Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Clear and Decisive Affirmation of Faith

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."  (II COR. 13:14)

The Sunday of the Feast of Pentecost is named on the calendar as The Feast of the Holy Trinity or simply Trinity Sunday.  This emphasis on the Holy Trinity is based on the element of divine revelation that Pentecost discloses.  For the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world through the mediation of the Church as gathered in the upper room is the full revelation of God's Trinitarian nature. 

The Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of prophecy, has been poured out on "all flesh" (ACTS 2; JOEL 2:28-32).  We now know - because it has been revealed to us "from on high" - that the one living God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the "holy, consubstantial, undivided and life-creating Trinity."  We rejoice in this revelation for we are convinced that we now have access to the true nature of God.  We can approach the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit!

As Fr. John Breck, in his article "Pentecost:  The "Person" of the Holy Spirit," writes:

By dedicating Pentecost Sunday to the celebration of the Holy Trinity, the Church affirms that the Spirit, as fully as the Father and the Son, is God. The Nicene Creed states unambiguously:  the Holy Spirit is "Lord and Giver of Life."  He "proceeds from the Father" from all eternity (JN. 15:26), and together with the Father and the Son He is "worshipped and glorified."  These are the qualities that can only pertain to a personal being.  Therefore we proclaim, as Orthodox Christians, that the Spirit, as fully as the Father and the Son, is indeed a divine Person.  Such is the faith, the bedrock conviction, of the Church.

Our worship of the Holy Trinity is so thorough and complete that it would be virtually impossible not to be aware of this. Every prayer in our liturgical services concludes with a doxology (glorification) that is clearly Trinitarian:  "Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit ... "  Yet even here we can take it for granted and fail to hear this if we fail to be vigilant and listen not only with our ears, but with our mind and heart.    This is beautifully summed up near the close of the Liturgy after we have received Holy Communion:

We have seen the True Light! We have received the Heavenly Spirit!  We have found the True Faith! Worshipping the undivided Trinity, who has saved us.

There is nothing tentative or apologetic in that hymn.  Or nothing speculative or vague.  Rather, it is a clear and decisive affirmation of a lived and communally-shared experience that we can at least potentially partake of whenever we are present at the Liturgy and receive the Eucharist.   However, that is based upon the extent to which we have each personally appropriated the Lord's Trinitarian mystery as revealed within the life of the Church. Basically, we know the content of the Faith through the personal gift of faith.  That is why we claim to "have seen" and to "have received."

Although the figures continue to decline whenever a new "poll" is taken, the vast majority of Americans to this day continue to claim to believe in God.  That is always good news. But what if the question was posed differently, as in:  Do you believe in the Holy Trinity?  I believe that there would be a fairly significant drop in the percentage when compared to those who believe in "God," which, in today's religious landscape and climate of excessive subjectivism, could mean so many different things.

To expand on that a bit, we could further say with accuracy, that a vast amount of people throughout the world today claim to be monotheists - including, of course, Jews and Muslims.  But as Orthodox Christians we make the paradoxical claim to be Trinitarian monotheists.  That entails quite a significant  difference.  We continue to hope that all good people of good will throughout the world who claim to be Christian remain consciously aware of the specific Christian belief in the Holy Trinity.  Be that as it may, our immediate concern is to humbly but unapologetically affirm that the one living God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the One "who has saved us."

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