May 30, 2004 - Pentecost
To the Venerable Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” the Apostle Peter boldly proclaimed to the masses on the great day of Pentecost. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
These simple words, proclaimed with such conviction that on “that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41), are words which cannot be limited to a single, historic event, nor frozen in a time and place far different than our own. To the contrary, Saint Peter’s words remind us of the ongoing need to repent, to shun those things which prevent us from discerning God’s will, and to turn to the Lord as our only Hope and Refuge. They remind us that, having been buried and raised with Christ in Baptism and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Chrismation, all with which we have been blessed must be employed, not for our own glory but, rather, “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And they challenge us to call into remembrance at all times the promise that has been given to us, to our children, to all mankind—the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God made possible by the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Saint Peter’s closing words—“as many as the Lord our God will call”—are especially significant. They remind us that all mankind has been called to delight in the Lord’s promise, that all who repent and open themselves to the new life so freely offered will receive it. Our Lord proclaimed the Good News to all who would listen, while the Apostles spared nothing to continue this mission, traveling far and wide under the most extreme circumstances to call “the whole world into the Lord’s net,” as we sing on this Great Feast. Everyone is called to the “feast of faith” made possible by the empty tomb and made public by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Himself.
Few could argue that the world in which we live today seems to have hardened to Our Lord’s promise. Surrounded as we are by “bad” news—war, killing, terrorism, inhumanity, and fears and abuses of every sort—one can easily grow insular, even cynical. The “spirit” which we are often urged to “catch” has little to do with the Holy Spirit Whom we beg to “come and abide in us” on this great feast; the promises with which the world tempts us are elusive at best, deceptive at worst, rarely offering even a glimmer of hope beyond tomorrow.
“Do not be afraid,” Our Lord lovingly calls to us. “Only believe” (Mark 5:36). Is this not a call to the world to look beyond this life to the life of the world to come? Are not these words sufficient to prompt us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit while “testing” the spirits that so often tempt us? Is not this the very “net” into which we have been called to bring mankind? And is this not the very heart of the Good News proclaimed by the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost and by the Church to this day?
May the Holy Spirit fill us with that same boldness with which He filled the Apostles. May each of us, in repentance and response to Our Lord’s promise, employ the unique gifts with which we have been blessed to proclaim the Good News to a world that so desperately seeks it. And may our acceptance—with personal and collective conviction—of His call to transform the world be one that moves us beyond mere words as we put our belief into action.
Assuring you of my blessing and prayers as we celebrate this joyous Feast, I remain
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada