Tuesday 5 June 2012

Sermon on Pentecost

Come, O ye peoples, let us worship the Godhead in Three Persons
                  By Saint John of Shanghai the Wonderworker

GOD is a Holy Trinity. A Trinity consubstantial and indivisible. Consubstantial, i.e., of one essence, one nature. A Trinity indivisible: the Son has never been divided from the Father, nor the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, and never will be divided.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three gods, but one God, since They have one nature, but not merely because of this. People also have one nature, one essence. But with people one cannot say that two or three people are one person, no matter how close to one another and harmonious they may be. People not only have separate bodies, but each also has his own will, his own tastes, his own moods. No matter how similar people may be in body and character, it still never happens that everything is in common or that everything is the same. 

With the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity everything is in union. The boundless love of the Father for the Son, of the Son for the Father, and the same love between Them and the Holy Spirit make Their will and all of Their actions to be common. They have one will, and They do everything together. Whatever pleases the Father also pleases the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whatever displeases the Holy Spirit also displeases the Father. Whatever the Son loves, the Father and the Holy Spirit love also. 

Everything is accomplished jointly by the Holy Trinity. At the creation of the world, it says in the Bible: And God said, let there be light: and there was light' (Gen. 1:3). What does "said" mean? It means that God the Father created by His Word, by that Word of Which the Gospel says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1), and Which is the Only-begotten Son of God.

God the Father created everything by His Word; in other words, He accomplished everything through His Son. The Father does not create anything without the Son, just as the Son does not create anything without the Father, and the Father and the Son always assist the Holy Spirit. It is said in the Bible about the creation of the world: And the Spirit of God moved over the waters (Gen. 1:2). It "moved" over creation, but did not merely move over it - not having exactly the corresponding expression in Slavonic [St John is addressing his flock in Russian and therefore quoting the Scriptures in Church Slavonic, but in fact the same applies to the English translations of the Scriptures - ed.], the word in the Hebrew original signifies "to cover", "to warm," similar to a hen sitting on her eggs, giving life to them by her warmth, so that a living creature might come forth.

By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth (Ps. 32:6). All that exists was created by God the Father through the Son and was brought to life by the Holy Spirit. In other words, everything which the Father wanted or wants, was or is immediately fulfilled by the Son and is animated by the Holy Spirit. Thus was the world created, thus was all accomplished by the providence of God concerning the world and mankind.

In order to save man, who through sin had fallen away from God and become mortal, the Son of God, in accordance with the pre-eternal counsel of the Holy Trinity, obeying the will of the Father, came down to earth, was born of the Ever-Virgin Mary through the action of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed to the people the True God the Father and His divine will, taught the true worship of God, suffered for our sins, descended in soul into hades, and having freed the souls of the dead, rose from the dead.

Even before His suffering, Christ promised His apostles, chosen by Him from among His disciples, to give them power to loose and to bind - to remit people's sins or to leave them in them. After His resurrection, the Lord did not bestow this grace-filled gift separately on each one of the apostles, but on all of them together: He established His Church, the repository of that grace, uniting in Her all those who believe in Him and love Him.

Having promised His apostles to invest them with power from on high, having sent down the Holy Spirit, having accomplished all for which He had come to earth, the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, receiving in His humanity that glory and honour which He had since before the creation of the world as the Son of God. Having descended upon the disciples of Christ according to the promise, the Holy Spirit strengthened them in the faith of Christ and through His grace poured upon them the gifts of God. He strengthened them for the preaching and fulfilment in life of the teachings of Christ, for the building up of the Church founded by Christ and brought about through the action of the Holy Spirit.

The Church standing on her foundation on earth and headed by the Son of God seated at the right hand of the Father, is mysteriously guided by the Holy Spirit. She internally links all Her children and unites them with God. Through the Church God's gifts of grace are poured out on those who strive to follow the way of Christ, sanctify and fortify all good in them, cleanse them from sin and all impurity, making them able to become receptacles of the radiance of the glory and power of God.

Through the Church man is made a partaker of the divine nature, he enters into the closest relationship with the Holy Trinity. Not only the soul, but also the body of man is sanctified and communes with God by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, through which he is united with the entire Holy Trinity. Through divine grace, with the participation of his own will and powers, man becomes a new creature, a participant in the eternal kingdom of God.

Nature is being prepared for that coming Kingdom of God, for the imminent cleansing by fire of the consequences of the sin of mankind and the curse which lies on it. She receives the first fruits of sanctification through the descent on her of the Holy Spirit at Theophany in the blessing of the waters and in many other Church services, so that she may later become a new earth and a new heaven.

This will be accomplished at the time appointed by God the Father, and the Son of God will come in glory to pronounce judgment on the world. Then those who have loved God and have been united with Him will shine with the rays of divine light and will eternally delight in the uncreated light of the Triune Godhead of the Consubstantial, Lifegiving and Indivisible Trinity. To God, our Creator and Saviour, be glory, honour and worship unto endless ages.

From The Orthodox Messenger, August 1960

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