Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To 'Glisten with Splendor'

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,


Today finds us at the exact midpoint of the sacred fifty-day period between the Feasts of Pascha and Pentecost.  So, this twenty-fifth day is called, simply, Midfeast or Mid-Pentecost.  Pentecost (from the Gk. pentecosti) is, of course, the name of the great Feast on the fiftieth day after Pascha, but the term is also used to cover the entire fifty-day period linking the two feasts, thus expressing their profound inner unity.  A wonderful hymn from the Vespers of the Midfeast reveals this connection:

The middle of the fifty days has come,
beginning with the Savior’s resurrection,
and sealed by the Holy Pentecost.
The first and the last glisten with splendor.
We rejoice in the union of both feasts,
as we draw near to the Lord’s ascension:
the sign of our coming glorification.

Pascha and Pentecost “glisten with splendor” – what a wonderful expression!  Yet, this very expression which is indicative of the festal life of the Church, may also sound embarrassingly archaic to our ears today.  This is not exactly an everyday expression that comes readily to mind, even when we encounter something above the ordinary!  However, that could also be saying something about ourselves and not simply serve as a reproach to the Church’s less-than-contemporary vocabulary. Perhaps the drab conformity of our environment; the de-sacralized nature of the world around us, together with its prosaic concerns and uninspiring goals; and even the reduction of religion to morality and vague “values,” make us more than a little skeptical/cynical about anything whatsoever “glistening with splendor!”   How can Pascha and Pentecost “glisten with splendor” if Pascha is “already” (it was, after all, only twenty-five days ago) a forgotten experience of the past; and if the upcoming feasts of Ascension and Pentcost fail to fill us with the least bit of expectation or anticipation?

The Lord is risen and we await the coming of the Comforter, the “Spirit of Truth.”  Those are two awesome claims!  The Apostle Paul exhorts us:  “Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (COL. 3:2).  With our minds lifted up on high and our hearts turned inward where God is – deep within our hearts – not only will the feasts themselves “glisten with splendor,” but so will our souls.  Then, what the world believes to be unattainable, will be precisely the experience that makes us “not of the world.”  May the rest of your day and the days to come somehow, by the grace of God, “glisten with splendor!”

As it is written,
The abundant outpouring of divine gifts is drawing near.
The chosen day of the Spirit is halfway come.
The faithful promise to the disciples after
the death, burial and resurrection of Christ
heralds the coming of the Comforter!

(Vespers of the Midfeast)

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