Archpastoral Letter for Pentecost 2005
Prot. N. 171
June 19, 2005
The well-spring of the Spirit, coming down on those on earth and parted into fire-bearing rivers, spiritually bedewed the Apostles and guided them to light; and the fire became for them a cloud of dew and a flame of rain enlightening them, through whom we have received grace through fire and water. The light of the Advocate has come and enlightened the world.
-- Sessional Hymn for Matins of Pentecost
To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Monastics, Clergy and Faithful of this Diocese:
Christ is among us! He is and shall be!
I welcome you, beloved, into the courts of Pentecost! I welcome you, this day, to the heights of the Church, the Body of Christ! I welcome you to this fiftieth day after the Resurrection, when Christ fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit, the day which we celebrate at every Chrismation, every reception of the Eucharist, every ordination and consecration to the Episcopacy and all the sacraments
I welcome you to the harmonious and unified song of praise - a song that began in the Upper Room after the Resurrection ... a song that continues even until this very day! Today, I bid you enter the "cloud of dew and flame of rain" on this Feast of Pentecost. Enter now into the courts of the Resurrected Christ, and the Body of His Church.
When the Spirit descended upon the company of disciples in the Upper Room, at that brightest of Third Hours, the glory of Pascha gushed forth as a fountain into the desert of human events. The Church of God, the Body of Christ, was quickened that day, very much like the body of Adam was quickened by the breath of God in Paradise.
Because of Pentecost, the Church is light when the world is dark. Because of Pentecost, the Church is music when society is noise and clatter. Because of Pentecost, the Church is life and salvation, when mankind has forgotten the meaning of hope.
Because of Pentecost, a collection of men and women - fishermen, homemakers, people of little importance and means - were transformed into the fulfillment of all human society. For this is what the Church really is, since it is the realm of Grace, the place of Eternity even now, and bright air of infinite Beauty. It is the perfection of Family. It is the standard of Relationship and Society. It is the Induction of the Kingdom of Heaven, here and now.
Because of Pentecost, the Spirit enfolds us, through the Church, into Trinitarian Grace, and we inherit the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). And when this Grace shines brightly, the force of Pascha is let loose upon humanity, and thousands of men and women will fall to their knees in repentance, and ask how they may be saved.
Do not be surprised at this, for it has happened before. On that first Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter proclaimed the news that Paradise may be regained in the Church, and three thousand people became Christians that day (Acts 2.41). The Apostles Paul and Silas sang hymns in chains, while the earth quaked, and the entire household of a Roman official was baptized - father, mother, children and servants (Acts 16.33).
You may wonder whether the brightness of Pentecost is confined to the past. You may think that events such as these - the conversion of thousands - is unknown in our time and our people.
You may wonder thus. But I tell you this: the very act of wondering, that very moment of doubt, is very much the reason why we cannot see the Son for His brightness, the Spirit for His power, and the Father for His divine Will that the Church should live, should grow, should save, and should prevail over the hearts of men.
Christ has called us, the successors of the first disciples, to be Fishers of Men, to catch the whole world in our nets. These first Fishers ordained men as deacons, priests and bishops as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. And all of our clergy are successors of these Apostles in the days of the Acts. Nothing has ever changed!
So if Christ and His Church have not changed, then we must change our ways to become such Fishers of Men.
The Apostolic Fishers of All People practiced radical forgiveness and righteous living. It is time now, this Pentecost, to forgive and forget. It is time to put away the deeds of darkness, and live as children of the light.
The Apostolic Fishers of All People practiced faithfulness to Holy Tradition. It is time now for sermons to be catechetical, to teach the faithful how to be true to the difference of Orthodoxy in an anti-Orthodox age. It is time for children and youth to learn the Orthodox Faith as a matter of life and death, because we are beginning to see that, indeed, it is such a matter.
The Apostolic Fishers of All People practiced the peace of fellowship and kindness. It is time now for the Church to care for those who attend, and those who have fallen away. It is time to publicize our open doors to people who have never attended ... to kindly assist them as they learn the ways of our Church and to be patient with them. It is time to make the Church accessible to the elderly, the frail, the handicapped, and minorities.
The Apostolic Fishers of All People practiced a devotion to the breaking of bread in the Eucharist, and to the prayers of Divine Services. They were not afraid of being religious. It is time, then, to stand against the cancer of secularism and modernity. It is time for children to obey their parents ... for adults to obey their Church ... for clergy to humbly submit to their hierarchs and to their pastors ... and for bishops to hearken to their Mother Church. It is time to fully embrace the fullness of Orthodoxy, and to lay aside, once and for all, the influences of an unbelieving world.
I call you, beloved, to live as the Christians of the first Pentecost - the fervent faithful of Orthodoxy's first generations. I call you to acquire nothing less than the fullness and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Acquire this Spirit and His Peace on this Pentecost, my beloved children, and as St. Seraphim of Sarov, a Slavic mystic, once said, "thousands around you will be saved." It happened on the first of Christian Pentecosts. It can happen again today.
Granting unto you, spiritual children, my Archpastoral and fervent blessing, I remain
Most sincerely yours in the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
+ METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS
(This Archpastoral Letter is to be read in every parish of the Diocese in lieu of the sermon on Pentecost Sunday)