For the Day of Pentecost the Second Lesson appointed comes from the Book of Acts where Saint Peter addresses the crowd of Diaspora Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of the pilgrim Feast of Weeks. From different lands the visitors to the city spoke different languages. As a result of the descent of the Holy Spirit, each heard the apostles speaking in his own language.
Pentecost is an manifestation of the reversal of Babel and its confusion of tongues. The Church is the institution that should always lead in reconciliation while keeping faithful to the teachings of the Church. It is important that we achieve clarity in our preaching, defending, and witnessing to the Gospel without the confusion that so besets the world. We pray that the Holy Spirit will work reconciliation in the Church and in the world.
We need not leave the gathered assembly of the church to deal with division and confusion. Conflict and division in congregations over doctrine and other matters and the same in the universal church appear more like Babel than Jerusalem at Pentecost. Denominational differences and differences within the denominations themselves are manifestations, not of the Holy Spirit, but of the Fall of the human race into sin.
It is true that when challenges to the faith arise, which they inevitably do, the orthodox must speak up and defend the faith. To do less is a lapse in one’s Christian responsibility. But, we must do the nearly impossible–reconcile with others and, at the same time, defend the faith. I do not think accomplishing these two has met with great success, but this fact makes it no less imperative that we should endeavor to achieve God’s will by His help.
What sort of things can each of us do to accomplish the nearly impossible?
- Find opportunities to work with brothers and sisters in other church bodies, especially with the mother churches–the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
- Value our common faith more than focus on differences.
- Pray with other Christians outside our own tradition.
- Put a check on our contempt for other Christians while maintaining a high commitment to orthodoxy.
- Lament our disunity while praying to the Lord for unity as Jesus prayed in John 17.
- Keep our humor and make it work for reconciliation.
- Know what we are talking about when we talk about the Christian faith. Ignorance is a major factor in our disunity. Clarify the real differences.
- Be aware that the Holy Spirit is working among us to end confusion and work unity.
In the heavenly Jerusalem the chorus of praise to the Triune God will show forth the unity and clarity of heaven. We yearn for that day. May we gain a foretaste of it now through the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts for clarity and unity.
Michael G. Tavella
June 27, 2020
Cyril of Alexandria, 444