Archpastoral Letter for Pentecost 2010
Prot. N. 198
Very Reverend Protopresbyters, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Monastics, and all of the faithful of our God-saved Diocese:
Christ is among us! He is and shall be!
"Behold, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of promises and of our hope." Vespers sticheron at Psalm 140
Today, we celebrate one of the greatest feasts of our Holy Orthodox Church, ranking it, if we will, only after Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, and Theophany. Every Feast of our Church is important to us because God Himself has something to reveal to us and teach us from the events of salvation history which He has unfolded before us.
This present Feast, Pentecost, which commemorates the Descent of the All-Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, is a FEAST OF FULFILLMENT! The events that began as far back as the Annunciation of the Mother of God now find their culmination in this awesome Coming of the Spirit into the world. For just as God personally revealed Himself as the one and only God to the pagan, polytheistic world through His Chosen People, the Israelites, so now has He revealed to us His Triune nature. In dealing with His creation, God has moved slowly and purposefully in stages, preparing His creatures TO KNOW ABOUT HIM AND TO KNOW HIM. Through the Patriarchs, the Forefathers of the Old Testament, His people came to know and accept Him alone as their God. Through the prophets and the Messiah Himself, we came to know THAT ONE GOD as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
This revelation has also occurred in stages. God, the Holy Spirit, was revealed to us gradually. There are references to Him in the pages of the Old
Testament. And even in the New Testament, when the Son of God, the second Divine Person, entered into our history, the Spirit is mentioned, but not yet fully revealed. At the Annunciation, , we read that the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you..." (Luke 1:35). When the forty-day old Infant Christ was brought into the Temple, "...it had been revealed to him (Symeon) by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the Temple..." (Luke 2: 26-27) At the Baptism of our Lord Jesus, "...the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him..." (Luke 3:22). Before He began His public ministry, the Christ "...was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1). At His Transfiguration, we see the Spirit's presence as "a bright cloud" which "overshadowed them." (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7;Luke 9:34) This is reminiscent of the "pillar of cloud" which led the Israelites through the wilderness by day (Exodus 13:21), and the cloud which enveloped Mount Sinai when Moses went up into the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24: 15-16), and " the cloud which descended and filled the temple of Solomon (III Kings: 8:10-11), thus consecrating it.
But now, after these partial revelations, comes the fullness of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. This time He comes "as a mighty rushing wind" and "divided tongues of fire." (Acts of the Apostles 2:2-3) The third Person of the Divine Trinity not only REVEALS HIMSELF to us, HE ALSO GIVES HIMSELF to us in His fullness. Shortly after the Fall, God made a promise that He would send a Saviour, AND HE DID! And now he sends the COMFORTER to help us. Thus, the PROCESS OF REVELATION, THE PROCESS OF SALVATION, and THE PROCESS OF THEOSIS, that were promised to us, are FULFILLED TODAY!
The process of revelation has been completed in the words of the Holy Scriptures, the process of salvation is fully accomplished through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the process of theosis is effected by the Holy Spirit in the outpouring of gifts that He bestows today.
In his Epistle to the Galatians, which is read on Christmas morning, the Holy Apostle Paul tells us: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (4:4). Now, on Pentecost, the fullness of time had come to send forth the Holy Spirit, to complete the work initiated by the Son.
Today, the Holy Spirit gives Himself to us! He gives of Himself! He gives us a multitude and variety of gifts. Often, Pentecost is referred to as the "birthday of the Church," and on birthdays, of course, we often give gifts. The Spirit also gives them, freely and abundantly, to those who desire them and seek them. At Great Vespers on the eve of Pentecost we hear: "The Holy Spirit provides every GIFT; He inspires prophecy and perfects the priesthood; He grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the assembly of the Church... " (sticheron at psalm 140). This is why and how the Church has survived until this very day, that the gates of hell have not prevailed against her.
If you search the Holy Scriptures you will discover many references to the gifts of God that He has bestowed upon us, all of them effected through the power of the Holy Spirit. During the Divine Liturgy, we call the bread and wine that is offered the "HOLY GIFTS." We have given them to God, and the Holy Spirit has returned them to us, transformed them into the precious Body and Blood of our Saviour. Near the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, in the Amvon Prayer, we are again reminded of the words of the Holy Apostle James, "For every good and perfect GIFT is from above, coming down from You, the Father of lights..." (1:17) And in the third Gospel that is read in procession around the Church on Pentecost Monday, we hear: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13)
As the Holy Spirit descends once again upon us this day, I pray that each of you will receive and avail yourself of these gifts that He gives us and utilize them to the very best of your ability, showing gratitude and giving glory to the Giver of all blessings. I remain
Most sincerely Yours in the Holy Spirit,
+ 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 23.