Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,
Last Sunday was the First Sunday After Pentecost. All of the subsequent Sundays of the liturgical year until the pre-lenten Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee sometime next year will be so numbered. Thus, this coming Sunday will be the Second Sunday After Pentecost. This is not intended to help us count better.
The purpose is to keep before our spiritual sight the overwhelming significance of Pentecost in the divine economy.
The New Testament era of the Church began its existence on the Day of Pentecost with the Spirit’s descent as a mighty rushing wind that took on the form of fiery tongues alighting upon the heads of the future apostles (ACTS 2:1-13). The Church has always existed, but the Church as a remnant of Israel that would flourish and grow with the addition of the Gentiles began its final phase of existence with the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ, Who, seated at the right hand of the Father, would send the Holy Spirit into the world and upon “all flesh” on the Day of Pentecost. As St. Epiphanius of Cyprus wrote in the fourth century:
“The Catholic Church, which exists from the ages, is revealed most clearly in the incarnate advent of Christ.”
The simple calendar rubric of numbering the Sundays after Pentecost is one way of reminding us of this essential truth of the Christian Faith. The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and in and through the sacramental life of the Church we experience something like a permanent pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is this outpouring of the Spirit "on all flesh" that offers the possibility and the promise of human holiness. The fact that so many men, women and children throughout the centuries of the Church's existence received this gift with joy and gladness is revealed to us in the lives of the saints. It is these "holy persons" that we commemorated last Sunday on the Sunday of All Saints.
However, as we embark upon the Sundays of Pentecost we immediately encounter a prevailing tension between the "rhythm" of the Church and the "rhythm" of our personal lives. We begin these Pentecostal Sundays just when summer is also beginning - and our summer schedules often minimize our participation in the Church.
So, as we receive the Spirit of renewal and re-commitment to the Church as the source of authentic life; as we pray to the Heavenly King and Spirit of Truth to "come and abide in us;" we more-or-less settle into our church summer schedules that have something of a lazy-hazy approach to the Church. There seems to exist an Orthodox version of "the summertime blues!"
This can especially afflict Orthodox parents who equate "summer vacation" from school and summer vacation from church school. The notion of "we're off until the Fall!" can translate into sporadic attendance at the Lord's Day Liturgy, let alone any other services or events in the church. Fortunately for us, God's providential care for us is not seasonal.
Thus, the tension between Pentecostal renewal and the beginning of summer. If anyone gets the urge to just stay home on Sunday for leisure purposes or for no particular reason at all, my pastoral response is: that is a temptation that must be resisted.
I am a realist about what to expect for liturgical services on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. But I am also open to surprises. The Apostles Peter & Paul labored so that we could hear and receive the gift of salvation. We honor their labors and their martyric deaths when we celebrate their memories. And we also commit ourselves to their vision of life in the Church when we do so.
The Lord's Day cycle for the Second Sunday of Pentecost - when we commemorate the Saints of North America - begins with Great Vespers on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. and culminates with the Hours and Liturgy on Sunday morning at 9:10 and 9:30 a.m. respectively.
Pentecostal renewal or the summertime blues?