Tomorrow is Holy Pentecost for the Orthodox Church. Not surprisingly, Orthodoxy understands Pentecost much differently than Pentecostals and Charismatics. In my past life as a Charismatic Christian, I associated Pentecost and the subsequent Spirit-filled life with zeal and exuberance that often bordered on emotionalism. Not so with Orthodoxy. If I understand it correctly, the Spirit-filled life is one of powerful and profound silence.
Tonight at Liturgy, Fr Patrick explained the Spirit-filled life with the analogy of the Sacramento River. At its headwaters, the Sacramento River is small, shallow and noisy as it bubbles from the ground. As it moves, it gathers water and grows wider and deeper. And as it does so, it grows quieter. When it’s finally at its most powerful and deepest point in its journey, it is silent. So it is with the Spirit-filled life. Pentecost was an explosion of energy and exuberance as the promised Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ followers. But as the Church matured, that initial experienced transformed into an ever-deepening and ever-quieting life as God’s power rooted out sins and passions that divide us and forged divine unity.
Here’s part of a hymn that we sung tonight at Vespers and will sing again tomorrow morning:
“When He came down and confused the tongues,
The Most High divided the nations;
but when He distributed the tongues of fire,
He called all people to unity.
Therefore, with one voice we glorify the most-Holy Spirit.”
Kontakion of Pentecost