Friday, June 5, 2009

On the Feast of Pentecost

“When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16.13

With these words our Lord prepared His disciples for His death and Resurrection by comforting them with the news that the Holy Spirit would come and guide the Church. This month we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Apostles and upon the Church of Christ. At Pentecost we celebrate the establishment of the Church as the Body of Christ on Earth to continue His saving work – to bring all creation into communion with Him.

In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed we declare our belief in “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” which, as promised by Christ, is being guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth. This is the Orthodox Church still alive today with an unbroken link both historically and theologically to the Apostles and Christ Himself. The roots of our Faith and of our Holy Traditions rest firmly in the teachings of the Holy Apostles and the New Testament Church. Saint Paul said, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11.2)

There are some who will tell you that the Holy Traditions of the Orthodox Church are not scriptural. Some even suggest that we Orthodox are pagans. Nonsense! The Orthodox Church was established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit who came down upon the Apostles on the Feast of Pentecost. Those who would suggest that we Orthodox are not “biblical Christians” or not Christians at all are not simply incorrect…they are wolves seeking to lead us and our children astray from the Body of Christ. “Beware of false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7.15)

It is true that some Traditions have evolved over the centuries. One such Tradition is fasting. Fasting is both biblical (Matthew 6.16-18) AND historical. “But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but do ye fast on the fourth day [Wednesday] and the Preparation (Friday). (Didache of the Apostles 8.1). What has evolved over the centuries is not whether to fast but how to fast.

The reality that certain Holy Traditions have evolved in their practice over the centuries should not immediately disqualify them from current practice especially when these Holy Traditions have been passed down through the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ, from generation to generation. Our task in 2009 as members of the Orthodox Church today is not to reform our Holy Traditions but to reform our misunderstanding of Christian history and “keep the traditions” as they have been delivered by the Church.

We become the most biblical when we heed Paul’s teachings and trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church into all truth. Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14.6) We cannot allow ourselves to be led astray from the Truth or we will surely die. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10.10)

When you meet others: non-Orthodox or Orthodox; family or friends; Christian Pastors or Christian believers; and they suggest to you that the Orthodox Church is not biblical or that our Traditions as Orthodox Christians are incorrect, come and see what the Church has been teaching for two thousand years as Truth if you are not sure. There are many resources you can use: the Church Library or bookstore has several books that will help you. There are many online resources too, such as the Archdiocese of America website at that has hundreds of articles, essays, videos, and other recordings that share the teachings of the Church.

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