May 13, 2015

The Wisdom of God (4 of 4)

4. The Journey From the Resurrection to Pentecost

The period in which we find ourselves is very important. We're right in the middle between Pascha and Pentecost, hence Mid-Pentecost. And this has its own significance.

The events of the divine economy are consolidated, but as feasts we celebrate them differently in order to enter into their depths and imitate their spiritual meaning. The entire year is structured along the stages of the divine economy, and it is a fact that the Church prepares us for these always with fasting, prayer and worship gatherings in order to participate in them.

The Apostle Paul wrote: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). The Christian lives the crucifixion of Christ when they crucify their passions and then experience the resurrection of Christ. The same Apostle in his epistle to the Romans refers to the Mystery of Baptism as a participation in the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ: "We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Rom. 6:4).

Saint Gregory the Theologian urges Christians to experience all the stages of the divine economy: "How many feast days there are for me for each of the mysteries of Christ! Yet they all are of one principle aim, my completion and refashioning, and rising to the first Adam." He goes on to say: "As disciples of Christ, let us travel along all the stages and powers of Christ's life blamelessly." Then he urges the following:

"Be purified, be circumcised, remove the veil from birth. After this teach in the temple, drive out the traders in divine things, be stoned if it is necessary that you suffer this; you will escape the notice of those throwing the stones, I know well, you will even flee through the midst of them like God. For the Word is not stoned. If you are brought before Herod, do not answer for the most part. He will revere your silence more than the long discourses of others. If you are scourged, seek the other tortures. Taste the gall because of His taste. Drink the vinegar, seek the spittings, accept the blows, the beatings; be crowned with thorns, the harshness of a life in accord with God. Put on the scarlet robe, accept the reed, be worshiped by those mocking the truth. Finally, be crucified with him, die with him, be buried with him eagerly, in order to resurrect with him and be glorified with him and reign with him, seeing God as far as is possible and being seen by him, the one who is worshiped is worshipped and glorified in Trinity, whom even now we ask to enlighten us as clearly as is attainable to prisoners of the flesh, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen." (Oration 38)

Such an imitation of Christ by Christians is not external, but secret, through the Mysteries of the Church and asceticism in Christ. And it does not end on the day of the Resurrection of Christ, but continues afterward. Currently we are in the halfway period of the Pentecostarion, and having celebrated the Resurrection of Christ, we journey towards Pentecost. The Resurrection of Christ implies our own resurrection from sinful works, and Pentecost is the coming of the Holy Spirit into our existence. In one hymn from the Vespers of Mid-Pentecost the sacred hymnographer writes: "The middle of those days which begin with the saving Resurrection and are sealed with the divine feast of Pentecost has come."

Both of these events - Pascha and Pentecost - indicate the two basic Mysteries of the Church, namely Baptism and Chrismation. By the Mystery of Baptism, which is an introductory Mystery into the Body of Christ, the image of God in man is purified, and a Christian experiences spiritual resurrection from sinful works. By the Mystery of Chrismation, the energies of the Holy Spirit are received, and essentially a Christian lives their own Pentecost. However, because we are baptized in our infancy and do not understand the influences of these Mysteries upon our spiritual organism, this is why in our personal struggle within our ecclesiastical life we feel the renewal of the Grace of Baptism and Chrismation.

Thus, the period from the Resurrection of Christ until Pentecost reminds us of our journey to experience Pentecost, which is the theosis of man. The Israelites left the slavery of Egypt, and through the Red Sea passed into the desert, in order to arrive at the Promised Land. This journey was liberating, painful, but also blessed, since the Israelites received many blessings from God. The Israelites were led by Moses, together with the constant Providence of God that gave him everything. This journey reminds us of our own journey from Baptism, which is the beginning of the spiritual life, towards Pentecost, which is the spiritual Promised Land, namely theosis, or the vision of God. We also have a Moses, our spiritual fathers, our bishops who stand and keep vigil in their own place for the people.

All of our saints, as we also see in Saint Seraphim of Sarov, say that the purpose of the spiritual life is to acquire the Holy Spirit, to become temples of the Holy Spirit. Imagine your body as a living temple, and in its center is the sacred sanctuary, and the Holy Altar is the heart in which is the Grace of Baptism and Chrismation, and we are called to constantly worship and glorify the Triune God. So also are we on a constant journey towards theosis and sanctification.

In the Doxastikon of the Praises chanted during Matins for the feast of Mid-Pentecost, we chant: "Brethren, enlightened by the Resurrection of the Savior Christ, and having reached the mid-point of the Master’s feast, let us genuinely keep God’s commandments, that we may be worthy to celebrate the Ascension and reach the coming of the Holy Spirit."

The conclusion is that the Wisdom of God is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and in order to glorify Him the Sacred Temple of Hagia Sophia was erected in Constantinople - which is flooded within by light - and this became the prototype of other such Sacred Temples that were built throughout the Roman Empire. The Sacred Temple of Hagia Sophia should be celebrated on the great feast of Mid-Pentecost, because all the contents of the hymns for the feast refer to the Wisdom of God. A person acquires godly wisdom by their association with Christ and the Holy Spirit and when they attain by the Grace of God to the vision of God, experiencing Pentecost, which is the highest degree of vision - the sight of God.

To conclude, I would like to commend the initiative for the establishment of this majestic Sacred Temple in the name of God's Wisdom and for fixing its celebration on the feast of Mid-Pentecost, this blessed period. This indicates that theology is the center of the Church, this is the life and voice of the Church, and, of course, Christ is the Wisdom of God, and it is He Who illumines "all people who come into the world" (Jn. 1:9).

This reference to Christ is the most important event in our lives. Even when we live in an era in which there are many antichrists, who not only do not believe in Christ, but in His place they have set up other gods, people who are deified by them and in reality are guided by the Antichrist himself. Christ is the Lamb of the Apocalypse, Who appears weak, but conquered death, and defeats the beast of the Apocalypse. This is the most underlying message of this feast: that we must be people of the Lamb of the Apocalypse and not people of the beast of the Apocalypse; we must be people of the Wisdom of God, and not people of the foolish false prophets.

This Temple will show the reverence of all Cypriots for Christ, the Wisdom of God, that they want to be illumined by the Wisdom of God, and they desire to ascend the height of Holy Wisdom, which is the light that surrounds it, meaning the uncreated Light of God. It also reveals that Christ "comes to conquer in order to conquer" (Rev. 6:2). This victory in our personal and national life I wholeheartedly pray for all my beloved Cypriots, the Romans who live in this blessed place.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἡ τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφία", May-June 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.