June 10, 2012

A Meditation for the End of the Pentecostarion

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

With this Sunday, the services according to the Pentecostarion are concluded. The conclusion of the Pentecostarion services with the commemoration in honor of all the Saints, as His Grace Innocent,  Archbishop of Chersonese (refer to the Works of Innocent, Archbishop of Chersonese, Vol. 1, pp. 519-521 [Sochineniia Innokentiia, Archiep. Khersonskago, t. I, str. 519-521]) teaches, is the most suitable conclusion to the celebrations of the Lord. It is the goal for which our Savior left the earth and ascended to heaven and for which the Holy Spirit left heaven and descended to earth, - this high goal consists in nothing else than, as in the sanctification of the sinful human race, in leading all of us to heaven. But the choirs of the Saints of God make up the assembly of indisputable witnesses that this blessed goal be achieved, that the Savior who is ascended from us has definitely prepared a place for all His followers, that the Comforter who is descended to us really combines with the possibility that very carnal people may reside in the mansions of the Heavenly Father. How is it that all who were holy to God, now blessed with us, are not servile to us men? Because their glory is the glory of the Redeemer Son and the Consecrator Spirit: without the merits of the Son heaven would not be opened to any of them, but without the grace of the Spirit not any of them could possibly enter into the opened heaven. Therefore the present festival in honor of all the Saints also consists of the most natural and pleasing conclusion of the festivals of the Lord. Therefore it itself is the direct fruit of events remembered in them. But the marvelous sequence and the divinely-wise order of the festivals of the Holy Church, naturally, motivates us to ask ourselves: is there such a sequence of this kind of holy order even in our celebrations?

We have now passed through the entire cycle of celebrations, we have reached the end of festivals according to the season; but has their end and intention actually been accomplished by this very action? Have we come nearer to what the main end of all festivals and establishments of the Church consists in, all the mysteries and all its services, all our grateful and natural life that is for our sanctification in Christ? Now already completing the memory of all the Saints, can we say about ourselves, that we have become freer of all that is sinful, purer from all that is earthly and corruptible, one in spirit with all that is spiritual and heavenly? This is the natural and necessary fruit which the Church assumed to now see in us after so many celebrations of the light! She expected that the suffering of the Lord would shake the heart most persistent in sin, that with His Resurrection everything that has not yet had time to be completely suppressed by sin would revive in our spirit, that with His ascension to heaven the thought and wish for heaven would arise in the most indifferent soul, that with the descent to earth of the Comforter the weakest would convert and venture to walk the way of faith and love. Were these many expectations fulfilled? Is the harvest in us great after so long a sowing? What does our Lord now see nestling close to us from the height of the glory of His Saints? Although He sees some conformity with that great asceticism, is it He who lifted them up for us, being on earth? What did the Holy Spirit, who descended from the Father for us, find in us? Will they now find much joy in us, not looking at our celebration in their honor and our holy brethren in heaven? When we celebrate in their honor even they undoubtedly do not remain idle. We remember their acts and deeds, and they will examine our morals, paradigm of life and action. Seeing their labors and victories over the enemies of salvation, we should be calmed in spirit. Seeing our falling and changes in truth, they should be distressed about us. What, if they see nothing much in us, except the falling and changes? After this what does our celebration in honor of all the Saints mean for those very saints, if not the day of complaint against all of us sinners? Such are our festivals! The cycle of church festivals is bright and magnificent; the cycle of our festivals occurs in darkness and ugliness. In the church cycle the very laments terminate in the spiritual celebration; in our cycle the very celebrations often lead to spiritual laments. In the same vein, can we be glad when our Lord who ascended up for us sees that His suffering on the cross remains without any fruit for many of us, and that many of His followers live as if He did not also come for their salvation on earth? Can we be comforted when the Spirit Comforter sees how many will not remember anything about His presence among us, constantly breathe the spirit of the world and walk contrary to His inspiration of grace? Can our heavenly brethren accept our magnifications with joy when they find that our earthly brethren madly waste their precious grace inherited generally by all men, do not at all correspond to their heavenly nobility and walk in every evil, contrary to the will of the Heavenly Father? After this one remedy to make the present festival pleasing to our Savior, for the Spirit Comforter, and for all the Saints is to acquire for ourselves their lament for our sins. Repentance suddenly changes everything. When we shall begin to lament before God, then the inhabitants of heaven will be glad again, like they lamented when we are betrayed to temporal and sinful pleasures. But is the lamentation about sins acceptable for the conclusion of the celebration of the Church? For the righteous, certainly, it would not be acceptable; but for the sinners only more acceptable. The sick are also treated in the feasts; and what illness is more dangerous than sin? However, is what began the cycle of the sacred days now concluded? Is it not the memory of the Fall of Adam, and we who are all his descendants in the presence of Adam? Therefore is it not better to conclude it, not by our ascending, but through our repentance from our own fall? Thus the end will return to the beginning, and will return us to that blessed and unoriginate beginning, in which the souls of all the holy brethren are now blessed. "Do not hesitate", the Holy Scripture inspires each of us, "to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day"; "do not be confident of cleansing that you add sin to sin". "For suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and during the time of punishment you will perish" (Sir. 5:5-7).