Archpastoral Letter for Pentecost 2009
Protocol N. 192 - June 7, 2009
To the Reverend Clergy and Beloved Faithful of this Diocese:
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
I greet you in the spiritual joy of the Feast of Pentecost, for on this Day, we celebrate the outflowing of the Holy Spirit from God the Father, through Jesus Christ and His Church, and to the entire world.
Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down upon only a few individuals. But after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit visited all who believe in Christ and are baptized in His Church. The Holy Mystery of Chrismation is the individual Pentecost for every Orthodox Christian.
The Holy Spirit began a healing revolution in the entire world on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection.
One of the Stichera for Pentecost Vespers says this about the revolutionary gifts of the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit gives all things: makes prophesies flow, perfects priests, taught the unlettered wisdom, revealed fishermen to be theologians, welds together the whole institution of the Church. Advocate, consubstantial and equal in majesty with the Father and the Son, glory to You!".
Prophecy is the proclamation of God's transforming wisdom to the world, and the Holy Spirit makes such prophecy flow. "Your young men shall see visions," the Prophet Joel said, speaking of Pentecost, "and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28).
The perfection of priests is accomplished only by the Holy Spirit, Who draws the priest into deeper righteousness, and inspires the priest with prayer and vision. The uneducated fishermen are taught wisdom by the Holy spirit, and they are transformed into theologians, who have taught the world that God is One in Essence, Three in Person....that Jesus Christ is One Person, but Two in Nature, completely God.
And the song for Vespers proclaims that the Holy Spirit welds together the whole institution of the Church. The church is unified and inspired, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Church is made real by the Spirit. There is no Church without the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to think so.
Listen to what we read in the liturgical commentary The Year of Grace of the Lord: "We cannot enter into Pentecost without preparation. We need first to have assimilated the whole spiritual substance that the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost have offered us......They were all with one accord in one place. Some other verses in Acts picture for us the eleven assembled in the 'upper room' with Mary, mother of Jesus, and the women. It was the Church being born. They all prayed together. We find in this the necessary conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit. At certain moments we need to retire from the world and to shut ourselves in the upper room of our soul.....we must be together with the Apostles and with the mother of Jesus. Whoever seeks to ignore the authority of the Apostles, or to do without the maternal presence of Mary, cannot receive the Holy Spirit".
Through the Church, the Holy Spirit has invaded the world and continues to do so. There was a long and glorious millennial reign of the Byzantine Empire. For over eleven centuries, the Kingdom of Constantinople brought the spiritual gifts of the Orthodox Church to the world at large. It was the only Christian Empire that ever existed. And indeed, the Byzantine Empire lasted longer than any other realm.
In the West, the Catholic Church gave European Christendom many of the same gifts. From the fourth century until the Reformation, the Roman Church kept the light of humanity and civilization burning brightly, even during the so-called "dark ages".
In both places - East and West - the Church brought gifts to civilization that had not been seen before. The Church labored with zeal for the liberation of slaves. It crusaded against the brutality of gladiator combat. It provided liberal care for the widows, the orphans, the poor and destitute. It constructed hospitals: indeed, the Church invented the concept of the hospital. The entire tradition of Western medicine is not from pagan Rome or from the Arab world (as is usually taught in schools). Western medicine, as we know it, was established and flourished in the Byzantine Empire....and after the Moslems invaded the Middle East, the doctors that spread throughout the Arab world were Christian, far more so than any other.
Everything that we know today about philanthropy and social generosity is really a legacy of the Christian Church. Welfare, health care, universal education, and equal justice under the law are all ideas that are rooted deeply within the Christian revolution that started at Pentecost.
I wish the Western world would take notice of its Christian roots. There would be no Western Civilization without the Church, and without the Gifts of Pentecost. The church is salt and light to the world, in America, in Europe and beyond. Without the Church, and without her Pentecostal witness to Orthodoxy, there is no salt, there is no light, and the world will be left in decay. Indeed, this is what is happening as we speak.
Let us, at least, in this time when the West is becoming less, make the most of our Orthodoxy. Let us wait, as the Apostles did, in the Upper Rooms of our prayer and the Sacraments. Let us be fed at the Table by Our Lord with His Eucharist. Let us listen to His Voice, echoing in the Spirit, and let our minds be filled with the Wisdom of the Trinity and the Incarnation.
Let us be welded together by the Holy Spirit in humble prayer and compassionate service. Let us look back to the days before the fall of Constantinople, before the Reformation and the Renaissance, and let us look to the gifts of the Church and return to her wisdom. Let us pray and learn, let us pray and serve, let us pray and love each other. Let us learn wisdom and become theologians and servants. Let us carry on the healing Revolution of Orthodoxy, started at Pentecost, and waiting to begin another day.
With blessings to you and your house on this Feast of Pentecost, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Metropolitan Nicholas
This Archpastoral Letter is to be read in all diocesan churches in lieu of the sermon on Pentecost Sunday.