Pentecostal Message 2019 From His Eminence Archbishop John of Charioupolis
In this time of Pentecost, our reflections-meditations urge us to question the meaning of this holiday. If we reread the texts, the iconography and the patristic texts, we see that the event we are celebrating is both individual and cosmic, the two intermingling inseparably. Individual, because each of the apostles personally receives the Comforter Spirit, who opens to them the knowledge of the Mysteries as revealed by Christ. Cosmic, because through them the Spirit comes to rest on all the created universe, renewing the whole of creation.
In our tradition on this day of Pentecost, the church is decorated with greenery symbolising the cosmos receiving the energies of the Spirit. Now, as we see and hear, this earth, which is our home, is threatened on all sides by the predatory greed of man, who, far from controlling his own needs, creates new useless needs every day, endangering the very balance of planet Earth, his only habitat. But this Earth, on which life is good, is the expression of the Creator’s love. It is the expression of God, His manifestation in which we ourselves are included. This manifestation has no other meaning than the communion of the Creator with his creatures, and of them with their Creator. To lose this link to our final goal is to knowingly expose ourselves to all possible cataclysms. Creation is a place of revelation because it is the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To contemplate nature sanctified by the descent of the Spirit is to see that everything is in God, it is to discover that spiritual soul of creation that Father Serge Bulgakov called “cosmic wisdom”. It is to experience what Father Paul Florensky describes as follows: “Then he (who contemplates) perceives the eternal roots of the created universe, thanks to which he is held in God”. (The Pillar and Ground of the Truth, p 211 in French edition)
Creation, says Dionysius the Areopagite, is a profusion of symbols that all tend to try to tell us that this “Highest on High” “this root of everything that supersedes everything” “because everything is in his domain and … Everything exists in it, and it is because it exists that everything is produced and preserved, and everything tends towards it, the beings endowed with intelligence through knowledge, the animals through sensation, the other beings by a vital movement or through an innate or acquired ability. (Divine Names I) But what we are experiencing today is a permanent threat to this fragile balance, because, when man loses himself, he takes the Creation with him, misleading it. The image of the Creator, his own manifestation, this “marvelously composed hymn” of which the Greek Fathers speak, this language of God, is despised by this creature who alone is able to interpret it: man. His ego no longer allows him to open up to the glory, the grace, the poetry, the energies placed in Creation. He, the spiritual centre of the universe, has obscured his function of “logikos” (interpreter) and can no longer express the “logoi”, the spiritual reasons for things. For in Divine revelation, man is nothing but this place where “according to divine wisdom, the fusion and mixing of the sensitive and the intelligible (exists) (because it constitutes) the union between the earthly and the heavenly (and through him the grace can) spread over all creation” according to St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Pentecost reminds us of our vocation. This is the place where the true stature of man is to be found, where the Spirit must reside, the place by which the Spirit must be made manifest, a place that is able to understand this creation as manifestation. To become aware of it is to enter into this movement that makes us listen to the sigh of Creation, its groan as the Apostle says. Becoming aware of what it is and who we are, we will have to be watchers to signify this true meaning and stop this process of degradation with our life, our asceticism, our commitments, that leads us inevitably in the short term, to a period of disenchantment.
Through its mystical cosmology orthodoxy offers us a spiritual path that takes man, creation and time seriously. For the Incarnation of the divine Word recapitulates both the created and the uncreated, the time and the eternity, the human and the divine. Only the Spirit can open us up to such an understanding of this great process which, according to St. Maximus the Confessor, leads from God to God through the Theophany, revealing the great mystery of Divine Love, which makes itself known.
The meaning is in this knowledge – experience of Love. In the midst of tragedy and darkness, little by little, this place of God, which allows us to contemplate the Universe, is revealed in the heart of man. Death, Resurrection, and the Repose of the Spirit are the three steps by which we must pass. For God Himself lived them and took them upon Himself, thus showing us the means of the ascent to Him, who humbled himself for us.
May the Spirit of God poured out on the world and in our hearts open our eyes and simply make us look, like Saint Isaac the Syrian invites us: “As we have two eyes in our body, we have two spiritual eyes and each has his own field of vision. With one we see the secrets of the glory of God hidden in our fellow man … with the other we contemplate the glory of the Holy nature of God”.
A good and holy Pentecost to all!
JOHN of Charioupolis
Archbishop of the Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition
in Western Europe
Paris, 16th June 2019