Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
HOLY PENTECOST: THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own language in which we were born? (Acts 2:1-8).
His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlahos of Nafpaktos writes the following: "Before Christ ascended into Heaven He gave a command to His Disciples to return to Jerusalem after His Ascension and remain there until they were invested with power from Heaven. Thus He gave them the promise that they would receive the Holy Spirit, about which He had spoken during His life.
This promise by Christ to the Disciples was realized fifty days after Pascha and ten days after the Ascension to heaven. Thus in the Church we observe the feast of Pentecost, in which we honor the Holy Trinity, and on the following day (on Monday) we celebrate and glorify the Holy Spirit. So the feast of Pentecost is the feast of Holy Trinity.
The feast of Pentecost is a feast of the Holy Spirit, because we learn from the descent of the Holy Spirit that God is threefold. Previously too both obscurely in the Old Testament and in Christ's teaching, people were learning the Trinitarian character of God, but at Pentecost they acquired practical experience of His threefold hypostasis. Thus Pentecost is a feast of orthodox theology...
The mystery of the Holy Trinity has been revealed to us by Christ Himself, Who told His Disciples that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by Himself (Saint John 15:26). This means that the Son of God does not take part in the procession of the Holy Spirit, but has a part in its sending and its mission to the world, and this sending is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in energy. Thus, as Saint Gregory Palamas explains, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, but we can say that it is sent by the Son only in its energy and manifestation to the world and not in its being in essence. The being of the Holy Spirit is a different thing from its manifestation in energy."
THE DIVINITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by through the Prophets."
Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlahos writes: "The Second Ecumenical Council mainly concerned itself with the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, because it was at this time that the fact that the Holy Spirit is God was questioned.
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life". The three titles-"Holy, Lord, Giver of Life"-demonstrates the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, these three titles are also given to the other Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit created and give life to the whole of creation.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned in third place, just as the Son is in second place. However, this does not suggest that the Son is lower than the Father, nor that the Holy Spirit is lower than the Son and the Father. The Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are one essence, one honor and one glory, equal between themselves."
The Beginning of the Church's Existence Its Growth, and Its Purpose
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky says, "The Church of Christ received its existence with the coming to earth of the Son of God, "when the fullness of the time was come" (Gal. 4:4), and with His bringing of salvation to the world.
The beginning of its existence in its complete form and significance, with the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, was the day of Pentecost, after the Ascension of the Lord. On this day, after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, in Jerusalem there were baptized three thousand men. And, further, the Lord each day added those being saved to the Church. From this moment, the territory of the city of Jerusalem, then of Palestine, then of the whole Roman Empire, and even the lands beyond its boundaries, began to be covered with Christian communities or churches. The name "church" which belongs to every Christian community, even of a single house or family, indicates the unity of this part with the whole, with the body of the whole Church of Christ.
Being, "the body of Christ," the Church "increaseth with the increase of God" (Col. 2:19). Comparing the Church with a building, the Apostle teaches that is building is not completed, but continues: "All the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21). This growth is not only in the sense of the visible, quantitative increase of the Church on earth; in even greater degree, this is a "spiritual growth, the perfection of the Saints, the filling up of the heavenly-earthly world through sanctity." Through the Church is accomplished "the dispensation of the fullness of times" foreordained by the Father, so that "He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth" (Eph. 1:10).
In the sense of its earthly growth, the Church develops in the spheres of Divine services and the Canons; it is made richer by Patristic literature; it grows to the outward forms which are necessary for its earthly conditions of existence.
The Church is our spiritual Home. As with one's home--and even more than that--a Christian's thoughts and actions are closely bound up with the Church. In it he must, as long as he lives on earth, work out his salvation, and make use of the grace-given mans of sanctification given him by it. It prepares its children for the heavenly homeland.
As to how, by the Grace of God, spiritual rebirth and spiritual growth occur in a man, in what sequence these usually occur, what hindrances must be overcome by him on the way of salvation, how he must combine his own indispensable labors with the grace-given help of God--special branches of theological and spiritual learning are devoted to all these matters. These are called Moral Theology and Ascetic Theology.
Dogmatic Theology properly limits the subject of the Church to an examination of the Grace-given conditions and the mystical, Grace-given means furnished in the Church for the attainment of the aim of salvation in Christ."
"Some erroneously hold that Pentecost is the "birthday of the Church." But this is not true; for the teaching of the holy Fathers is that the Church existed before all other things. Saint Gregory the Theologian also speaks of "the Church of Christ...both before Christ and after Christ". The Church existed from the creation of the Angels, for the Angels came into existence before the creation of the world, and they have always been members of the Church. Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome, says in his second epistle to the Corinthians, the Church "was created before the sun and moon"; and a little further on, "the Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning" (II Cor. 14).
That which came to pass at Pentecost, then, was the ordination of the Apostles, the commencement of the Apostolic preaching to the nations, and the inauguration of the priesthood of the new Israel." (The Great Horologion)
The Head of the Church
The Savior, in giving authority to the Apostles before His Ascension, told them very clearly that He Himself would not cease to be the invisible shepherd and pilot of the Church. "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (every day constantly and inseparably; St. Matthew 28:20). The Savior taught that He, as the Good Shepherd, had to bring in also those sheep who were not of this fold, so that there might be one flock and One Shepherd (St. John 10:16). "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth, Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations" (St. Matthew 28:18-19). In all these words there is contained the idea that the highest shepherd of the Church is Christ Himself. We must be aware of this so as not to forget the close bond and the inward unity of the Church on earth with the Heavenly Church.
The Lord Jesus Christ is also the "founder" of the Church: "I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (St. Matthew 16:18).
Christ is also the foundation of the Church, its cornerstone: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11).
He also is its head. God the Father "gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). "The Head is Christ, from Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:15-16). As all the members of our body comprise a full and living organism which depends upon its head, so also the Church is a spiritual organism in which there is no place where the powers of Christ do not act. It is "full of Christ" (Bishop Theophan the Recluse).
Christ Himself is the invisible chief bishop of the Church. The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer, an Apostolic Father, calls the Lord the "invisible bishop" (Greek: episkopos aoratos).
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God