Message from Archbishop John for the Feast of Pentecost 2016
To the Reverend Fathers, Deans, clergy, Priests and Deacons, Monks and Nuns, to the faithful and to all the friends of the Exarchate of orthodox parishes of the Russian tradition in Western Europe under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a good and holy feast of Pentecost
During this season of Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes down upon the world according to the promise of the Saviour. Descending upon the world, the Spirit manifests Himself by the gifts and charisms granted to every soul that confesses the underlying mystery: God. The Spirit is breath, flame, fragrance, unction. These names point to the action of the Spirit who dwells in the heart and soul of man and re-energises’ him so that he may become the place where God is revealed. However, as St Symeon the New Theologian says, He gives Himself without saying who He is’. He is proclaimed and desired, but as a mystery uncircumscribed by any definition, He can only be perceived by a person who knows His action and presence. Always moving, the Spirit urges us towards Christ in order to reveal Him and to make Him present through our lives, to make Him incarnate in every place of our existence. The presence of the Spirit is hidden in Him who was raised from the dead; He is the very breath of the incarnate Word, for He has no shape, He is essentially both a mystery and intangible.
Christ and the Spirit reveal the Church, founded on the Eucharist and Pentecost. They are, according to St Irenaeus of Lyon, the two hands of the Father’. They are both the Consolers, awaited by humanity steeped in the despair of meaninglessness. One brings mercy, the other power and consolation, in order to make manifest the economy of the Father. The Incarnation and Pentecost are thus the two facets of the one act of Love. Now Christ sits at the side of the Father, and the Spirit abides with us, as our protector, advocate and witness, consoling us in the apparent absence of Christ’, writes Paul Evdokimov.
For the Fathers of the Church, Pentecost completes the process of our Salvation. Christ is the Great Forerunnerof the Spirit’, says St Athanasius of Alexandria; the Word took on flesh so that man could receive the Holy Spirit, God became flesh-bearing so that man could become spirit-bearing’; for such were the aim and ultimate purpose of the entire work of Christ: that believers should receive the Holy Spirit’, says St Symeon the Theologian. Nicholas Cabasilas states that the effect and the result of the actions of Christ are none other than the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church’. In this way with the Ascension of Christ the general epiclesis for the world begins. In response to the work of the Son the Father sends his Spirit on all flesh’, so that every soul may confess that He is the God of Salvation, the One who bestows a new heart, who makes ‘from hearts of stone hearts of flesh’, overflowing with the power and warmth of the Spirit.
It is this Spirit that we welcome’ at every liturgy and every time we invoke the Trinity. Through Him we are creatures recreated for the Kingdom announced by the Son. It is in this Spirit that Christ is among us. It is through Him that we find at last the true Love of God, the love of the Father who makes us sons in the Son’. We thus participate in the holiness of the Father through the mercy of the Son and the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and become that for which we were created: to be the place of the Life of God. For God seeks only one thing: to inhabit His creature who derives his existence from Him (1Co. 3, 16). This for Him is His only as creator. Therein lies the whole mystery of Love who calls us by the very fact of creation to be in His image and likeness.
So let us seek the Kingdom of God together, dearly beloved brothers and sisters, by searching out and acquiring the Spirit. Then we shall have accomplished the purpose of Christian life: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven’.
During these days of Pentecost let us pray fervently that the Spirit of peace, the Spirit of love, the Spirit of unity and the Spirit of discernment may descend upon the fathers gathered in council in Crete.
A good and holy feast of Pentecost to you all.
+ John, Archbishop of Charioupolis,
Patriarchal Exarch of Orthodox parishes
of Russian tradition in Western Europe.
Paris, 19 June 2016