P e n t e c o s t
The day of descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Content: The birthday of the Church. The event of descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Fruits of the Holy Spirit. The Vespers of Pentecost. Contemporary "gift of tongues." Prayers to the Holy Spirit.
The birthday of the Church
The feast of the Holy Trinity (otherwise, Pentecost) is dedicated to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Christ. This event brought into existence the Church of Christ and gave rise to the Christian faith on earth. On the feast of Pentecost the Church brings its children to the doors of its spiritual life and appeals to them to renew and strengthen in themselves the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to them in Baptism. Spiritual life of an individual is impossible without God's grace, which possesses the mysterious power of rebirth and transforms the whole of the Christian's inward life. However lofty and valuable his desire might be, it will be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. That is why the feast of Pentecost is always so joyfully celebrated by Orthodox Christians.
Throughout all of history God gradually revealed himself to mankind. During Old Testament times people knew only about God the Father. Since the birth of the Savior they learned of his Only-begotten Son, and on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit people learned of the existence of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Thus mankind was instructed to believe and praise God, one in essence and Threefold in Persons, that is, God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity one and indivisible.
In this pamphlet we will describe the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, account for the importance of God's grace in Christian life and recount the service of Pentecost. We will include the canon of the Matins service and give the Orthodox treatment of the contemporary "gift of tongues." The appendix contains selected prayers of the Pentecostal Vespers service.
The descent of the Holy Spirit
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost is described by the Evangelist Luke in the initial chapters of his book "Acts of the Holy Apostles." It was God's will to make this event a turning point in the world's history.
Pentecost, celebrated on the fiftieth day after the Jewish Passover, was one of the three major holidays of the Old Testament. Pentecost marked the adoption of Sinai's legislation under the Prophet Moses when the Jewish people were liberated from Egypt and entered into alliance with God nearly fourteen hundred years before Christ's birth. At that time the Jews promised to be obedient to God and He, in turn, promised them His mercy and blessings. Because the feast of Pentecost coincided with the end of the harvest season, it was celebrated with great joy. Many Jews scattered over various parts of the vast Roman empire hurried to Jerusalem to participate in this feast. Having been born and having grown up in different countries, most of them could hardly understand their mother tongue. They made an effort, however, to observe their national and religious traditions and, at least from time to time, to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The descent of the Holy Spirit was not an unexpected event for the Apostles. As far back as a few centuries before the Savior's birth God began to prepare people for the day of their spiritual rebirth. He promised through his prophets: "It shall come to pass afterward, that I shall pour out My Spirit on all flesh ... With joy you will draw water from the well of salvation ... For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground ... A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and observe and carry out My judgements" (Joel 2: 28; Is. 12: 3, 44:3; Ezek. 11:19-20).
When preparing to return to His heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ in His farewell talk informed the Apostles about the forthcoming descent of the Holy Spirit. He explained to the disciples that the Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, would come soon to them to fulfill the mission of salvation: "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth ... He will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I say unto you ... He, the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father, will bear witness of Me" (John 14: 16-17, 26; 15: 26).
After the events of outrage, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the Apostles took deeply to their hearts, they became quite different people. They grew stronger spiritually and matured to accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was then that God's mercy came to them in its fullness and they were the first to enjoy the spiritual fruits of the salutary feat of the God-Man.
Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and ten days after His Ascension to Heaven, the disciples of Jesus, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary, some of the pious women and other believers, 120 persons in all, gathered in Jerusalem in a so-called "Zion chamber." They were probably in the same room where the Lord, not long before His sufferings, performed the Last Supper. The Apostles were awaiting the fulfillment of the Savior's will to send them "the Father's Promise" and strengthen them with divine power, although they did not understand yet exactly what that meant.
Then, at nine in the morning, when people usually came to the Temple for sacrifices and prayers, a noise came from heaven like a strong gust of wind. It filled the house, and at the same instant there appeared above the Apostle's heads what appeared to be tongues of flame which began descending on their heads. These tongues possessed a peculiar property to give light and not burn. But still more unusual were the special gifts they imparted. Everyone upon whom they descended became spiritually enriched and felt an ineffable joy and inspiration. They would begin to perceive themselves to be quite different people: pacific, full of life and a strong love for God. These innermost feelings before unknown were expressed by the Apostles through joyful exclamations and glorifications of God. It turned out that now they were not speaking their native Hebrew language but other tongues unknown to them. In that way the Apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire just as it was prophesied by John the Baptist.
Meanwhile, this sound, as if from a mighty wind, drew lots of people to the Apostles' house. Having seen people gathering from everywhere, the Apostles, rendering gratitude and praises to Almighty God in their prayers, appeared on the balcony of the house. On hearing the prayers, all those gathered around the house were amazed by the event, which was utterly incomprehensible to them. Christ's disciples, mostly Galilean in origin, had little education and were not expected to speak tongues other than their own. But now, after the miracle, they were speaking many foreign languages so that, however diverse the crowd of people might be (for they came to Jerusalem from different countries), they all heard their native tongues. There happened to be some cynics among the crowd who laughed at godly preachers and dared to say that the Apostles had become drunk from wine. But in reality the power of the Holy Spirit, besides other inner favorable changes, was being revealed by the extraordinary gift of tongues so that the Apostles would be able to propagate the Gospel more successfully among different nations without the need to learn foreign languages.
Having seen the people's perplexity the Apostle Peter came forward to deliver his first sermon. He explained to them that in the wonderful event of the descent of the Holy Spirit there came true an ancient prophecy of Joel which spoke on behalf of God: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, said the Lord, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. Even upon My menservants and maidservants of those days, I will pour out my Spirit; and wonders will be seen in heaven above and on the earth below ... " (Joel 2: 28-32). The Apostle Peter explained that through this very event there had been achieved the great feat of the salvation of mankind. It was for their sake that the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, came to them, underwent crucifixion and was resurrected. However short and simple this sermon was, it penetrated into the hearts of the listeners for it was the Holy Spirit who spoke by Peter's mouth.
Most of the people who were listening to Saint Peter were touched deeply in their souls, and they asked him, "What shall we do now?" "Repent," was Peter's answer, "and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit." Many of them came to believe in Christ after the words of Peter, repented publicly their sins and were baptized. So by the evening of the same day the Christian Church increased from 120 to 3000 believers. This miraculous event gave rise to the existence of the Christian Church, the blessed community of believers summoned to save their souls. Jesus Christ promised that His Church would be invincible against the gates of Hell until the very end of the existence of the world.
It did not occur by chance that two very important events took place on the same day: the descent of the Holy Spirit and the Jewish Pentecost. The traditional feast of Pentecost marked the alliance of the Jewish people with God. This alliance required the observation of the Ten Commandments and promised the reception of earthly blessings. The descent of the Holy Spirit implemented a completely novel and much deeper alliance, or Testament, between God and the New Israel - the Christian people. It is based on faith in the Savior and its goal is the spiritual renewal and inheritance of eternal life. The descent of the Holy Spirit has become the day on which the old theocracy, which ruled society through a rigorous law, became replaced by grace and sincere love for God. Now the Spirit of Truth became the guide of believers for their journey to Heaven, and the source of their spiritual freedom and inspiration.
The Importance of God's Grace
Every person carries seeds of goodness. But no seed can germinate and ripen without moisture and light. For this reason everyone who truly craves righteousness has to recognize that without God's help, without His support and guidance, any progress in spiritual life is impossible. Being aware of the lack of godly feelings within himself, a pious man of Old Testament times appealed to God: "My soul yearns for Thee, as the barren soil" (Ps. 143).
God's grace renews our soul, purifies our conscience, enlightens our mind, strengthens in us the faith, directs our will to goodness, warms our heart with genuine love, elevates our thoughts, and revives our whole nature. As witnessed by many holy men and women, God's grace brings so much peace and joy into the human soul that all earthly advantages and pleasures seem to be negligible in comparison with it.
Since the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, everyone newly baptized is linked to the miracle of Pentecost through the sacrament of Chrismation. In this Sacrament, which usually is performed right after Baptism, the newly baptized is favored with the same gifts of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles received 2000 years ago. The power of this sacrament is so great and everlasting that it, like Baptism, is never repeated. Subsequent sacraments such as Confession and Eucharist, church services, private prayers, fasting, acts of mercy and a virtuous life are aimed at strengthening in a Christian the divine gift he has already received in Chrismation.
God's grace possesses the extaordinary power of renewal. This becomes apparent in the profound inner and outward changes which take place in the person who has opened his heart to God. As a most vivid example we may refer to the Apostles, who were known first as simple, uneducated fishermen possessing no obvious talents. But once the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they became so enriched spiritually and gained such wisdom and strength that they brought to faith not only simple peasants but philosophers and noblemen as well. Their words, inspired by God's grace, penetrated into the most hardened hearts. They disposed the sinners to repentance, the selfish to righteousness and pointed the idle to diligence. Doubtful and timid as they were during the Savior's life, the Apostles after the descent of the Holy Spirit were transformed into bold preachers of the Kingdom of Heaven. It was a result of the divine gifts they were given that so many Christian communities appeared already during the first century in many parts of the Roman Empire and outside it: from Scythia to North Africa, and from Spain to Persia and India. Thus, owing to their enthusiasm, Christianity began spreading all over the world, bringing with it the renewal of society. The humanitarian principles of helping the poor and protecting the weak, the equality of all before God, and the recognition of human dignity were first proclaimed by the Apostles. These principles were unknown to the pre-Christian pagan society.
It is instructive to read the book "Acts of the Holy Apostles," which illustrates the profound changes that were happening to society as it became renewed by the grace of God. Indeed, we see how former unbelievers, who had been driven by selfish desires and had no higher aspirations, after turning to Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, became deeply believing, pious men filled with diligence and ardent love for God and people. "They (the newly baptized)," we read in the book of Acts, "devoted themselves to the Apostles' teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread (Communion) and prayers ... And all who believed were together and had all things in common: and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as need directed. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and finding favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common ... There was not a needy person among them" (Acts 2: 42-47; 4: 32-35). In short, all sinfulness and brutality inside of them has been substituted by meekness, love and aspiration for the divine.
As our Savior teaches, the desire for spiritual life comes to a person only from the Holy Spirit. It is not a naturally occurring disposition. "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God ... That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 5-6). The Savior taught that the Holy Spirit guides a person in the truth, comforts him in sorrow and satisfies his spiritual thirst. The Apostle Paul calls all Christian virtues gifts of the Holy Spirit. He says: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5: 22-23). It often occurs that the inner spiritual growth and activity of a Christian is developed unbeknownst to him, as the Lord explained in the parable of a scattered seed. The Savior told about the miraculous effect of the Holy Spirit on the human soul: "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3: 8).
Besides general spiritual gifts necessary for the inner grouth of every Christian, the Holy Spirit grants to certain persons special gifts needed for them to be ministers of the Church and Christian society. About these gifts the Apostle Paul writes: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophesy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each individually as He wills" (1 Cor. 12: 7-11).
Every Christian, being a live temple of the grace of the Holy Spirit, must preserve himself from any foulness and sin. Saint Paul admonished some Corinthian Christians who forgot about this: "Do you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? ... If any one destroys God's temple (by his immoderation) then God shall destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple is you" (1 Cor. 3: 16-17).
In His parable about the Ten maidens the Lord spoke of the necessity of preserving and increasing spiritual gifts. Without them a Christian becomes like a lamp without oil (Mat. 25: 1-13). When explaining this parable, Saint Seraphim Sarovski said that the main purpose of our life is the acquisition of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Although the beneficial power of the Holy Spirit is given to a believer not according to his merits but by God's mercy, it increases in him in proportion to his diligence in the Christian life. Saint Isaac the Syrian writes in this connection: "To what degree a man advances towards his God intentionally, in like manner God advances towards him with His Grace." Thus Saint Peter directs Christians: "His Divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the Divine nature. For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love" (2 Pet. 1: 3-7).
The Apostle Paul urges Christians to invite God's grace by righteous living and prayers, saying: "Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true ... be filled with the Spirit, addressing yourselves with psalms and words of glory, singing praises to the Lord with all your hearts" (Eph. 5: 8-19).
In the Orthodox Church it is customary to begin all private prayers as well as church services by first addressing the Holy Spirit in a special prayer and asking Him to renew His grace within us. This prayer, which starts with the words "O Heavenly King," is remarkable in that it consists of the words said by our Lord Jesus Christ and it guides a Christian toward what is important to ask from God.
O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
Here we address the Holy Spirit as "Heavenly King" because He is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, equal to the Father and His Son. He is called the Comforter because He consoles the believers and gives them joy in time of grief. He is called the Spirit of Truth as He reveals to the faithful the realities of spiritual life and helps them to love the truth. He is omnipresent because the divine nature has no bounds or obstacles. He is called the treasury of blessings and the giver of Life as He is the ultimate source of everything that is of value. He gave life to all of nature and, in particular, higher spiritual life to human beings and angels.
Addressing the Holy Spirit in this way, we ask Him, the Almighty, to cleanse us from every passion which originates within us or attaches to us in dealing with sinful people. We ask Him to stay within us and guide us to eternal salvation. When praying to the Holy Spirit and asking for different spiritual gifts, one should preserve a humble attitude and recognize his unworthiness because "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
The Service of Pentecost
On the feast of Pentecost, to remind Christians of the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, the churches are decorated with greenery and flowers and the priests wear green vestments. In the feast's prayers, like the troparion and kontakion cited bellow, thanks is expressed to God for sending us the Holy Spirit
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who has shown forth the fishermen as supremely wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them didst draw the world into Thy net. O befriender of man, glory to Thee.
Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations (Tower of Babel, see Genesis 11: 1-9); and when He divided the tongues of fire (on Pentecost), He called all men into unity; and (because of this) with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit.
During Matins (the second half of the Vigil service) the two canons of the holiday are sung. The first one, written by Saint Cosmas the Monk (8th Century), is given here in English translation. This canon is a hymn honoring the Holy Trinity. The canon reminds us of several ancient prophecies concerning the descent of the Holy Spirit. It glorifies the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, as equal in all to the Father and the Son. The main events related to the descent of the Holy Spirit are described, and the importance of divine grace in a Christian's life is emphasized.
The main feature of worship on the day of Pentecost is the reading with genuflection of the special prayers of St. Basil the Great, which are read during the Vesper's service right after the Liturgy. They can be found at the end of this booklet.
The Matins Canon
A Composition of Cosmas the Monk
Heirmos: He Who quencheth wars with a lofty arm hath covered over Pharaoh and his chariots in the sea. Let us sing unto Him, for He is glorified.
Troparion: As Thou didst formerly promise Thy disciples, Thou hast now actually sent forth the Comforting Spirit, O Christ, and hast shone light upon the world, O friend of man.
Troparion: That which was proclaimed in the Prophets and in the Law of old hath been fulfilled; for on this day the grace of the Divine Spirit is poured out on all the faithful.
Heirmos: Thou didst say unto Thy disciples, O Christ: Stay in Jerusalem until ye are clothed with power from on high, and I will send you another Comforter like unto Me, Who is My Spirit and the Spirit of the Father, in Whom ye shall be established.
Troparion: When the power of the Divine Spirit came down, in a divine manner it united into one harmony the divided voice of them that of old had evilly agreed together; and it hath made wise the faithful with the knowledge of the Trinity, wherein we have been established.
Heirmos: When the Prophet perceived Thy coming in the last days, O Christ, he cried out: I have heard of Thy might, O Lord, that Thou hast come to save all Thine anointed ones.
Troparion: He that spake in the Prophets and was proclaimed through the Law, even the very God, the Comforter, is made known today unto the servants and witnesses of the Word who formerly were imperfect.
Troparion: Bearing the evident signs of Divinity, the Spirit was divided among the Apostles by fire and inspired them with the power to speak in foreign tongues, for possessing divine power from the Father, He cometh of His own accord.
Heirmos: The Spirit of salvation, O Lord, Who was conceived in the loins of the Prophets because of their fear of Thee and was brought forth upon the earth, doth purify the hearts of the Apostles, and is renewed in an upright manner in the faithful; for Thy commandments are light and peace.
Troparion: This power which cometh down today is the Good Spirit, God's Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit that proceedeth from the Father, and through the Son is made manifest unto us the faithful; He is bestowed by nature of his holiness to those in whom He dwelleth, wherein He is discerned.
Heirmos: Tossed by the tempest of the cares of life, and cast into the deep by the sins that sail with me, and being thrown to the soul-corrupting beast, like Jonas I cry to Thee, O Christ: Draw me up out of the depth that brings death.
Troparion: Thou hast abundantly poured forth of Thy Spirit upon all flesh, even as Thou didst say, and all creation is filled with Thy knowledge, O Lord; for Thou, the Son, didst come forth unchanging from the Father; and the Spirit indivisibly proceedeth.
Kontakion, Fourth Tone: Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit.
Heirmos: When the holy Children were cast into the furnace of fire, they changed the fire into dew by their hymnody, as they cried out thus: Blessed are Thou, O Lord, the God of our Fathers.
Troparion: When the Apostles spake eloquently concerning the divine and mighty deeds, the Spirit's power, whereby the Trinity is known as the one God of our Fathers, was thought to be drunkenness by them that believed not.
Troparion: In an Orthodox manner, let us proclaim with Divine authority the undivided Essence: God the beginningless Father, and the Word, and Spirit, Who are of equal authority, and let us sing: Blessed art Thou, the God of our Fathers.
Heirmos: The bush that was unconsumed by fire on Sinai spake unto the tardiloquent and inarticulate Moses, and made God known unto him; and zeal for God showed forth to be unconsumed by fire the three Children who chanted hymns. O all ye His works, praise the Lord and exalt Him unto all the ages.
Troparion: When the vivifying, violent wind of the All-holy Spirit came from on high, manifesting unto the fishermen in the form of fiery tongues, they spake eloquently concerning the mighty deeds of God. O all ye works, praise the Lord and exalt Him unto all the ages.
Troparion: Ye that ascend the untouchable mountain, not fearing the awesome fire; come, let us stand on Mount Sion, in the city of the living God, and form one choir with the Spirit-bearing disciples. O all ye works, praise the Lord, and exalt Him unto all the ages.
Heirmos: O Thou who without corruption wast found to be with child, and didst lend flesh unto the Word Who devised all things, O thou Mother who hast not known wedlock, O Virgin Theotokos, vessel of the Uncontainable One, dwelling place of thy boundless Fashioner, thee do we magnify.
Troparion: The fire-breathing zealot of old who was joyously borne upon the fiery chariot that blazed furiously, indicated the inspiration which hath now shone from on high upon the Apostles, wherewith they were enlightened and made the Trinity known unto all.
Troparion: A strange thing contrary to the law of nature is now heard, for when the one voice of the disciples resounded, through the grace of the Spirit, the peoples, tribes, and tongues heard diversely the great things of God, and were initiated into the knowledge of the Trinity.
2nd Eirmos: Rejoice, O Queen, boast of virgins and mothers; for every eloquent mouth is unable to glorify thee worthily, and every mind is confounded in seeking to comprehend Thy childbirth. Wherefore, with one accord do we glorify Thee.
Speaking in Tongues
In the first dacade of the 20th century the so-called "charismatic" movement was born (in Los Angeles, California, USA). Its aim was to renew among Christians the supernatural gifts given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost and, in particular, "the gift of tongues," a sudden ability to speak in different languages. In a relatively short time a number of Baptist and Methodist churches joined the Charismatic movement and it gained much popularity. This thirst for the grace of God was to be expected in the sectarian environment of Protestantism, which cut itself off from the Apostolic succession and became devoid of the revitalizing power of the Holy Spirit which, since Apostolic times, Christians of the true Church recieve in the Holy Sacraments. Ordinary prayers and singing during religious meetings cannot give complete spiritual satisfaction to the human soul.
As the Charismatic movement became more and more popular, there appeared in different parts of the United States several unions of pentecostals. The Charismatic drive affected also more traditional churches, like the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox. Comparatively not long ago communities of penteconstals started appearing in Europe and Russia.
Instead of seeking from the Holy Spirit the most important inner gifts - like deep faith, humility, thirst for righteousness, true love and so forth - the charismatics turned attention toward the external and sensational aspects of the miracle of Pentecost. They concentrated on arousing in themselves the ability to speak in different languages, and in this they turned to some artificial and even shamanistic techniques. This speaking in "tongues" takes at times ugly forms and has no similarity with the gifts of the Holy Spirit of the Apostolic age.
One learns about the properties of the genuine "gift of tongues" given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost in the initial chapters of the book Acts of the Holy Apostles. The essence and purpose of this gift is explained by the Apostle Paul in chapters 12 to 14 of his epistle to Corinthians. The gift of tongues was necessary in Apostolic times to speedily propagate the Gospel among different nations. Having received from God the gift to speak new languages, the Apostles became able to preach bypassing the time-consuming process of learning different languages. The gift of tongues was an important factor in speeding the spread of Christianity. As we know from the subsequent history of the Church, the gift of tongues did not last for long. As in various countries there appeared local Christian preachers, the need for the supernatural speaking in tongues decreased as well. Thus, in the times of Iriney of Lyon in the middle of the 3rd century this gift became a rare event.
From the message the of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians one may conclude that it was in this church that the gift of tongues was particularly valued. As we know, in Apostolic times the gift of tongues was one among many spiritual faculties given to Christians after Baptism by the laying on of the Apostles' hands. Since not all Corinthian Christians were properly using the gift of tongues, the Apostle Paul felt it necessary to explain to them its proper meaning and intent. The problem was that at their religious meetings many Corinthian Christians spoke simultaneously in several languages without any real need for that. The hidden purpose was to boast one before another, and the gift of God was clearly misused. Saint Paul explained in his epistle that the gift of tongues is needed for preaching to turn heathens to the true faith, but is useless for those who already believe.
Moreover, used in a wrong place and at a wrong time, the gift of tongues had a negative influence on religious meetings. When, for example, during common prayer a few people simultaneously began to speak in different dialects which were incomprehensible for most of those present, common prayer was disturbed, and religious feeling was lost. To correct this situation, Paul explained to the Corinthians that the gift of tongues was the least one among other spiritual gifts. The Corinthians would do right if they asked God to enrich them with faith, temperance, patience, love, wisdom and other useful inner qualities instead of insisting on the gift of tongues. This clarification made by the Apostle seems to be forgotten by contemporary charismatics.
Besides, when comparing the true gift of tongues of the Apostles' time with the verbalism during charismatic meetings one must admit a substantial difference between them. In the Apostles' time Christians were given the ability to speak a true and intelligible human language. It was an articulate and meaningful speech worthy of a preacher of truth. In contrast to this true gift, the contemporary speaking in "tongues" is mere verbiage of incoherent and senseless sounds coming out either as muttering or as frantic exclamations. Pentecostals themselves admit this fact, explaining, however, that they speak the language of the "inhabitants of paradise." But these senseless sounds could hardly be assigned to a miracle of God. They are just the result of nervous exaltation, falling into a trance and hallucinations which borders on madness. Sectarians are merely blaspheming when they attribute to heavenly inspiration their artificially provoked exaltation and inarticulate sounds.
On a broader scale, contemporary society is on a widespread drive for thrilling feelings. It encourages sexual dissoluteness, misuse of stimulants, chemicals and drugs, passion for movies full of awful crimes and all kinds of demonic horrors, wild music arousing wicked and erotic feelings and so forth. All these perversions are signs of the illness of contemporary society and of religious degradation.
In the same way when a Christian, instead of looking for purity of conscience and closeness to God, during prayer looks for delight and ecstasy, he manifests his passionate and proud spirit. In charismatic experiences there occurs a substitution of the true gift of the Holy Spirit by artificially aroused emotions. By neglecting spiritual experience accumulated by Christianity during two thousand years and rejecting sanctity and Holy Sacraments prescribed by God, modern sectarians try to create within themselves religious sensations by means of doubtful and even dangerous devices. They get nothing but self-delusion and fascination, which the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church warned us about.
An Orthodox Christian should definitly avoid such perversions of religious feeling. He has access to genuine spiritual treasures given in the Sacraments of the Church, in the divine services and in his private sincere prayer. When communicating with God one should seek not delightful or thrilling feelings but a renewal of his sinful soul, and this comes through repentance, humility and obedience to God. In proportion to his inner improvement the Christian will receive from God the true gifts of the Holy Spirit. Occasionally he will be granted by the Holy Spirit such pure joy that all worldly delights will seem to him cheap and miserable imitations.
Sad as it is, in the vanity of everyday cares Orthodox Christians tend to forget about divine treasures they are given in the Church of Christ and even plunge into the troubled waters of the materialism of everyday life and choke in the waves of various passions. In this condition they lose the clearness of mind and the purpose of existence. Their souls harden and they become unsatisfied and irritated. Then no chemical stimulants or indulgence in carnal gratification can bring them true happiness. Their souls need only one thing - the grace of the Holy Spirit!
The feast of Pentecost is aimed at shaking up a Christian and setting his foot on the road to spiritual life. Pentecost is a meeting of the Holy Comforter with the human soul. On this holiday we drink once more from the fountain of life and fill ourselves with the most elevated and righteous feelings. On this day the grace of the Spirit, like fire, incinerates our sins; like a balm softens our hearts; like light illuminates our whole inner being. This a grace gives us spiritual strength to live righteously, be good to everyone, love God and help our neighbors. It removes our previous disarray and bitterness and gives us peace and joy. The monk Silouan witnesses about this, saying: "With God's help it is easy to live, all becomes good, all is kindness and joy, the soul is at peace with God, walking as if in a beautiful garden where the Lord lives."
Sunday of Pentecost
The Vespers Prayers
After the Proemial psalm, the Great Litany and the singing of "Lord, I have cried" the following prayers are read. The priest and the whole congregation kneel.
O pure and blameless Lord, Who art without beginning, invisible and incomprehensible, unchangeable, immeasurable, and unbounded, Who art without evil and alone immortal, who dwellest in the unapproachable light, Maker of heaven and earth and the seas and all that was created therein, Who grantest to all their petitions before asking, to Thee we pray and of Thee we ask, O philanthropic Master, the Father of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the ever-virgin Mary, the noble Theotokos; Who first didst teach by word, and then gave testimony in deed while bearing the saving Passion, teaching us Thine unworthy, sinful, and miserable servants, to offer Thee our supplications with bent head and knee, for our sins and human ignorance.
Wherefore, O most merciful and philanthropic Lord, hear us on whatever day we call upon Thee, and especially on this day of Pentecost, whereon, after our Lord Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven and sat on Thy right hand, O God and Father, He sent down the Holy Spirit to his Disciples, the holy Apostles, Who alighted on each of them and filled them all with His inexhaustible and divine grace; and they did speak in strange tongues, prophesying Thy great deeds. Hear us who beseech Thee, and remember us, wretched and condemned. Deliver us from the (sinful) captivity of our souls by Thy loving intercession. Accept us, who kneel down before Thee and cry out: we have sinned. From birth, from the womb of our mother - we are Thine, O Lord - Thou art our God. But as our life passes in vanity, we have therefore been stripped of thine aid, and have become silent. Yet do we trust in Thy compassion and cry unto Thee. Remember not the sins of our youth and ignorance; cleanse us of our secret sins. Reject us not in our old age, and forsake us not when our strength fails. Before we return to the earth, prepare us to return to Thee. Measure our lawlessness with a measure of Thy generosity, and erect against our many transgressions a bottomless abyss of these generosities.
Look down from the height of Thy holiness upon Thy people who stand and await from Thee abundant mercy. Visit us with Thy goodness and deliver us from the force of Satan and preserve our life with Thy holy and solemn laws. Commit Thy people unto a faithful guardian angel. Gather us all unto Thy kingdom. Forgive those who put their trust in Thee, relinquish us and them from sin. Purify us by the operation of Thy Holy Spirit and remove from us the wiles of the adversary.
Additional prayer: Blessed art Thou, Lord, Almighty Master, who illuminest the day with the light of the sun and the night with the glow of the moon, Who hast made us worthy to pass the course of the day and draw near to the onset of the night; hear our petitions and those of all Thy people. Forgive us all our sins, both voluntary and involuntary, and accept our evening supplications and send down the multitude of Thy mercies and compassions upon Thy people. Protect us with Thy holy angels. Arm us with the weapons of Thy truth. Envelop us with Thy righteousness. Preserve us by Thy power, and deliver us from every oppression and from every conspiracy of the cunning one. Grant us that this evening and the approaching night and all the days of our life may be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless, without doubt and vain imaginings, by the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and all the saints who have done Thy will from the beginning of time.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who residest with us in this life, and Who gavest mankind the world, and in Thine inalienable rule dost give to the true the gift of the Holy Spirit, this blessing Thou hast sent down more fully to Thy pupils and Apostles and dispensed into their mouths the fire of tongues, so that through them all mankind would receive knowledge of God and be enlightened by the light of the Spirit, being emancipated from seduction as from darkness and by their supernatural action learning to believe in the Son of God and to praise Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit as one Godhead, Power and Authority.
Wherefore, O Splendor of the Father, the Likeness of his Essence, His immutable and unchangeable Nature, Thou art the fountain of salvation and grace. Open my lips, sinner that I am, and teach me how and for what I should pray; for Thou dost know the multitude of my sins, but Thine unbounded compassion doth overcome the enormity thereof. Behold, I come and stand before Thee in fear and dismay, casting my soul's despair into the depth of Thy mercy. Ordain my life, O Thou Who rulest the whole creation with ineffable wisdom. O tranquil Haven to those who are caught in the rages of winter, make known to me the way in which I should walk. Grant to my thoughts the spirit of Thy wisdom, and bestow upon my ignorance the spirit of Thy understanding. Overshadow mine acts with the spirit of Thy fear; a just spirit renew Thou within me, and by Thy Sovereign Spirit strengthen Thou mine unstable mind, that I may be worthy each day to do Thy commandments, being guided by Thy righteous Spirit into that which is profitable, ever mindful of Thy glorified (second) Coming, when we shall all be obliged to give an answer for our deeds. Let me not be led astray by the corrupting pleasures of this world, but strengthen me to delight in the treasures to come. For Thou, O Master, didst say, "Whatever ye ask in My Name ye shall receive" from God the Father co-eternal with Thee.
Therefore, I a sinner, implore Thy goodness on the day of the descent of Thy Holy Spirit. Grant Thou my request for salvation: yea, good Lord, Who grantest all riches and benevolence; for Thou art He, the merciful and pitying, Who givest us more than we ask, Who hast become a Partaker with us in the flesh without sin. Thou art He Who, for his love for mankind, dost have compassion for those who bend the knee to Thee, having become an offering for our sins. Grant, Lord, Thy compassion to Thy people, and incline Thine ear to us from Thy Holy heaven; sanctify us by the saving might of Thy right hand. Cover us with the shelter of Thy wings and turn not away from the product of Thy hands. Against Thee only do we sin, yet Thee only do we serve. We know not how to bow to a strange god, nor how to reach out to a different god. Pardon our iniquities, O Master, and accepting our requests on bended knee, extend to us all a helping hand, and accept the prayers of all as fragrant incense acceptable to Thy most righteous Kingdom.
Additional prayer: Lord, Lord, Thou Who hast delivered us from every arrow (obstacle) that comes by day, save us from everything that walketh in darkness, and accept the lifting up of our hands as an evening offering. Consider us worthy to pass the night blamelessly and experience no evil. Deliver us from Satan. Free us from all confusion and fear. Grant our souls rapture, and our thoughts concern over our accountability at Thy just and terrible judgment. Transfix our flesh with Thy fear, and mitigate our members who are on earth, that in the tranquillity of sleep we may be enlightened by the meditation of Thy precepts. Drive from us every evil fancy and lasciviousness. Elevate us during our prayers, strengthened in faith and enriched by Thy commandments.
O Christ our God, the ever-flowing Spring, life-giving, illuminating, creative Power, co-eternal with the Father, Who didst divinely achieve the deed of saving mankind, and didst tear apart the indestructible bonds of death, break asunder the bolts of Hades, and tread down the multitude of evil spirits, offering Thyself as a blameless Sacrifice and offering us Thy pure, spotless and sinless body: Who, by this fearsome, inscrutable divine service didst grant us life everlasting, O Thou Who didst descend into Hades, and demolish the eternal bars, revealing an ascent to those who were in the lower abode; Who with the lure of divine wisdom didst entice the dragon, the head of subtle evil and with Thy boundless power bound him in abysmal hell, in inextinguishable fire, and extreme darkness.
O Great Wisdom of the despairing! Overcomer of misfortunes - eminent helper, Who came and lit the way for those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; Thou art the Lord of everlasting glory, the beloved Son of the Most High Father, eternal Light of eternal Light, Thou Sun of truth! Hear Thou us who beseech thee, and lay to rest the souls of Thy servants, of those who have died heretofore, and those of our fathers and brothers and other kinsmen in flesh and all others through faith, for whom we now celebrate this memorial; for Thou hast power over all, and in Thy hands Thou holdest all the boundaries of the earth.
O Almighty Master, God of our fathers, Lord of mercy and Creator of all the races of men, the living and the dead, and of all nature, animate and inanimate, Who appeared and resided here on earth and again departed into the other world, Who settest the years for the living and appointest the time for the dead, Who bringest down to Hades and raisest to bliss; who bindest with weakness and loosest with power; Who arrangest the present as is meet and Who directest the future towards usefulness, Who consolest with the hope of resurrection those who feel the sting of death 3/4 Thou art the Master of all, our God and our Savior, O Hope of all the boundaries of the earth and of those who are away on the seas, O Thou who on this last and great day of salvation, the day of the Feast of Pentecost, hast revealed to us the mystery of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial and co-eternal, indivisible and immiscible, Who didst send down the Holy and life-giving Spirit in the form of tongues of fire on His holy Apostles, revealing them as proclaimers of our godfearing faith, making of them true confessors and preachers of the word of God, Who makest us worthy that our propitiatory prayers, of this all-perfect day of salvation, be acceptable for those who are imprisoned in Hades, and Who grantest those imprisoned therein a great hope in receiving from Thee consolation and relief of their confining grief.
Hear us, disconsolate and wretched, who beseech Thee, and give rest unto the souls who have formerly departed, and make them to repose in a resplendent place, a place of verdure and coolness, where there are no ills nor sorrow nor sighs. And array their souls in the tabernacles of the righteous, and make them worthy of peace and repose; for it is not the dead who praise Thee, O Lord, nor do those who are in Hades venture to offer unto Thee confession, but we, the living, do bless Thee and supplicate Thee, O Lord, and offer unto Thee prayers of purification and sacrifices for their souls' sake.
Additional prayer: O great eternal God, holy and loving toward mankind, Who dost make us worthy to stand at this hour before Thine unapproachable glory, praising and glorifying Thy wonders, forgive us, unworthy sinners, and grant us grace that from a humble and contrite heart we may offer Thee the thrice-holy glorification and gratitude for Thy great gifts which Thou didst grant and dost still steadfastly grant unto us. Remember, Lord, our weakness and destroy us not in our iniquities; but in accordance with our humility show unto us Thy great mercy, that being delivered from the darkness of sin, we may walk in the day of truth, equipped with the armor of light, and freed from all the evil attacks of the wicked one, glorifying Thee in all things, O only true God and Lover of mankind.
For in truth, O Master and Creator of all, Thine is the great and original Mystery; the temporary death of Thy creatures, and their restoration thereafter unto eternal repose. In all things we acknowledge Thy favor, at our entrance into this world and at our going out therefrom, O Thou Who by Thy unfailing promises didst hold out to us the hope of everlasting life, resurrection, and incorruptible life, which shall be ours to enjoy at Thy Second Coming; for Thou, Lord Christ, art the fountain of our resurrection, the mankind-loving and incorruptible judge of the deceased and those worthy of reward. Thou hast assumed, with utmost condescension, our flesh and blood, and through Thine undying love for us, didst not dismiss Thy suffering, willingly submitting to torture; so that, having been tempted, Thou, as promised, became the helper to those who are tempted, elevating us to Thy dispassion.
Wherefore, O Master, accept our prayers and supplications, and grant repose to our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, blood relatives, and kinsfolk, and all those who have gone to their final rest with the hope of resurrection and life everlasting. Inscribe their names in the Book of Life; in the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; in the land of the living, the Kingdom of Heaven, in the paradise of delight, leading all into Thy Holy dwelling places by Thy radiant angels, and raise their bodies on the day that Thou hast appointed, according to Thine unfailing Holy promises; for there is no death, O Lord, to Thy departing servants who cast off their bodies and come unto Thee, O God, but a transition from sorrowful things to pleasant and benign, to repose and joy. And if they have sinned (in any respect) against Thee, forgive them, and be Thou compassionate unto them and us; for there is none without stain before Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thou alone, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth without sin, and because of Thee we all trust to attain mercy and the remission of sins.
Therefore, O God, through Thy grace and love of mankind, weaken, remit and forgive our sins and theirs; overlook both our voluntary and involuntary offenses, which we have committed either willfully or through ignorance, openly or in secret whether by word, deed, or thought and all our wrathful dealings which we have committed during our lifetime. As for those who have preceded us, grant them emancipation and repose. To those of us who are here, bless us, and give us and all Thy people a blessed and peaceful end to life. At Thy fearsome and dreadful coming open to us Thy fathomless love of mankind, making us worthy of Thy Kingdom.
Additional prayer: O Thou most exalted God, Who alone dost possess immortality, Who dwellest in the unapproachable light, Who in wisdom didst bring into being all creation, who didst separate between the light and the darkness, setting the sun to rule the day, and the moon and stars to rule the night, Who on this day didst vouchsafe us sinners as worthy through confession to present ourselves before Thy countenance and to offer to Thee our evening prayers.
Additional prayer: O philanthropic God, set our prayers like incense before Thee, and receive them as a sweet fragrance. Grant that this evening and the approaching night may be peaceful and serene for us. Clothe us with the armor of light, and deliver us from nightly fears and from everything that walketh in darkness. Vouchsafe that the slumber which Thou didst grant us for rest from our weakness be also free from every satanic vision. Yea, O Master, Who providest good things for all, grant that in our lodgings, amid the night, we may with fervor recall Thy most Holy Name. Grant that being enlightened by the teachings of Thy commandments, we in spiritual joy would rise up to glorify Thy goodness, offering for Thy compassion petitions and supplications for our sins and those of all people, for which Thou, through the intercession of the Holy Theotokos, visitest upon us with mercy!
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Missionary Leaflet # E5
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran