Daily Reading for May 23 • The Day of Pentecost
But why did the Holy Spirit not come to them while Christ was present, rather than immediately after his departure? Instead, although Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit came to them when the day of Pentecost had come. . . . It was necessary for them to have a longing for the event, and so receive the grace. For this reason Christ himself departed, and then the Spirit came. For if he had been present, they would not have expected the Spirit so earnestly as they did. For this reason he did not come immediately after Christ’s ascension, but after eight or nine days. Our desire toward God is most awakened when we stand in need. For this reason, John sent his disciples to Christ at the time when they were to be most in need of Jesus, during his own imprisonment. Besides, it was necessary that our nature should be seen in heaven and that the reconciliation should be perfected, and then the Spirit should come and the joy be unalloyed. For, if Christ had then departed, when the Spirit had already come, and the Spirit remained, the consolation would not have been so great as it was. For indeed they clung to him and could not bear to part with him. To comfort them he said, “It is to your advantage that I go away.” For this reason he delayed also for the intervening days, that they, for a while disheartened and standing, as I said, in need of him, might then reap a full and unalloyed joy.
From Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles by John Chrysostom, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament V: Acts, edited by Francis Martin (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006).