Archpastoral Letter for Pentecost 2003
Prot. N. 157
To the Very Reverend an Reverend Fathers, Members of the Diaconate, Monastics and Laity of our God-saved Diocese:
GLORY TO JESUS CHRIST!
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pur out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your yojng men shall see visions. Even upon manservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out My Spirit
Prophecy of Joel 2: 28 (read at Pentecost Vespers)
After the creation of the world and the fall of mankir1d from grace, the lord God Almighty began His work with mankind anew. In the Garden of Eden, the progenitors of the race of man, Adam and Eve, walked and talked with God their Father as intimates, as loving and obedient children of a loving Father. Even more, they were friends of God. All of that changed because of their disobedience, however. And from that moment God already set in motion His plan to re-instate human beings to ttlat very same privilege and dignity. But this would take timeJ of course, and God dea:t with His People in increasing degrees by which they would be brought back to their original state.
This has been accomplished in three phases of our salvation history.
The first phase reflected a lesser degree of God's intimacy with His children, since they had demonstrated that they, through Adam and Eve. were perhaps not mature enough to be friends of God. 50, in the Old Covenant, God communicated ONL y with select individuals who would take His message: His instructions, and. His Laws to the Hebrew nation. He . would prepare tllem for the Advent of HiS Son Who would redeem them from their sins and open the way of restoration to their close relationship with their God. These select few we know as the Patriarchs and Prophets, some of whom are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, Joel, and the many others.
The second phase of our intimacy with God occurred when the Son of God Himself came to earth to prepare the people more intensely for the manner in which the wall of division between God and man was to be broken down, that is, through His Death and Resurrection. This Son of God, Jesus Christ, instituted a deeper involvement of men and women who were to assist in the task of spreading His Kingdom upon the earth. They were still a select group, but a larger group. For the three years of his ministry on earth, however, our Lord talked with, taught, and healed His people of their physical and spiritual infirn1ities in a very personal and direct manner. God was becoming more accessible and intimate with His creatures. However, this phase of our return to God lasted but those few years.
And now, since the day of Pentecost, we are in the third phase of our return to intimacy with God. The Kingdom HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED! The Church of Christ HAS BEEN BORN! The Holy Spirit GUIDES AND DIRECTS THE CHURCH, and He works with His people, through His people, and in His people in the most intimate way yet!
The Feast of Pentecost is the culmination of every other event and feast that we have celebrated throughout this past year of the liturgical calendar. Everything has brought us to this moment.
Some people and some traditions seem to have forgotten about the Third Person of the Divine Trinity. But without Him, the Church would not exist today! Christ Himself told us on the night before His Crucifixion and Death, "But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26) God the Holy Spirit, then, provides us with the Holy Scripture, the Church, the Holy Mysteries -in essence, every means to gain the deepest intimacy with God once again. Although it is the Church of Christ to which we belong, IT IS THE HOL y SPIRIT WHO ACCOMPLISHES THE WORK OF CHRIST IN HIS CHURCH. Think about all that has happened, and continues to happen, in your life as a Christian. At Baptism the Holy Spirit is called upon to sanctify the Baptismal waters; at Chrismation, you are sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and anointed with Holy Chrism, upon which the Patriarch invoked the Holy Spirit to descend; at the Holy Eucharist, gifts of bread and wine are transfom1ed into the Body and Blood of Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit; at an ordination, ordinary men are changed into other "Christs" to minister to His Church by the invocation of the Holy Spirit; most blessings, whether they be of water or various liturgical appointments, are effected with the words: "This item is blessed and sanctified by the grace of the Most Holy Spirit and through the sprinkling of this holy water. .." and at the Consecration of a Church (which all of us will soon have the awesome privilege to witness, the Holy Spirit will be called upon to descend and fill this House of God with His sacred presence. According to the Holy Apostle Paul, we could not even pray or profess " Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12: 3) These are some of the many and various ways in which the Holy Spirit functions and by which He leads us into ever closer union with our God.
My beloved, the Holy Spirit is alive and welll St. John again records our Lord's words, " My Father is working still, and I am working." (John 5:17). The very same announcement can be said of the Divine Spirit. He is at work, and at work IN THE MOST INT1MATE OF WAYSI He now comes to each and every individual who desires Him by these means which Christ Himself initiated and provided, and of which we continue to know about because the Holy Spirit has called them to our remembrance. And these make us that much closer to God, as Adam and Eve themselves once were. One more phase will take us eventually to that ultimate goal that we possessed in the beginning; it will be when we depart this life, when we leave behind this vale of tears on earth, and when we will be perfected. Then we will see God "face to face."
On this day as we commemorate the Descent of the Spirit upon the Apostles and Disciples in the Uppar Room and as we call upon Him, especially in the singing of "O heavenly King, the Comforter. .." to renew Him in us, I pray that He will enter your lives and fill all of you with His rich and powerful gifts and that you will utilize the tools of the Church, the Holy Scripture, the Holy Sacraments, prayer and fasting to keep Him vitally active in your spiritual life and growth.
Imparting my hierarchical blessing upon each and every one of you, I remain,
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS
THIS ARCHPASTORAL LETTER IS TO BE READ IN ALL PARISHES OF THE DIOCESE AS THE SERMON ON SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 2003.