Message from Archbishop John of Charioupolis for the Feast of Pentecost 2018
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
Dearly beloved Fathers, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
After having celebrated the joy of the resurrection of the Lord of the world, here we are, like the apostles, in this period of waiting, of mediation, because Christ must go back to the Father and the latter will then send us His Spirit. We are indeed waiting for the promise made to the prophet Joel to be fulfilled among the community of believers: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2: 28-29). This Spirit which is spread over the whole apostolic community lives today in every Christian Eucharistic community. This Spirit descends upon us at every prayer, every epiclesis, every invocation of the Holy Spirit – Pentecost always rekindled for the life of the community. At each Eucharist we are indeed nourished by the body and blood of Christ and at the same time filled with the Spirit as on this day of Pentecost, when men, frightened and fearful at the memory of the Lord, are inundated with the Spirit and strengthened to build a new world. This new world is the prophetic Church of the Good News of the Kingdom. This new world is for all men. This new world is for justice, peace and unity among men so that they are one in confessing the Father of all.
We are invited to a total interior renewal: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you,” says the Lord to Ezekiel (36: 26-27). This is the new path that is open to us, the only way that will convert both Christians and those who do not believe. Change your heart, acquire the heart of flesh and blood, the heart that lives, that dies in suffering and exults in joy, the heart that shares and gives, the heart that pulsates for the brother and groans under the weight of hatred. It is the true heart shaped by the Spirit of God. As long as we have not a heart to absorb one another into our family, our community, we are still under the old regime, that of the heart of stone, a heart that has not known the Spirit of God.
All together we must mature, grow, experience Christ crucified and risen, to be able to live the gifts of the Spirit and especially to be able to share them because they do not belong to us, but are given for the edification of the community. We cannot stress enough this community aspect of the Christian life. We are not challenged by the Spirit as an individual, but as persons integrated into a body – the Body of Christ, the Church of the baptised. When the apostles received the Spirit, “they were in one place” (Acts 2:1) and not scattered. They were gathered together for prayer, they formed the first Christian community united for the Eucharist, to give thanks to God for the death and resurrection of his Son. And united by faith and prayer they will receive the Spirit. Likewise, in the 21st century, in the image of the primitive community, we are not scattered but united in the communion of prayer and faith as we invoke the Spirit. And the Spirit descends upon us at each liturgy that we may be strong and able to transmit the message of Jesus to the world as fishers of men like the apostles, who spread the Good News of salvation to the four corners of the universe.
Pentecost must awaken in us this missionary consciousness, this concern for Christian radiance that we sometimes tend to forget, and to retreat into ourselves, to satisfy ourselves with what we believe to be certainties, without seeing the reality around us that cries out in its hunger and thirst for God, without knowing how to express it. It is at this moment that the heart of flesh enlivened by the Spirit, must react and bring its blood to the heart of stone.
The feast of Pentecost therefore calls us to an authentic conversion, that we change from our old being to the life of the Gospel and its witness. Let us together ask that the Spirit of God illumine us, and give us the grace of the witness of the Word.
Archbishop JOHN of Charioupolis, Patriarchal Exarch of the Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe
Paris, 27th May 2018