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Metropolitan Moses - 2006 Pentecost

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  • petercarras@rogers.com
    ... From: Metropolitan Moses To: Undisclosed recipients Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 1:57:45 PM Subject: 2006 Pentecost 2006 Pentecost
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 14, 2006
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      ----- Forwarded Message ----
      From: Metropolitan Moses <metmoses@...>
      To: Undisclosed recipients
      Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 1:57:45 PM
      Subject: 2006 Pentecost

      2006 Pentecost

      This great day of Pentecost is the culmination of the purpose of the incarnation. The New Adam, Christ, has lead the way, trampling down death by self-sacrificing love, He has risen and Ascended in the human nature that He put on for our sake. And now our Savior sends the Comforting Spirit.

      In the scriptural readings for the feast, the Holy Spirit is described by different and contradictory words, in the Gospel His indwelling is described as “rivers of living water” and in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit descends in the form of tongues of fire. This is to demonstrate that the operation and action of the Holy Spirit is diverse: manifesting cooling refreshment in some cases and fiery zeal and enlightenment in others. The tongues of men were confounded at the building of the Tower of old and now by the grace of God, the fiery tongues illumine the Apostles in order to bring all men into unity.

      The grace of the Holy Spirit was in the Old Testament, but in a different manner. Our Savior Himself articulated the difference when told the Apostles, “He is with you and shall be in you.” (John 14:17) In the New Testament dispensation the gift of the Spirit is the gift of the indwelling of God. The great day of Pentecost was the beginning of the Priesthood of the New Testament.  It was only after this, that the Apostles began to “break bread” that is, to offer the Mystery of Holy Communion for the faithful to partake of and, ‘be permeated with the fragrance of Christ,’ as Saint John Chrysostom has said. In one sense we are all part of a priesthood, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Peter wrote in his First Catholic Epistle:

      “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession; that ye should show forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His wondrous light; Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

      Not all perform the Mystery of the priesthood, but all participate and partake of this Mystery in the bond of love. The Holy Mysteries are a corporate act of the entire Church, in the bond of love. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matth 18:20) And “Many grains become one bread,” in the words of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.

      Gifts of the Holy Spirit were given on this day of Pentecost, but also the very structure of the Church was established. Because we live in an age of confusion, it is essential to our salvation for us to understand this structure.

      The Church structure was not set up as one would set up an earthly organization. For example, the founding fathers of this country examined all of the various pertinent forms of government, discussed their advantages and disadvantages and chose to set up a republic with elected representational leadership. In other words they looked at already existing structures and decided from among them.

      It was not so with the Apostles. The structure of the Church is not the work of the minds of men, but an embodiment of the mystical reality of the faithful participating in the Body and Blood of Christ. The very word Church, in the epistles of Saint Paul, refers to the Eucharistic gathering in the local city. The Eucharist is central to all.

      As it is written in the 6th Chapter of the gospel of Saint John “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Amen, amen, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:52-56)

      The local Church partakes of Spirit through the unity that is embodied in the Eucharist through the local bishop. The priests perform every Mystery in the name of the local bishop and are his ambassadors. Saint Ignatius of Antioch speaks of this charism in his epistle to the Ephesians:

      Come together in common, one and all without exception in love, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ – so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priest, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote to death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Ephesians Chapter 20)

      And, again, in his epistle to the Smyrneans:

      Apart from the bishop, let no one perform any function pertaining to the Church. Let the Eucharist be held true which is offered by the bishop or one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (St. Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistle to the Smyrneans Chapter 8)

      How are we to understand this authority? All priestly authority flows from Christ. It is commonly understood in the Orthodox Church that when one kisses the hand of a bishop or a priest he is kissing the hand not of the individual person but the hand of Christ through the person who holds this office. There is a humorous story of one of one occasion when an illustrious warrior prince of Serbia approached a priest for a blessing. The priest was from a rustic background and not very understanding, so he protested and said ‘you should not kiss my hand.’ The warrior prince replied, ‘You numbskull, I am not kissing your hand, I am kissing the hand of a priest!’

      Saint Antony the Great was the most greatly renowned ascetic of his day, yet he had chosen to never receive ordination. Whenever any of the clergy visited him, even if it were a deacon, he would give them first place because of their office in the Church and would ask them for a word of edification. –So much did the men of God respect the clerical ranks found in the Church.

      For the sake of humility, the various offices in the primitive Church were seen as ministering (diakoniai) service. There is an old parable that demonstrates how the clergy should be humble that Photios Kontoglou used to like to retell that goes something like this:

      ‘There was a large wonder working icon that was placed on a mule for the sake of transporting it from one place to another. On the way, from time to time, some of the faithful met the icon and bowed and made the sign of the cross over themselves. After some time, the mule began to attribute these bows to himself. The owner of the mule then understood what was happening and took the icon off of the mule and gave it a few cracks of the whip.’

      It is good for any of us who perform a service for the Church to remember this parable and not behave like the mule.

      In one of his homilies, Saint Makarios the Great admonishes:

      “…Suppose there were a king, who entrusted his treasure to some poor man. The man who received the charge of it does not hold it for his own, but always acknowledges his poverty, not daring to squander out of another's treasure. He bears continually in mind, not only that the treasure is another's, but "it was a mighty king who entrusted me with it, and whenever he pleases he takes it away from me." So ought those who have the grace of God to esteem themselves, to be humble-minded and to acknowledge their poverty. As the poor man who received the charge of the treasure from the king, if he presumes upon the treasure that belongs to another, and is proud as if [the] wealth was his own, and his heart conceives arrogance, the king takes away his treasure, and the man who had it in charge is left poor as he was before; so if those who have grace presume, and their hearts are puffed up, the Lord takes His grace from them, and they are left such as they were before receiving the grace from the Lord.” (Homily 15 of Saint Makarios the Great)

      The Apostle Paul himself, in his epistle to the Corinthians, makes it clear that no Church authority is subject to cults of personalities, but we begin and end in Christ, the Alpha and Omega:

      “For when one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase. But he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own wage, according to his own labour.” (1Cor 3:1-8)

      The office of bishop is seen as a service to the Church, but it also carries with it a great responsibility and authority. As it says in the resurrection account of the Gospel of Saint John: “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23)

      We see clearly from Church History, the canons and the very ecclesiastical arrangement of the Church that bishops are required to be judges. This is not a light matter. Saint Photios the Great, lamented being elected Patriarch of Constantinople and wrote to Pope Nicholas, “…How can I not mourn that previous peaceful life, now lost? I knew from the first that the Patriarchal throne was exceedingly stormy and surrounded by great cares. I knew of the difficulties of governing the masses of the people, their mutual quarrels, their envy, rebellions, and mutterings if something is not to their liking, and the scorn and haughtiness that follow unless one gives them their own way. What am I to do now that I have been placed in power? At times I will have to be strict even towards friends; I will have to disregard even kinsmen since I must be sharp and hard with transgressors. All of this will bring out their hatred and envy….” (The Life of Saint Photios the Great By Justin Popovich, from the On The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, Translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery Boston, Studion Publishers 1983, Page 44.)

      The saint knew full well that he would be judged if he did not exercise the responsibility of judging rightly that was given to him, as the Holy Spirit spoke through the Prophet Moses:

      “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty, but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15)

      The greater the authority in the Church, the more fearful the responsibility, as our Savior said, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48)

      Because we live in the west and perhaps some may be influenced by the ecclesiastical culture of the heterodox that surround us it is important to note the abuses against Church structure in western Christendom.

      The first abuse against the episcopate, properly understood, was when the Church in Rome attempted to claim supreme authority over the Church and subject all bishops of the world to the notion of “papal supremacy.” In doing this, the then reigning bishop in Rome sinned against the conciliar structure of the hierarchy. From the very beginning the Apostles and their successors the bishops gathered in council to resolve difficulties in the Church. As the decree from the first council in Jerusalem expressed it, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” (Acts 15:28)

      The next deviation from the structure of the Church that existed from the time of the Apostles came from Protestantism, that 16th century phenomenon which rejected Holy Tradition and based all of its new ideas on the premise that the Bible is subject to private interpretation. (This is contrary to Saint Peter’s admonition, “Beloved, know this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of private interpretation. For the prophecy came not of old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2Peter 1:20-21)

      The Protestant Episcopalians, broke from Rome and maintained some semblance of a hierarchical, that is, a Top--down, structure, but ignored canonical precedent.

      The Presbyterians, adopted a Bottom-Up structure, democratically electing their leaders without any input from a higher authority. These leaders were given the title, “elder,” and had the authority to preach, teach and administer. Each congregation would send representatives to general assemblies. These general assemblies would be the highest authority for them, without any regard to tradition.

      The Congregationalists emphasized the right and responsibility of each local congregation to make its own decisions concerning its own affairs and details of doctrine without having reference to tradition or a higher authority. This structure here is neither Top-Down nor Bottom—Up, but every congregation for itself.

      Thus, the laity have the initiative in a Congregationalist structure, just as the ministers have it among the Presbyterians, just as the bishops (supposedly) have it among the Episcopalians – hence the names (originally nicknames) for these denominations – congregation, presbyter, episcopus, being the core of the nick-name.

      We live in a country that began with Protestant origins and are presently in the midst of a culture war between those that believe in some authority in the Bible and humanists that do not believe in objective truth. Since neither of these groups understands Traditional Orthodoxy, we need to know and understand our faith in a profound way so as not to be infected by their erring beliefs, that is, not be drawn off of the royal highway of Orthodoxy, either to the left or to the right.

      The descent of the Holy Spirit was a manifestation of extraordinary Grace and the teaching of the Holy Trinity. Let us proclaim the Holy Trinity by our unity. Let us seek unity through the bond of love and the grace of the Eucharist, understanding that all of the ministries and gifts of the Church were established by Christ Himself through the Apostles. Let Holy Tradition be our guide and not the confused ideas of the nations that surround us.

      Amen.






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