By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
After Christ’s Ascension into heaven, as He had affirmed, on the fiftieth day after His Resurrection and the tenth after His Ascension. He sent the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father.
Christ Himself had announced to the Disciples beforehand the sending of the Holy Spirit: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper [Paraclete, Comforter], that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Immediately afterwards He said: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). Later He said: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
The coming of the Holy Spirit to the Disciples took place on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). Pentecost had a significant place in the life of the Apostles. Having previously passed through purification of the heart and illumination – something that also existed in the Old Testament in the Prophets and the righteous – they then saw the Risen Christ, and on the day of Pentecost they became members of the risen Body of Christ. This is particularly important because every Apostle had to have the Risen Christ within Him.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit made the Disciples members of the theanthropic Body of Christ. Whereas at the Transfiguration the Light acted from within the three Disciples, through glorification, but the Body of Christ was outside them, at Pentecost the Disciples are united with Christ. They become members of the theanthropic Body and as members of the Body of Christ they share in the uncreated Light. This difference also exists between the Old Testament and Pentecost.
“All those who saw Christ’s glory before the Ascension saw it twice. On the one hand they were covered by the cloud, because ‘In Your light we shall see light’ (Ps. 35: 10). They were covered by the radiant cloud and, being within the uncreated Light, they see the uncreated Light. However, the human nature of Christ is also a source of the Light, as at the Transfiguration.
The human nature of Christ is a source of Light. The Apostles saw this Light, since they are within the Light, as they are glorified. That is to say, ‘In Your light we shall see light’. That they are within the Light is shown by the fact that they were covered by the radiant cloud and also saw Christ’s human nature as a source of Light. The Light shone from within, but from the body it shone from outside. The Light shone from within, but the Body of Christ, which transmitted the Light, the same Light, was outside. Starting from Pentecost, however, the human nature of Christ sends out the Light ‘now from within’. So there is no experience of the Light from outside, unless there is also an experience of Christ within. The two are now interlinked. In other words, the one is now the same as the other.”
“Why was it necessary for the Ascension to happen and for the Holy Spirit to descend? What was the purpose? Why do we say that the Church was established on the day of Pentecost? The Church was not established on the day of Pentecost. The Church had been established since the time when God called Abraham and the Patriarchs and the Prophets. The Church was established from then. The Church exists in the Old Testament. The Church existed in Hades. But here the Church takes shape: the Church is established in the sense that from now on it is established as the Body of Christ.”
This is an important point because it shows that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church as the Body of Christ, and also that all who are united with the Body of Christ overcome death.
“In the Old Testament there is reconciliation and friendship with God and glorification. Everything is in the Old Testament, the difference being that there is no Pentecost. The Church exists in the Old Testament, but under the domination of death.
What is Pentecost? The revelation of all truth. At that point the Church becomes the Body of Christ, which is why on the day of Pentecost we also celebrate the birthday of the Church that has risen in Christ.”
“On the day of Pentecost Christ comes in the Holy Spirit. The energies of God are present in the world and whoever is in communion with God’s energy understands that through His energies God is indivisibly divided and is multiplied without becoming many. Thus someone who is in communion with God does not have a fragment of God. The whole of God is present in each human being and is present everywhere throughout the world.
At Pentecost Christ’s human nature returns from now on to the Church. This is the day on which the Church was founded, because Christ’s human nature is now indivisibly divided, and the whole of Christ, with His human nature, is in every believer.
This is the Church, where every believer is a temple; not only a temple of the Holy Spirit, but also the Body of Christ, having the whole of Christ within him. This is the new way in which the human nature of Christ is present in the world. That is why Pentecost is also regarded as the day on which the Church was established. All who reach glorification share in this experience of Pentecost. We have examples in Holy Scripture itself: all those who saw Christ after the Resurrection, and those who have seen Christ since Pentecost up until today.”
Pentecost is called ‘the final feast’ because it is the last phase of the incarnation of Christ. A great change now takes place, because the glorified are united in the Holy Spirit with the God-man Christ.
“The final, efficacious, phase was Pentecost. There the great change came about. Whereas the Spirit dwelt in the Prophets, as the Prophets had the Spirit of God, noetic prayer and glorification, from Pentecost onwards this indwelling of the Holy Spirit in someone who is divinely inspired comes about with the human nature of Christ as well. That is why the Church is now the Body of Christ. In other words, the Church became the Body of Christ on the day of Pentecost. And Christ, as man, now dwells within man.
This means permanent participation from now on in the glory of God. We now have permanent glorification, not temporary glorification, as the Prophets who reached glorification had, when it was glory that passes away, and they died. Now the deified do not die.
This is the difference. What is different in the ‘Pentecostal’ experience is that the Church becomes the Body of Christ on the day of Pentecost; but it also makes the glorified permanent.”
Starting from Pentecost God is partaken of, without being shared, by everyone in the Body of Christ. The presence of God is powerful.
“The mystery of the presence of God in the world, as described by the Fathers, is that God’s uncreated energy is indivisibly divided among divided beings. It is shared out to each one, but without being divided among separate entities. This means that it is shared out like the Holy Bread in the Divine Eucharist. We say: ‘Being broken yet not divided, being ever eaten yet never consumed’ and so on. This is exactly the same thing. What happens in the Divine Eucharist with regard to the Body of Christ is exactly what happens with the energy of God as well. It is indivisibly divided among individuals.
When someone who is glorified is in communion with the uncreated energy of God, he does not have a fragment of God within him – as if God could be broken up into pieces, so that each of us would have a portion of God – because God cannot be divided up. Nevertheless He is divided and multiplied, but without multiplying.
These contradictions are not a figure of speech. This is the mystery of God’s presence in the world. God in His entirety is omnipresent, in everything, everywhere, without being divided, and He is divided without division. This is the mystery. This mode of God’s presence in the world, particularly in the glorified, starts for the first time from the Ascension and Pentecost.
When Christ returns to the Church in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Christ’s human nature now shares this characteristic of being indivisibly divided among individuals. For that reason, when we take Holy Communion in the Divine Eucharist, one does not receive the finger, another the foot, another the nose and ear, but at the Divine Eucharist everyone receives the whole of Christ within him.
This is the mystery of Pentecost, which is why Pentecost is regarded as the Church’s birthday. It is the Church of Pentecost that is born, although the Church existed in the Old Testament. The Church, in its fullest sense, is the uncreated Church, the glory of God, the uncreated dwelling where God abides and where we should also abide. This dwelling multiplies, so there are many dwellings, as Christ says in the New Testament. There is one dwelling, yet many dwellings. Why? Because it is indivisibly divided among individuals. This is the mystery of Pentecost.”
In addition, on the day of Pentecost, the Disciples attained to “all truth”. Before His Passion, Christ told His Disciples: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13).
These words of Christ are closely linked with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, with the revelation of the whole truth, which the Disciples were unable to bear; they could not receive it earlier, without the Holy Spirit.
This “all truth” revealed on the day of Pentecost to the Apostles is the truth of the Church as the Body of Christ: that the Disciples will become members of this rise Body and that in the Church they will know the mysteries of the glory and rule (vasileia) of God in the flesh of Christ. On the day of Pentecost they knew the whole truth. It follows that the complete truth does not exist outside the Church. The Church has the truth, because it is the Body of Christ and a community of glorification.
“Apart from Christ’s teaching and miracles, we also have another kind of revelation, which is the essence of the teaching of Holy Scripture on revelation.
As Christ teaches the Apostles and prepares them, He reaches the point when He tells them that He also has other things to reveal to them, but they cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13).
In the patristic tradition these words He will guide you into all truth’ were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, so on that day ‘all truth’ is revealed. This means that Christ Himself (before His Resurrection) did not reveal all the truth to the Apostles. Why not? Because they could not bear all the truth. They were not yet sufficiently prepared.”
This truth, which the Holy Spirit revealed to the Disciples on the day of Pentecost, is that the Church is the Body of Christ and the Disciples will become members of the Body of Christ. There is no other truth beyond that truth.
“This is the key to the patristic interpretation, that He will send another Comforter, Who will ‘guide you into all truth’. What is this ‘all truth’! In the Old Testament we have the unincarnate Christ Who was revealed. After that we have the incarnate Christ, Who is revealed and Who reveals Himself through human words, but is also revealed through His glory to some Apostles, to certain Disciples. Then we come to the Resurrection. And after the Resurrection He is revealed now in glory to His Disciples, to the women, and so on. We have all these appearances of Christ after the Resurrection. Later we have the Ascension, and then we have Pentecost.
Now, at Pentecost, we have a change in the Church. In the Old Testament the Church is the people of God, which is made up of those who pass through purification and reach illumination. Some of them get as far as glorification and become leaders of Israel, Prophets and Patriarchs. We have the same thing in the New Testament until the Ascension. Afterwards something happens that gives the Church of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, up until then, a new dimension.
Before that, God is indivisibly divided among separate people, which means that He appears to every glorified human being as God in His entirety, in His glory. The Prophets are not in communion with a fragment of God, because God is not fragmented, but is indivisibly divided among divided beings. So we have this paradoxical mystery concerning God’s presence in the Old Testament. In every action in which God multiplies Himself, without becoming many, God is wholly present in each action. He is present according to energy, but absent according to essence. He is present by His will, but absent in essence. He is both absent and present. Divided and undivided. Whole in every case, the same everywhere.
At Pentecost the distribution of the energies of the Holy Spirit takes place, so that the entire energy of the Holy Spirit is present in each Apostle. One tongue for each Apostle. With the descent of the Holy Spirit, however, we also have the descent of Christ. That is to say, it is like a second incarnation. The Church is changed into the Body of Christ.
So anyone nowadays who progresses from purification to illumination is not only a temple of the Holy Spirit, as were the Prophets in the Old Testament. He is not only a Church as the temple of God, but he is also a Church as the dwelling-place of Christ’s human nature. Every believer who is in the state of illumination has the whole of Christ within him.
For that reason we also have the reflection of this fact in the Mystery (Sacrament) of the Divine Eucharist, when the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, but the whole of Christ is present in every particle of the Holy Bread and Wine. The communicant does not receive a fragment of Christ when he takes Holy Communion. He receives the whole of Christ within himself. Thus we say, ‘Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God, being broken yet not divided, being ever eaten yet never consumed…’
This prayer, which the priest reads at the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, is the key to the mystery of Pentecost. This is ‘all truth’, which has now been revealed. After this revelation of the truth nothing more is revealed. That is to say, on the day of Pentecost the mystery of the Church, with its new dimension, was revealed. This was revealed, nothing else.
So the words ‘He will guide you into all truth’ were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, in the interpretation of the Fathers, chapters 15, 16 and 17 of John were all fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. This is the patristic interpretation concerning Pentecost.”
“According to the Fathers of the Church, ‘all truth’ on the day of Pentecost also refers, of course, to the revelation that the Holy Spirit is a hypostasis, that He has His own hypostasis, as do the Father and the Word. In addition, though, the fact that the Body of Christ, which was outside and was revealed to people from outside, this Body of Christ is inside from the day of Pentecost onwards. The Body of Christ itself is inside man.
At the Transfiguration the Body was outside. The revelation comes from inside as well, but the Body is outside. Now, however, the Body is inside. And the reason why the day of Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Church is that from then onwards the Church becomes the Body of Christ. In other words, Christ dwells within believers also as man. We have the founding of the Church from this point of view.
We can summarise by saying that we have a full revelation in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we have a revelation of the truth, from the point of view of the dogma of the Holy Trinity. Later we have the revelation in Christ of the incarnation. After that we have the revelation of the divinity of Christ, when Christ reveals Himself, not only through words, sayings and miracles, but also by revealing His divinity through the experience of glorification. Subsequently, the final form of the revelation is on the day of Pentecost, when not only the Light shines within man, but also the human nature of Christ shines within those who reach the experience of glorification.
From Pentecost onwards, anyone who reaches perfection passes through the stages of purification and illumination, and when he arrives at glorification, he reaches the same experience – to varying degrees, of course – that the Apostles had on the day of Pentecost.”
“We have the finishing touch to the teaching of the Gospel of John at the Feast of Pentecost, which is the supreme fulfilment of the Gospel of John. After that we have the finishing touch to Pentecost with the Sunday of All Saints, which is the fruit of Pentecost. The fruit of Pentecost is that the members of the Church are made into saints. We speak now about becoming a saint as though it were only for a few extraordinary monks. In those days it was definitely the aim of all Christians: to progress from purification to illumination and so on.
This is the context in which we see the Fathers of the Church telling us that the Holy Spirit ‘will guide… into all truth’, and that this was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Everything that Christ taught before the Passion in chapters 14, 15 and 16 of John has now been accomplished.”
When someone who knows Christ “face to face” from experience and has unceasing inner prayer reads the Old Testament, he sees Christ everywhere, and he sees that the Prophets have experience of noetic prayer and theoria of the Angel of Great Counsel, the Angel of Glory. And he is capable of interpreting the Old Testament.
“What is important is that from Pentecost onwards, when Christ’s human nature shares in the energy of God, which is indivisibly divided among individuals, the whole Christ dwells in every believer, but only if Christ has been ‘formed’ in him. The Apostle Paul uses this term. Christ is ‘formed’ in each one. This comes about through prayer.
It follows that this man has Christ within him and is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He is the Body of Christ and participates in the gift of grace of Pentecost. For that reason, as he knows Christ personally within him and is a temple of God, he reads the Old Testament and understands it. Because he sees what the Prophets saw. Each one had this personal contact with Christ, but again through prayer. This is the prophetic gift.”
In Western theology, however, Christ’s words, that the coming of the Holy Spirit would reveal “all truth” to them, were differently interpreted.
“In the Augustinian tradition, Augustine interpreted this passage from John, what Christ says to the Apostles, as meaning not only that the individual is led ‘into all truth’, but also that the Church is gradually led into the whole truth.
For the Fathers, the Apostles were led ‘into all truth’ on the day of Pentecost, when the revelation was completed, and there is nothing beyond Pentecost. Everyone who reaches glorification is led into all truth, because he shares in the experience of glorification of Pentecost. This means that the work of the theologians of the Church is not to improve or delve more deeply into the teaching of the Church, as Papal Christians and certain Protestants suppose, but is something very different.”
“This whole problem about the gradually deepening understanding of the faith by the Church itself is the line taken by the Papal Church. According to the Papal Church, with the passage of time, the Church itself comes to a better understanding of the faith. For us, however, the deepest understanding of the faith that surpasses understanding is Pentecost.”
“We have Pentecost, when ‘all truth’ was revealed. There is no ‘prophecy’ about things to come; ‘prophecy’ from now on is the interpretation of the Prophets’ prophecy. What does one need, however, in order to interpret the Prophets correctly? Noetic prayer.”
“There is no understanding beyond Pentecost. Every glorification is a repeat of Pentecost within the Church. And this experience of Pentecost goes beyond understanding, beyond words and concepts, because in this experience both words and concepts are abolished, though not in the sense that they are wiped out, as the words and concepts remain as a form of expression. The one who is glorified has a knowledge that surpasses knowledge, but he uses both words and concepts to speak to other people.”
“There is no deeper understanding beyond this experience of Pentecost. Essentially, the experience of Pentecost surpasses understanding and expression. I repeat what St Gregory the Theologian says: ‘It is impossible to express God and even more impossible to conceive Him.’
Those who have experience of Pentecost and glorification neither express God nor understand God, because the experience transcends understanding and expression. All the same, Pentecost is expressed, in the sense that, although we do not pass on the revelation to others, because this experience is a revelation, we do pass on things about the revelation.”
Another important point connected with the mystery of Pentecost is Christ’s prayer to the Father that the Disciples may acquire unity between themselves. In His high-priestly prayer Christ says: “that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11). Elsewhere He says, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:22). Further on He prays: “I desire that they… may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24). Of course, beholding this glory they will become perfect: “that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23).
"‘Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24). ‘Where I am’, as He said previously: 7 go to prepare a place for you’ (John 14:2). This place is the glory of God. So the glory that 7 have given them’, the glory that they have already received, refers to something different. Afterwards He speaks about the place: where I shall be they too will be. What does this mean? ‘That they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.’ The Apostles received glory in the past, but they will see the glory in the future. They have received glory, but they will see glory. In other words, they have reached illumination and will progress to glorification.”
“Christ prays this for the future. Now, all our own people and the Protestants believe that He is praying for the union of the Churches. It has nothing to do with that. He is praying for glorification. It is a glorification prayer. ‘That they may be one as We are’ (John 17:11). As We have one glory, they too will be united among themselves, as they will have the same glory. So all together we become one with each other, and one with God, because all of us, we and the Holy Trinity, have the same glory. This means unity in the glory of God.”
At Pentecost the Apostles saw the glory of God as members of the Body of Christ, as they had become in the Holy Spirit, and received the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles received the tongues of fire and acquired the gift of teaching. They spoke to the people and the people heard the revelational teaching in their own language.
“At Pentecost, first the Apostles had the gift of tongues and then they spoke. A whole tongue, the grace of the Holy Spirit, descended upon each Apostle. Afterwards, however, the result of this gift was that they spoke and preached to the people. The people did not see the tongues; the Apostles received the tongues and spoke to the people. Everybody understood in his own dialect, even in Arabic, what the Apostles were saying. Everyone heard in his own language.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, ‘For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries’ (1 Cor. 14:2). It seems that even at Pentecost no one heard the gift of the tongue that each Apostle received, but they heard the preaching of the Apostle and understood in their own language.”
The experience of Pentecost is the greatest experience of divine vision.
“The experience of Pentecost is the supreme experience of glorification, before the Second Coming. There is nothing higher than Pentecost.”
“Why in Orthodox theology can there be no further revelation after Pentecost, but the revelation came to an end with Pentecost and there are no other revelations? Every time someone reaches the experience of glorification, the same experience of Pentecost is repeated. One can reach the experience of Pentecost. One cannot reach any other experience, because the revelation comes to an end: all truth is revealed at Pentecost.”
Another important point connected with the mystery of Pentecost is that, although the experience of Pentecost is a unique event in the history of the Church, people who have the appropriate prerequisites ascend to the same height as the experience of Pentecost. Thus the mystery of Pentecost is repeated down through the centuries.
“After Pentecost all the experiences of glorification are on a scale: higher or lower within the framework of the experience of Pentecost. The same experience is always repeated in the glorified throughout the life of the Church. This experience produces holy relics and the entire worship and devotion of the Orthodox Church which, I very much fear, simple believers understand better than at least some theologians. Those who feel reverence for relics understand or sense something of this phenomenon of holy relics. This repetition of the experience of Pentecost within the history of the Church is the backbone both of ecclesiastical history and tjje history of dogmas in the Orthodox Church.”
“According to patristic tradition, this experience of Pentecost is repeated even after Pentecost. The first example that we have is from Holy Scripture, in the case of Cornelius, who attained to the gift of tongues and the glorification of Pentecost, and for that reason Peter baptised him.
When he was called to account by the conservative Hebrews, he described the experience of Cornelius, that before being baptised Cornelius had ‘the same gift’ (Acts 11:17) as the Apostles. The Apostle Peter himself tells us that Cornelius, before he was baptised, had the same grace that the Apostles had on the day of Pentecost. I would ask you to take the Acts of the Apostles and read very carefully what it says about Pentecost and the two chapters referring to Cornelius, to see that they are the same (see Acts ch. 10-11).
Holy Scripture bears witness that there is Pentecost after Pentecost, and it is in the lives of those who reach glorification. Throughout the course of the history of the Church we have innumerable examples of people who reach the same experience of Pentecost as the Apostles, Cornelius and others reached.
From a geographical point of view, these things not only happen in the East but in the West as well, because the experience of Pentecost also exists in the West, at least until the Middle Ages. If you want to see examples of this, take the lives of the saints, especially those preserved from the era of the Merovingian Franks in the Papal States of the West. Here we not only have the testimony of John Cassian, but particularly of Gregory of Tours, who wrote many lives of saints, in which this experience of glorification is clearly to be seen. We also have examples of people in the West who attained to such holiness that their bodies were preserved. Thus we have holy relics and all the consequences associated with the experience of glorification.
We observe the strange phenomenon that, although we have holy relics in the West, we have, by contrast, the scholastic theology of the Franks of the Middle Ages, which does not completely go along with this experience of glorification.”
“As every experience of glorification is a repetition of Pentecost, and in every age people have reached this experience, from this point of view, who are all these saints of the Church, and what is the highest understanding of Orthodoxy? If it is not Pentecost, what is it? The Pope of Rome? Or is it a Protestant who has no idea what he is talking about and who interprets Holy Scripture?”
Certainly the experience of Pentecost is a mystery and is not connected with reason.
“Orthodox theology is circular in form. It is like a circle. Wherever you touch the circle, you know the whole circle, because the whole of the circle is the same. Everything leads up to Pentecost: the Mysteries of the Church, such as Ordination, Marriage, Baptism, Confession etc., the decisions of the Councils and so on. That is the key to Orthodox theology: Pentecost. So someone who reaches glorification after Pentecost is led ‘into all truth’.
What is ‘all truth! It is something that transcends man’s reason. It includes Christ’s human nature and dwells within the one who has reached illumination and glorification. The whole mystery of the incarnation and the Holy Trinity, concerning divine grace, the cure of the human personality, salvation in the past in the Old Testament, about the future and the Second Coming: all these things are included in the mystery of Pentecost.
For that reason, Orthodox theology is amazingly simple. It is a different matter if necessity dictates, when dealing with heretics, that the one who speaks on behalf of Orthodoxy should be familiar with heretics and have a good knowledge of philosophy and so on. This, however, is not the essence of Orthodox theology. The essence of Orthodox theology is purification, illumination and glorification.”
“There is no understanding beyond Pentecost. Certainly the rational faculty participates in this experience – the body participates in this experience – but God and the incarnation and the human nature of Christ, which is the source of Light due to the incarnation of the Word in human nature: all these remain mysteries. They cannot be understood philosophically or speculatively.”
Because the experience of glorification and Pentecost continues down through the centuries, Pentecost is also the basis of the real history of the Church. When in any era there are saints who reach glorification in the experience of Pentecost, that age is described as a ‘golden age’ of the Church.
“Whenever an Orthodox Christian reaches illumination, he is already participating in the results of the experience of glorification. Illumination gives a foretaste of this experience, and it will be perfected when he reaches glorification. So in my opinion ‘the golden age’ can be described as follows. When the majority of Christians reach illumination and purification of the heart, and many of them also reach glorification, we have a ‘golden age’. So this is the criterion for judging where we are. Were the Christians in this position in the early centuries? They certainly were. The many relics of Martyrs that we have from that period bear witness to this.”
Consequently, the centre of the Pentecost-revelation is Christ, Whom the Prophets experienced as unincarnate and the Apostles and Fathers as incarnate. This is the essence of the Orthodox tradition.
— Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church. According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides. "The Mystery of Pentecost". Volume 2. 2013.