several of the Church Fathers said:
. . . the Word took on flesh so that we might receive the Holy Spirit. — Saint Athanasius (the Great)
. . . the goal and purpose of all of Christ’s work of salvation for us was that believers should receive the Holy Spirit. — St. Symeon the New Theologian
Prayer, fasting, works of mercy – all this is very good, but it represents only the means, not the end of the Christian life. The true end is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. — Saint Seraphim of Sarov
Pentecostals are correct. The goal of the Christian life is to receive the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals are correct. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit comes not simply out of a “name it and claim it” approach to life, but out of the desire and goal to live a consecrated Christian life. All too many Christians have engaged in the sophistry of pointing out that all sin and fall short of the glory of God in order to almost do away with the call to live a Christian life. That is, all too often the attempt to reach out to holiness is pictured as merely an expression of legalism, rather than as the desire to live a life pleasing to God and to acquire the Holy Spirit.
Are there legalists around? Of course there are! But, not every principle, not every rule, not every canon is an expression of legalism! Legalism is not the attempt to order your life in such a way that you avoid sin. Legalism often has to do not with yourself, but with your attempt to interpret every principle, rule, and canon in such a way that it leaves neither room for alternate interpretations nor room for applying them in a way that brings health rather than bringing destruction. “The letter kills but the Spirit brings life,” does not mean that no rules apply, but rather meant that when rules are interpreted in a purely juridical manner, no Holy Spirit will be acquired, no health will come, no holiness will be evident.
Tomorrow morning we will celebrate the Divine Liturgy that celebrates the Feast of Pentecost. Tomorrow we celebrate the coming of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Tomorrow we celebrate that we can be changed into little Christs. Tomorrow we celebrate the practical working out of our salvation and the beginning of the change that transforms us from sinful creatures to New Adams. Tomorrow we celebrate that we have a hope of being saved, that we have not been left on our own, that we have a promise that will be fulfilled in our salvation.
Tomorrow we celebrate what the Pentecostals strove for, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.