HOLY PENTECOST.Most-holy Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia

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In Old Testament [times], on the 50th Day following the Jewish Pascha, the Old Testament Pentecost would be celebrated.  It was pleasing to God that on the 50th Day after the Pascha of His Son, our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit should descend upon His disciples.  This took place while the Disciples were gathered together in the upper room on Mt. Zion to remember they Risen Savior.  As St. Luke relates (in Acts 2:1-11), there came a sound from Heaven [as of a rushing mighty wind], and the Holy Spirit, as "cloven tongues like as of fire" descended upon the Apostles, and they began to speak with other tongues - i.e.  their words became comprehensible to everyone.  Even greater than the Apostles' acquiring great powers of persuasion to  preach of the Word of God, was that they also acquired a power as foretold by the Savior on the eve of His Passion.  He had said that He would send the Comforter from the Father, which is the Spirit of Truth, Who would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance everything he had said to them. (see John 14:26; 15:26).

Amazing words.  Why did they need the Holy Spirit to remind them of what had taken place 50 days earlier?  Human memory retains recent events perfectly.  After all, the Disciples had accompanied the Savior - they were his disciples.  They had all heard and remembered what the Lord told them.  Why did they need the power of God to remind them of what was well known?  When Luke and Cleopas were on their way to Emmaus and there appeared to them the Lord — Whom they did not recognize after His Resurrection — they said to Him in amazement, "Art Thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass?" (See Luke 24:18) They remembered everything, and were in no need of being reminded.

Remembrance in the Holy Spirit is an entirely different kind of recollection.  It is not the kind accomplished by effort of memory, at the level of human consciousness.  Remembrance through the power of the Holy Spirit is that remembrance which causes anyone upon whom the Holy Spirit descends to become a participant in everything that Christ wrought for our salvation. We call that remembrance by the power of the Holy Spirit a Mystery.  Why a Mystery?  Because the human intellect is incapable of containing all that happens through remembrance accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit.

While breaking bread and blessing wine at the Mystical Supper on the eve of His Passion, the Lord said, "This do in remembrance of Me." (Luke 22:19)  Once again, not that remembrance, which by the power of memory turns us to the past, but that remembrance which is through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Grace of God, the Holy Spirit, makes us participants, numbers us among those present, at the Mystical Supper - and not only that, but participants in the entire life, preaching, Passion, death and  Resurrection of the Lord.. Even greater, as we affirm in the Eucharistic prayer before the consecration of the Holy Gifts, we remember the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascencion up to Heaven, the session at the right hand [of the Father], the Second and Glorious Coming.  What kind of human memory can remember the Savior's sitting at the right hand of the Father?  What human memory can remember the Second Coming, which has not yet come to pass?

For God there is no past, no present, and no future.  God is outside of time and outside of space.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the Mystery overcoming time and space, overcoming the gravity of the physical world, we mystically become actual participants in the life, and in the sufferings, and in the Cross, and in the Resurrection, and in the session at the right hand of God the Father, and in the Second Coming.  By the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church, in the community of Faith, the Mystery of salvation is accomplished.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, within this community, everything that Christ did takes effect; it becomes real, becomes effectual for everyone, regardless of the time or place in which he lives.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Mystery of the Church, in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, we mystically touch the Heavenly, Divine life.  While still here on earth, we are touching the Kingdom of God.  This is why the Divine Liturgy begins with the marvelous exclamation: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" — for through the power of the Holy Spirit we touch that Kingdom of God, that Kingdom which through grace, through joy, through peace and love, is reflected in our hearts.

That is why during the Liturgy such a special state of being comes upon us.  Even upon going out of the church, we are in possession of different senses, for have been struck by the Kingdom of God, we have touched it and, for a moment, have become Heaven-dwellers. Although, burdened as we are by our sins and weaknesses and by our very physical nature, we are incapable of seeing that which we have touched, we still feel it in our hearts.  And with the experience of this living, functioning, Kingdom of God,  One which is not someday to come, but already is - for where the Kingdom of God is, there is no time — with the experience of that Kingdom, we are enriched, and acquire great power and the capacity to bring to remembrance everything the Lord taught us.

Remarkably, there have been multitudes of people who, because they were illiterate, could not read the Word of God, [nonetheless] through the power of the Holy Spirit, remembered the Mystery of Salvation brought to us in Christ.

Today amazing words were spoken in the Gospel reading.   Addressing his Disicples, the Lord says, "I am the Light of the world." (John 8:12). Truly, He is the Light of the world, and according to His words, where there is light, there is no darkness.  Through the Mystery of the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit,  we also are capable of accepting a particle of that Light and carrying It within ourselves, despite the fact that darkness is striving to rule in this world.  Darkness and the threatening clouds are striving to extinguish that Light, and the battle, the cosmic battle between good and evil, the universal battle, does not pause for even a minute, for even an instant.  The victors in that battle are not the ones who are most powerful from a human standpoint, not those who have authority, not those who have money, not those who have the power to force others to do their will. Victorious is he who has the power of God with him, he who keeps God's light in his heart and mind. This is not because he who keeps that Light is stronger than others, but rather because, through the Church, through the community of Faith in which the Holy Spirit lives and acts, a great Mystery takes place: unification with the Kingdom of God and acquisition of the power of God.  It is by that power, and not by our human efforts, that we preserve the light of God in our hearts and become capable of living in accordance with what the Lord taught His Disciples, keeping the divine Light in the heart. 

It was in that sense that the Lord said that the gates of hell would not prevail over the Church (see Mathew 16:18).  It is impossible to change what Christ did.  The Holy Spirit will live and act in the Church until the end of the age, until the parousia, until the Dread Judgment, and will be revealed to us not only in the Mystery, but in the reality of our life beyond the grave.  The Holy Spirit will live and act, and the Kingdom of God will be revealed to everyone who accepts Holy Baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who confesses One God worshipped in Trinity, who maintains the Faith and who through the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist unites with the Lord in His glory while still here on the sinful earth, still burdened with human sufferings and woes.  And that Church, the Church of the Holy Spirit, cannot be defeated by the devil or by any other power, for the Church of the Holy Spirit is nurtured by the power of God, which is more powerful than any human or demonic power.

To be in the Church means to be in faith, in fellowship with God by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the working of God's justice, in life according to God's Law — in that life to which the Lord called all of us.  That call becomes particularly powerful, and can be felt in a special way on Holy Pentecost that follows [50 days] after Pascha, when we festively glorify the Holy Spirit, which was manifest in all its power to the Lord's Disciples, and through them, to all of us, Amen.

"The Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit.”  You pronounce these words, familiar since childhood, and suddenly are amazed by them: it is as if you are hearing them for the first time.  Yes, since childhood, I have known that ten days after the Feast of the Ascension, that means, fifty days after Pascha, Christians have from time immemorial, been celebrating and continue to celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit, both by its Church name, the Feast of Pentecost, and in common usage, as it is known among the people - the Trinity, the Day of the Holy Trinity.  On that day, since time immemorial, people have decorated churches with greenery, with branches, and have carpeted the church floor with grass.  As they stood at Vespers on that Feast Day, people would hold flowers in their hands.

Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra

7 June 2009

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