Archpastoral Letter for Pentecost 2007
Prot. N. 183-May 27, 2007
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers and the Faithful of our Diocesan Parishes:
Christ is Among Us!
"You send forth Your Spirit; they are created, and You renew the face of the earth."
Psalm 104: 30
In the act of CREATION, we see the Triune God at work; all things are made new out of nothing. In the act of REDEMPTION, again we see the Triune God at work, recreating and renewing what had been corrupted by man's fall.
The Three Divine Persons are united in a Trinity of Love. God was not compelled to create the world and all that is in it; rather He created it, and us, out of His immense love. God the Father loves the Son Whom He begets and the Spirit Who proceeds from Him; God the Son loves His Father and the Spirit, and God the Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. They not only manifest their love among themselves, but they also manifest it outside of themselves in Their work of creation and recreation. Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, we also have a need to love and to be loved, by God and by other human beings. "God is love," says the Apostle and Evangelist John; God loves us, and we love one another. That is His will for us.
God's love for mankind did not end, however, when our Lord ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father. Our Lord promised us Another, the Advocate, the Comforter, Who would continue His work on earth, the Mission of the second Person of the Trinity.
God the Holy Spirit has been sent forth in the past and He continues to come to us to this very day!
+ In the beginning, He hovered over the face of the waters!
+ He descended as a cloud and filled the Temple of Solomon, thus consecrating it!
+ He descended upon a young maiden of Nazareth and she became the Mother of God!
+ He descended in the form of a dove and hovered over the head of our Lord at His Baptism, revealing the Triune Godhead!
+ He once again appeared as a cloud in the Transfiguration of our Lord upon Mount Tabor!
+ He was breathed forth from the Lord Jesus on the night of the Resurrection and He thus ordained the Apostles!
+ He descended as a mighty, rushing wind and appeared as tongues of fire upon the heads of the disciples and apostles on Pentecost!
+ He descended and filled St. John the Foreunner, the Righteous Elizabeth and Zachariah, the Apostle Peter, the Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen and the other six deacons!
The Holy Spirit continually abides in the Church; His presence is renewed in us repeatedly and we experience His descent in so many concrete ways in the various liturgical rites of the Church. We use the term "Epiklesis" which means "to invoke or to call down the Spirit of God" to demonstrate His continuous work among us.
This occurs in many and various forms and rituals. The most notable one, of course, is the transformation of ordinary bread and wine into the Precious Body and Blood of our Saviour; but consider these EPIKLESES as well:
After a catechumen is newly-baptized, the pristine soul and body of that new warrior of Christ is infused with the Holy Spirit Who descends into him.
A flawed, imperfect, and sinful man kneels before a bishop of the Church Who calls down the Holy Spirit upon him, and a new priest or deacon is formed for the Church.
Three bishops call down the Holy Spirit upon one who is about to join their rank.
A patriarch beseeches the Holy Spirit to descend upon the fragrant mixture of olive oil and herbs and spices and it becomes Sacred Chrism.
A bishop uses this same Chrism, and the Spirit changes a printed piece of cloth into an Altar of God, the antimins.
A bishop appeals to the Holy Spirit of God to come down upon a building constructed by men and makes it a House of God, just as He descended in the days of Solomon and most recently at the Church of Ss. Cyril and Methodios at Camp Nazareth.
A priest invokes the descent of the Spirit upon the Theophany water and it is transformed into healing water, holy water that has power.
Ecumenical Councils of the Church, Sobors, and all meetings were and are led by the Holy Spirit.
Just as the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not merely a historic fact but more importantly, an eternal reality, so also is the Descent of the Holy Spirit not merely a historical fact, but an ongoing, continuous reality at work in His Church. He is constantly guiding and governing the Church. He is invoked at the beginning of every Divine Service outside of Pascha. Without the Holy Spirit, neither the Faith nor the Church would exist. Before His Passion, Christ told His apostles: "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." (John 14:25-26)
The Holy Apostle Paul goes even further telling us that "no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:3) Thus it is, without Him, we would flounder on the sea of life, struggling to make sense of God, the Holy Scriptures, and the Faith itself!
At this very Divine Liturgy this morning, we again beseech Him to descend upon us, to renew our Faith and our Baptismal vows, and to infuse us with His power from on high! In all humility, on bended knees, we declare our dependence upon Him and our devotion to Him. He is not the forgotten Divine Person as some may say about other Christian denominations! His role is vital to the Church of Christ because He, the Giver of Life, vitalizes it.
My prayer for each of you is that you may experience His presence once again in you own personal life and faith. As your bishop, I invoke Him to descend upon your heart, soul, and body; and even though you will not see a tongue of fire above your head and those of your brothers and sisters in Christ, may you be set on fire to preach, through word and deed, the Faith of Christ that is so sorely needed by a desperate world.
With every prayerful wish for you and yours, together with the bestowal of my hierarchical blessing, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS
This Archpastoral Letter is to be read in lieu of the regular sermon during the Divine Liturgy in all the Parishes of the Diocese on Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 2007