Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A New Byzantine Pentecost

     Pope Benedict XVI has on many occasions proclaimed that the mission of the Catholic Church is to evangelize. He has also proclaimed that in order for the Catholic Church to carry out this mission a new Pentecost must take place.Many of us Byzantines have responded well to the popes call to evangelize. On the other hand, some of our response has amounted mostly to pious words and little action. It would seem that many of us lack the power and desire to share our faith. This is why the pope called us to experience a new Pentecost. For just like the Apostles before the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost many of us lack that driving desire to proclaim Christ.
     No one could have known Christ better then the Apostles. Yet, we find them afraid and hiding after Christ went to the tomb. When Christ was raised seeing their fear he told them to wait for the power that he would send them after he ascended to the Father, which was the coming of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit came into the Apostles on Pentecost the Apostles became consumed with a desire to share their faith with the world. Like the Apostles before the coming of the Holy Spirit we might have knowledge concerning Christ but lack that powerful desire to share him with others. However, unlike the Apsotles for some reason many of us have never connected to the Pentecostal experience.Consequently, we still have yet to realize the promise of Pentecost given to us through the sacraments. Without accessing this power we can't expect there to ever be any real desire for us to evangelize.
     It is not normal to have faith in Christ and lack a desire to share him with others. This desire of course is not something born out of normal human experience for it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. As I shared some of us have yet to experience this power from the Holy Spirit. St Symeon the New Theologian also recognized this as a problem in his day. He encouraged those who were even in the monastic life to discover the riches of the Pentecost experience. He said the following to his fellow monks, "come, bow and fall down together with me and do not rise until you have received the gift of God, as I, who am unworthy, have received this gift of grace (Catechesis 34 ) "You can bet if someone in a monastery could miss this profound gift there is no question that many of us can to. However, God is not hiding this encounter with the Holy Spirit and is waiting for us to seek it out.
     The Pentecost experience was not an event that was meant just for the Apostles. Neither is it just for an elite group of religious people or for only the Charismatic Roman Catholics. Concerning this St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his lectures taught, “The Holy Spirit is no respecter of persons, for He seeks not dignities, but piety of soul. Let neither the rich be puffed up nor the poor dejected, but only let each prepare himself for reception of the Heavenly gift.”The gift of receiving the experience of the Holy Spirit is for everyone. This is what the pope means when he calls us to a new Pentecost. Pentecost is an event continually open to the Church and as St Cyril says we need only prepare ourselves for this experience.
     Sometimes it takes humility but it is vital to ask ourselves if we have the same burning desire for sharing Christ that the Apostles had. When it came for the Apostles to receive this powerful desire they had to seek it out at the source, which was the Holy Spirit. Just like for the Apostles God is always ready to provide this gift of  experiencing the Holy Spirit if we seek it out. As St. Didymas once said, “The Holy Spirit is given to us providing we give occasion to receive him. For to obey God is optional, as is to believe. In those who have shared in the charismata, the Holy Spirit is given in proportion. In accord with this is ‘He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Commentary on Psalm 36:9)".As the saint demonstrates if we do not have the gift we need only ask and give occasion to receive him.
     Without a new Pentecost we will not see much change in the growth of some of our churches. A church exists to evangelize but without no real ongoing encounter with the Holy Spirit this is not possible. Evangelization is not a skill we acquire just by being a Byzantine. Rather, it is a manifestation of a desire we receive out of a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, some of us for various reasons have yet to encounter the Holy Spirit in the way the Apostles did. However, the power is there, even though dormant, since we have received the sacraments. God is not holding anything back if we wish to avail ourselves of this power. We need only seek him out and wait for the presence of the Holy Spirit to manifest himself. When this happens we will discover a burning desire to share our faith with others.

3 comments:

  1. ..good post Ric(although it seems to have fallen on deaf ears)..I suppose an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the Orthodox is possible but i fear it would soon be quenched,much as happened in Catholic renewal..A few of the charismatic meetings i've attended in the past were truely remarkable,it was as if you were lifted-up into a higher consciousness,where denominational boundries and ethnic,age and gender divisions simply dissolved into an overwhelming sense of Gods presence and Love and approval...Truly Heavenly! (mike)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deaf ears? Possible? An out pouring of the Holy Spirit is not the property of the Roman catholic charismatic movement. Nor does the experience of Him always equate to what happens in those charismatic prayer groups. Whoever seeks the Spirit through repentance God will not hold back.

      Delete
  2. ..E A S Y Ric,lighten up man :)..lets both try not to be so antagonistic toward one another. I was speaking of the 'fullness' of the Spirit,as evidenced by the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit(1 Corinthians:12)..it would be ludicrous for me or anyone else to say that not all christians have the Holy Spirit,of course they do..but not all christians are experiencing the fullness and freedom available to them in The Spirit,simply because its not taught or encouraged,and in fact,in the majority of Orthodox/Catholic congregations it would'nt be tolerated,much less accepted...(mike)

    ReplyDelete