Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! The Third Wednesday of Pascha: What Christ Accomplished on the Cross (The Consequences of Christ’s Redemptive Work, Part II)
By Hieromonk Damascene
The Consequences of Christ’s Redemptive Work, Part II
In the Gospels, especially the Gospel of St. John, Christ makes several statements which reveal how His followers would be able to receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit by means of His death. In the temple Christ preached: He that believeth on Me … out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. After quoting these words of Christ, the Apostle John explains: But this spake He of the Spirit, which they who believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:38-39).
St. John Chrysostom, in his commentary on this Gospel, explains further. When the Apostle John said Jesus was not yet glorified, he meant that Jesus had not yet been crucified. Christ was glorified in His sacrifice on the Cross, and through this He made man open to receive the Holy Spirit in his soul, in his inward being, so that the Grace would flow out of him like rivers of living water. 
Later, in His last talk to His disciples before His passion and death, Christ tells them: I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16).
According to St. John Chrysostom, “Christ said this to show the time of the coming of the Spirit. For when He had purified them by His sacrifice, then the Holy Spirit would descend upon them. Yet why did He not come upon them while Jesus was still with them? Because the Sacrifice had not yet been offered up [that is, Christ had not yet died on the Cross]. But, when at length sin had been destroyed, and they themselves were being sent into danger and were preparing for the contests, it was necessary for the Comforter to come.” 
A little later Christ says to His disciples in order to comfort them before His crucifixion and burial: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you (John 16:7).
“But why did He not come before Christ had departed?” St. John Chrysostom asks rhetorically. “Because He could not come, since the curse had not yet been lifted, sin had not yet been forgiven, but all men were still subject to the penalty for it. ‘Therefore,’ He said, ‘that enmity must be destroyed and you must be reconciled to God, and then you will receive the gift.’” 
When Christ first appeared among His Apostles after His death and Resurrection, His first act was to breathe upon them and to say: Receive ye the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). He could say and do this at that point because He had purified them by His sacrifice on the Cross; He had loosed them from sin. And then, after He had ascended to heaven and seated our human nature on the right hand of the Father, Christ sent down the Holy Spirit on His Apostles at Pentecost, as He had promised.
Since that time, those who have been baptized in Christ’s Church have received the Grace of God within themselves. We receive Christ’s gift of redemption and eternal life through His Church, which is His Body. It is in the Church that Christ bestows on us the saving fruits of His death and Resurrection. St. Symeon the New Theologian explains this beautifully:
“One Person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Son and Word of God, having become incarnate, offered Himself in the flesh as a sacrifice to the Divinity of the Father, and of the Son Himself, and of the Holy Spirit, in order that the first transgression of Adam might be benevolently forgiven for the sake of this great and fearful work, that is, for the sake of this sacrifice of Christ, and in order that by its power there might be performed another new birth and re-creation of man in Holy Baptism, in which we also are cleansed by water mingled with the Holy Spirit. From that time people are baptized in water, are immersed in it and taken out from it three times, in the image of the three-day burial of the Lord, and after they die in it to this whole evil world, in the third bringing out from it they are already alive, as if resurrected from the dead, that is, their souls are brought to life and again receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit as Adam had it before the transgression. Then they are anointed with Holy Myrrh, and by means of it are anointed with Jesus Christ, and are fragrant in a way above nature. Having become in this way worthy of being associates of God, they taste His Flesh and drink His Blood, and by means of the sanctified bread and wine become of one Body and Blood with God Who was incarnate and offered Himself as a sacrifice.” 
~ A talk delivered at the Annual Lenten Clergy Confession of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate and the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Jackson, California, March 4/17, 2004. The Orthodox Word (No. 235, March-April, 2004), pp. 57-77. Posted with the blessing of Hieromonk Damascene; Orthodox Information Center, http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/christcross.aspx.
27. Cf. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man (Platina, Calif.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000), pp. 156-57, 443-45.
28. Cf. St. John Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 37 (1958), pp. 232-35; Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church(Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), p. 118; and Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp. 171, 436-40.
29. Cf. St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition, p. 235; and Lossky, Mystical Theology, p. 126.
30. Cf. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp. 157, 208-12, 351, 413-14, 421, 591-92.