Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Between Ascension and Pentecost

18 May 1980

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

We are at present in the period between the feast of the Ascension of the Lord and the feast of the Holy Trinity; and I should like to say something that is relevant to both feasts. The prophet Isaiah says in the 53rd chapter of his book that He — the Christ to come — was wounded for our sins, that He took our frailties upon His shoulders and that by His wounds we are healed. When we think of the risen Christ appearing to His disciples and giving them His hands to touch, inviting Thomas the Apostle to test the reality and the depth of the wounds on His hands and feet and side, we tend to forget that in His Ascension also Christ bore in His flesh the wounds inflicted by our sins; that in some incom­prehensible way Christ, not only risen, but having ascended into heaven and sitting in glory on the right hand of God the Father, bears in His human flesh the wounds that the human sin has inflicted. He still carries our human frailty on His shoulders, and both Christ’s Resurrection and the terrible days of His Passion are now, so to speak, enshrined in the mystery of the Triune God, the Trinity Holy, Incomprehensible, Great. All the sorrow of the world, all the sin, all the pain, all the horror were laid on Christ, and neither by His Resurrection nor by His Ascen­sion in glory did He throw them off. Christ remains the Lamb of God slain before the creation of the world for the salvation of the world.

When on the day of Pentecost, the day we celebrate as the day of the Holy Trinity, He sends down His Holy Spirit on His disciples, on His Apostles, on the Church, and into the whole world, He sends it as it were in a double way. On the one hand we are the Body of Christ, living, tre­mulous, tortured and wounded throughout the ages, bearing on ourselves, as St Paul says, the wounds of the Saviour, fulfilling in ourselves that which was lacking in the earthly sorrows and physical suffering of Christ; for from century to century the Church is called upon to be the Body of Christ which is broken for the sins of men, broken for the salvation of mankind. And because we are that Body, however unworthy we may be, just because we are Christ’s, because we are the Church, we partici­pate in this gift of the Holy Spirit. But on the other hand the Holy Spirit descends on us not just because in an incomprehensible way we are already joined to Christ, but because we are frail, we are weak, we are sinful, and only the strength of God which is made perfect in human weakness is able to save us. It is not only as the Body of Christ that we receive the Holy Spirit, but collectively as a sinful society, and in­dividually as sinners desperately in need of the strength of God for our salvation.

For this reason we must prepare ourselves in a very special way for the feast that will be upon us next Sunday, we must come to it in our frailty, but with absolute openness, with all our longing for God, with hunger and thirst for the coming of the Lord in order that our souls should come alive, that our life should change, that the chasm should be closed which divides what is Godly in each one of us from what still be­longs to corruption, sin and death. Let us spend this week recollectedly; let us spend this week in expectation and in prayer, so that when toge­ther we sing the prayer of invocation to the Holy Spirit, “Come, and abide in us”, it should not be just a routine prayer, but the culmination of our longing for God, our love of God, so that our weakness should be laid open before Him as the soul can open itself to love and joy. And then however sinful and weak we may be, we shall be able to receive once again, in a new way a new measure of that grace which makes us nearer and dearer to God, that God Who entered into glory in the flesh that bears unhealed the wounds inflicted by our sin, because our sin still persists. How won­derful is our God! With what gratitude can we contemplate Him for we who are but half-believers, we who live so badly are loved by Him, He believes in us, He hopes all things, and by His strength He can give us everything if only we give Him the right, the power over us, the opportunity to act freely. Let us then prepare reverently for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us.

Published: Newsletter N. 121, June 1980

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