The Feast of Mid-Pentecost

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The Fourth Wednesday after Pascha is Mid-Pentecost. We are between Pascha and Pentecost and are called to attend, by the Holy Church and the Word of Christ in the Holy Gospel, to the knowledge and wisdom that gush forth from Christ. Christ, the Son of the Father, God Incarnate and Truly Man, who suffered the Passion, Crucifixion and Death and Burial for us, proclaims in the Holy Gospel: I did not come on My own. The One Who sent Me is truthful, and you do not know Him. But I know the One Who sent Me, because I came from Him. His voice echoes eternally through history: Come to me all ye who are burdened and heavy laden and I shall give ye rest. Christ came into the world and provided mankind with the rest the world desired: rest from sickness, rest from suffering, and rest from death. Christ is the solution to death: death is annihilated and dissolved in Christ. When I use the word dissolve I think of oil dissolved by soap in hot water. Or, the Paschal hymn better defines this concept: As smoke vanishes, as wax melts in the presence of fire. This is Holy Pascha. And Holy Pentecost is the preaching of the Resurrection to the ends of the earth, the conversion of nations to Christ in Holy Baptism, the joining of the world to the Church. Pentecost is the end, yet, it is simultaneously the beginning. From Christ wells of living water gush forth; this is what we celebrate today, on Mid-Pentecost: the knowledge of Christ, the participation in His Life, the life of the Church, the Holy Sacraments today, now: twenty five days after Pascha, and twenty five days before Pentecost. Yet mystically we celebrate, on this day, the eternal nature of these feasts, and their cosmic implications; that is, their implications for the world’s salvation, and the positive provocation of Christ, the challenge by which He challenges us and every man: Do you desire to enter into Life? Do you desire to drink from the wellspring of living waters?

Today, the Holy Church gazes back to Pascha and forward to Pentecost and unites both in one Feast. The Pentecostarion, the name of this Paschal Season, is a time filled with grace and miracles. It is a time filled with the aroma of the Resurrection. Today on Mid-Pentecost, we are refreshed. We are refreshed by Christ’s words in the Holy Gospel, by His command that we “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Of mercy and judgment I will sing to Thee, O Lord, the Prophet-King David sang in the psalms. And in this Feast, Christ mercifully calls us to introspection, to correct Faith, to newness of Life. Introspection: looking within the interior man to see what lies therein. Is our disposition correct? What passions and sins do we struggle with? Where do we find the cure? Where do we find wholesomeness? Where do we ourselves become Resurrected persons? Or rather, from Whom do we receive the ability, the grace to become Resurrected Persons? We heard about a Paralytic that was waiting for almost forty years beside a pool for a cure. And Christ cured Him in one encounter, with one sentence: Arise, take up your bed, and walk. Here, on Mid-Pentecost I confess that, like the Paralytic, my soul is thirsty, my heart is paralyzed, my spiritual intellect is disabled. I ask Christ to water my soul with the waters of Godliness—these words are within the Troparion of the Feast. The Church provides me with the source of these waters, with the wellsprings of life: the Life of Christ, and the Holy Mysteries which are the celebration of His Life in time and space and matter, our deification, and our participation in His Life. The celebration of Holy Pascha and the joyous feasts that follow often take on a festive character of a worldly nature among the common people—with merriment, dancing, and songs. In Greece, from this season until September many countryside chapels celebrate their patronal feasts, and quite a lot of merriment takes place on each occasion.

And this is proper. The Holy Church with her solemnities, fasts, and feasts gives the proper tone and occasion for human joy and happiness. Yet, we must never forget that spiritual maxims and the spiritual essence of the Feast precede the worldly, festal character of the Paschal celebrations. The spiritual essence of the Paschal feast is death’s defeat in Christ’s Resurrection. The spiritual essence of the Ascension, Forty Days after Pascha, is Christ’s uniting of mankind to God in the Heavenly Kingdom by His Ascent back to the Father. And Pentecost is the preaching of this Truth—the preaching of the Life of Christ—to the world. And the initiation of the world into the Life of Christ through the Holy Sacraments, beginning with Holy Baptism. Yes, we must feast. Yet we must feast with the knowledge that the fields are already white for harvest, as the Lord will proclaim to us this next Sunday—the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. We are members of the Church, and the Church, as a divine-human organism, reaches back to that initial Pentecost which we, today, on Mid-Pentecost are traversing towards. We are traversing towards it, yet we are coming from it. This is because the Church is a timeless entity. Within the Church people of all ages and generations are united in one heart, and in one voice, and in one Liturgy—all of them being initiates of the One Baptism, and the One Priesthood of Christ: One Royal Nation, with One King. Vividly, for example, this unity of all persons and places and events in Christ is iconified on Holy Friday evening, during the Matins of Holy Saturday, when in front of Christ’s Tomb, which was beautifully decorated with flowers by our hands, we sing: Every generation offers hymns lamenting Thy Burial, O Christ God. Every generation mystically gathers—as they did in their own lifetime—before that Epitaphios, and with Joseph and Nikodemos on that initial Holy Friday evening. Every generation mystically unites, gathers, and worships at Christ’s Grave. This is the timeless beauty of Orthodoxy.

This King—Christ the Incarnate Lord—today, on Mid-Pentecost gives us a foretaste of the eternal Heavenly Kingdom. And we are commanded to leave aside all selfishness and laziness and to go forth and to reap and sow. One sows, another reaps, we will hear this upcoming Sunday from the Holy Gospel. And, I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor. Therefore, we are sent into a labor that has already begun, a labor that was already initiated by others. These others are the Apostles, the Saints and the Hierarchs. They are the pious priests, the monks and nuns and the ascetics of past decades and centuries. They are our parents and grandparents and their parents and their grandparents who seamlessly transmitted the faith to us, and whom we pray for and commemorate in the Holy Liturgy. We are provoked by Christ on Mid-Pentecost with a positive challenge: Will we be, like those who have come before us, bold missionaries and proclaimers of Christ’s Life and Truth to the world? Will others come to believe because of our preaching—not necessarily a preaching of words, but a preaching of actions? Will we sow and reap? Before we enter into the labor, we must be properly nourished; the thirst of the soul must be quenched with the living waters which flow from Christ. Mid-Pentecost is a spring mystically gushing forth in the midst of these sacred Paschal days: the sacred opportunity for us to quench the soul with re-invigorated Paschal joy, so that on Holy Pentecost, we may be bold preachers of these eternal truths to a world that thirsts for Christ and yet knows Him not. With the events we are currently living, everyday the challenge to proclaim Christ grows. The instability and the uncertainty of the times have created a precious opportunity for us. Yet, How can they believe in Him if they do not know Him? How can they know Him if they not hear of Him? How can they hear of Him without a preacher?

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

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