Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Last and Great Day of the Feast

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Pentecost Sunday is also called “Trinity Sunday.”  The One God is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  One God, therefore, worshipped in three Persons.  Pentecost is the final realization of that truth, following many "hints" of God's Trinitarian nature in both the Old and New Testaments.  We are not Unitarians, but we believe in, worship and adore the “holy, consubstantial, life-creating, and undivided Trinity.”  To believe otherwise about God is to place oneself outside of the Orthodox Faith.  Although primarily concentrating on the nature of the Holy Spirit, the following sticheron from the Vespers of Pentecost magnificently reveals God’s Trinitarian nature:

The Holy Spirit was, is and ever shall be
Without beginning, without an end,
Forever united and numbered with the
   Father and the Son.
He is Life, and life-creating,
The Light, and the Giver of Life,
Good in Himself, the Fountain of
Through whom the Father is known
   and the Son glorified.
All acknowledge one Power, one Order,
One worship of the Holy Trinity.

And then, even more explicitly, we hear another profound hymn to the Trinity in one of the aposticha for the Vespers of Pentecost:

Come, let us worship the Tri-Personal
The Son in the Father with the Holy
The Father timelessly begets the co-
   reigning and co-eternal Son.
The Holy Spirit was in the Father,
   glorified equally with the Son,
One Power, One Substance, One God-
In worshipping Him, let us all say:
Holy God:  who made all things
   through the Son,
With the cooperation of the Spirit.
Holy Mighty:  through whom we know
   the Father,
Through whom the Holy Spirit came
   into the world!
Holy Immortal:  the comforting Spirit,
Proceeding from the Father and rest-
   ing in the Son.
O Holy Trinity:  glory to Thee!

A hymn such as this one offers us an inexhaustible text for reflection and meditation upon the mystery of the Trinity.  It also offers a superb commentary on the Trisagion Hymn that is an essential component of our liturgical and personal prayer on a daily basis; meaning that not a day goes by on which we do praise and glorify the Holy Trinity.  Thus, glorifying and praising the Holy Trinity is such an organic and indispensable element of our ongoing prayer life.  As St. Gregory the Theologian wrote:  "When I say God, I mean the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."  And that holds true for every Orthodox Christian to this day.  

Christ referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Paraklete” (Gk. Paráklētos) often translated as the “Comforter” (other translations include “Counselor” and “Advocate”).  The Holy Spirit comforts and consoles our restless hearts with the presence of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we ascend to the Father.  The Holy Spirit comforts us with the peace and joy of God in a world filled with much sadness and anguish.  He comforts us with a living sense, here and now, of a bright and glorious world – the Kingdom of God – that awaits us when we leave this one.  The Holy Spirit is the “pledge” of our future inheritance. As the Apostle Paul put it:   

"In him (i.e. Christ) you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory"  (EPH. 1:13-14).

We need to make room for the Holy Spirit in our hearts, by cleansing our hearts from any evil presence.  Just as no one would pour a precious ointment or perfume into a jar that reeks with a stale odor; so God does not send the Holy Spirit into hearts that reek with sin and the stench of innumerable passions.  Actually, the Holy Spirit assists us in that very cleansing process, if we so desire that purification with our entire being.  We pray on a daily basis to the Holy Spirit, the “Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth” that the Spirit would “come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity.”  The Holy Spirit will make us “Spirit-bearers” and not merely “flesh-bearers” if we seek the Spirit’s presence with faith, hope and love.  The Holy Spirit overcomes our weaknesses on our behalf:

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself interceded for us with sighs too deep for words.” (ROM. 8:26)

Ultimately, we pray to the Holy Spirit:  “and save our souls, O Good One!”

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