Archpastoral Letter for Pentecost 2004
May 30, 2004
To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Monastics and the Faithful of our Diocese:
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Fathers and Faithful:
"Put a ring upon his right hand!" Luke 15:22
Our days of feasting and celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ have come to their forty-day closure, when we take leave of the Feast and behold Christ ascended in glory. But ten days later, on the Fiftieth day, the Day of Pentecost, we receive the fullness of the Promise that was sounded on the Eve of the First Day of Eternity.
"When it was evening on that very same day, Sunday - the first day of the week - the disciples were gathered together in one place, with the doors fastened shut ... Jesus came and stood in their midst, saying 'Peace be with you. ... Just as the Father sent Me, even so send I you.' Then, after saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of someone, those sins are forgiven unto that person. If you hold fast their sins, held fast they remain." (John 20:19 - 23)
We receive the Holy Spirit! The Promise is enjoined! The pledge - the betrothal of the life and resurrection to come is gifted to our souls, and as the witness of this, the Spirit appears in tongues of fire of the heads of the Apostles.
Just as in Holy Baptism, when the water that becomes the Life-giving Tomb precedes the Chrism that is our gift of the Holy Spirit, so too does the Resurrection precede Pentecost. Or as in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the first robe precedes the ring that is joyfully put upon his right hand. And then comes the Fatted Calf, just as the Eucharist follows the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation.
But it is a ring, a symbol of perfection, unity and infinity, i.e., a circle that portrays the restoration of the Holy Spirit in the parable. For the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a promise, a pledge, a betrothal, and it prefigures the blessings to come. And the Holy Spirit is the source of all perfection, all unity, and is inexhaustible in His blessings.
The Holy Spirit is symbolized by a ring throughout the Scripture, for it is by the Holy Spirit that we are wed to God. As we hear in the Sacrament of Marriage, by a ring the truth of Thamar was made manifest, for the Holy Spirit brings us to the truth of our own lives before God. And we recall that by a ring Joseph was given power over Egypt, for the Holy Spirit is the source of all power. And we remember that by a ring Daniel was exalted in Babylon, signifying that we, even when we are separated from all that we hold dear are never separated from the love of God. As Saint Paul reminds us:
"Truly, I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things future, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord!" (Romans 8:38,39)
Truly, because the Holy Spirit is the One Who is "everywhere present and fills all things", we can never be separated from the love of God. But we can run away, as once did the Prodigal Son. Not that God ever leaves us, but we do leave Him.
So like the Prodigal on his return, we can renew the Right Spirit within us. We can receive the Pledge of promise as we confess our sins to our Heavenly Father.
This Day of Pentecost, let us learn that every day can become a day of Pentecost, when we accept the in-filling of the Holy Spirit, when we come before God in honesty and sincerity, as once did the Prodigal Son. Each day let us receive the Holy Spirit, and embrace with joy the words of our Father when He says:
"Put a ring upon his right hand!"
Assuring you of a remembrance in prayer in the Liturgy of Pentecost, and imparting my hierarchical blessing on you and yours, 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, MAY 30, 2004