Glossolalia (Speaking in Tongues)


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


By Father George Nicozisin

The Greek Orthodox Church does not preclude the use of Glossolalia but regards it as one of the minor gifts of the Holy Spirit. If Glossolalia has fallen out of use it is because it served its purpose in New Testament times and is no longer necessary. However, even when used, it is a private and personal gift, a lower form of prayer. The Orthodox Church differs with those Pentecostal and Charismatic groups which regard Glossolalia as a prerequisite to being a Christian and to having received the Holy Spirit.

Serapion of Egypt, a 4th century contemporary of Saint Athanasius summarized Eastern Orthodox Theology:

"The Anointing after Baptism is for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, that having been born again through Baptism and made new through the laver of regeneration, the candidates may be made new through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and secured by this Seal may continue steadfast."

Bishop Maximos Aghiorghoussis, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburg and world-renowned Orthodox theologian on the Holy Spirit states it this way: "For Orthodox Christians, Baptism is our personal Resurrection and Chrismation is our personal Pentecost and indwelling of the Holy Spirit."

There are two forms of Glossolalia:


+ Pentecost Glossolalia happened this way: Fifty days after the Resurrection, while the Disciples were gathered together, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they began to speak in other languages. Jews from all over the civilized world who were gathered in Jerusalem for the religious holiday stood in amazement as they heard the Disciples preaching in their own particular language and dialect.

+ Corinthian Glossolalia is different, Saint Paul, who had founded the Church of Corinth, found it necessary to respond to some of their problems, i.e., division of authority, moral and ethical problems, the Eucharist, the issue of death and resurrection and how the Gifts of the Holy Spirit operated in Chapter 12. Saint Paul lists nine of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e., knowledge, wisdom, spirit, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpreting what another says when he speaks in tongues.

Specifically, Corinthian Glossolalia was an activity of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person and compelling him to extend expressions directed to God, but not understood by others. In Pentecost Glossolalia, while speaking in several different tongues, both the speaker and the listener understood what was uttered. The Glossolalia manifested in Corinth was the utterance of words and phrases, sentences, etc. intelligible to God but not to the person uttering them. What was uttered needed to be interpreted by another who had the gift of interpretation.

Apostolic times were a unique period, rich with extraordinary and supernatural phenomena, for the history of mankind. The Lord God set out to make new creations through the saving grace of His Son and implemented into perfection through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit endowed men and women with many gifts in order to bring this about. One of its gifts during the New Testament times was Glossolalia. But even from New Testament times, it would seem Glossolalia began to phase out. Saint Paul, it seems, indicates later in Chapter 14 that Glossolalia should be minimized and understood preaching, maximized. Saint Justin the Martyr, a prolific mid-century writer lists several kinds of gifts but does not mention Glossolalia. Saint John Chrysostom wrote numerous homilies on Books of the New Testament during the 4th century but does not appear to make mention of Glossolia as noted in First Corinthians.

Many Christian writers, certainly the mystics, wrote about states of ecstasy during praise and worship, of seeing visions of God's heavenly Kingdom, of what they perceived eternal life with Christ to be, of how the Holy Spirit spoke to them and through them, to others. But was always understood, intelligible, comprehensible communication. Perhaps they could not describe in earthly and material frames of reference, what they saw and experienced, but they were conscious and fully aware of what was happening. They were not in some state of senselessness. Even the monks of Mount Athos who experience Divine communication and have reached a plateau of holiness, do not speak in tongues. They speak in words that are intelligible and utter clear words in hymns and praise of God with His Truth.

What then is the Orthodox Christian perspective on Glossolalia? The Orthodox Christian viewpoint on Glossolalia is based on Saint Paul's words in Chapter 14 of the same Epistle. "I thank God that I speak in strange tongues much more than any of you. But in Church worship, I would rather speak five words that can be understood, in order to teach others, than speak thousands of words in strange tongues." (verse 10-19). In Chapter 13 Saint Paul says, "Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way." Then Saint Paul proceeds and shares with his readership the greatest gift of all - agape! (love). 


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George