Pentecost Homily of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew on Crete

Source: The Ecumenical Patriarchate of
Constantinople

June 19, 2016

HOMILY
BY HIS ALL-HOLINESS
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
CHAIRMAN OF THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF THE
ORTHODOX CHURCH
AT THE CONCELEBRATION OF THE DIVINE
LITURGY
IN THE METROPOLITAN CHURCH
OF ST. MINAS IN HERAKLION, CRETE
WITH THEIR BEATITUDES
THE PRIMATES OF THE HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCHES

(Sunday of Pentecost, June 19, 2016)

Your Beatitudes, Holy Brother Primates of the local
Orthodox Churches, Theodoros of Alexandria, John of
Antioch, Theophilos of Jerusalem, Kirill of Moscow, Irinej
of Belgrade, Daniel of Bucharest, Neophyte of Bulgaria,
Ilia of Georgia, Chrysostomos of Cyprus, Ieronymos of
Athens, Sawa of Warsaw, Anastasios of Tirana, and
Rastislav of Prešov, together with Your honorable
delegations,

Your Excellency Mr. President of the Hellenic Republic,

Your Eminence Archbishop Irenaios of Crete, together with
the Most Reverend and beloved brothers who, together with
you, comprise the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church of
Crete,

Most Reverend and Right Reverend holy brothers,

Blessed Orthodox Clergy and Laity from all across the
world,

A joyful day has now dawned, in which we celebrate the
historic manifestation of the institution of the Church,
which is constituted by the Holy Spirit, and we Orthodox
brothers, who represent all the local Orthodox
Autocephalous Churches, have gathered together in a
liturgical assembly, so that we may carry out the duty and
responsibility of the one Orthodox Church to the people
and to the world today, by convening our Holy and Great
Council.

Today is a day of unity, as we are all united in the faith
and the sacraments through our liturgical gathering in one
place and have come together “in the breaking of the
Bread.” The Holy Eucharist truly reaffirms the unity
and catholicity of our Orthodox Church.

The event of Pentecost, which took place in Jerusalem,
marked the Church’s starting point in its historical
journey and laid the foundations for the sanctification of
human history in its entirety. The Apostles and the three
thousands Christians who were baptized by them at that
time comprised the first Church, which is a theanthropic
reality of Christ, present in all of its members. Today,
we, too, are filled with the same inspiration from the
tongues of fire – from the Holy Spirit – and
we are one Church, one body, even though we come from
different ethnic, linguistic, and cultural traditions.
Christ the God-man, the “firstborn among many
brethren” (cf. Rom. 8:29), is present in each of our
members.

Today, the fulfillment of the purpose of Divine Economy in
its totality is taking place. Because, at Pentecost and
after Pentecost, “God’s love has been poured
into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5).
There is one Christ and we are all His joints and members:
“All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit,
who apportions to each one individually as he wills”
(1 Cor. 12:11).

Through our distinctness, each Orthodox Church, as well as
every faithful Orthodox Christian, are joined to one body,
each with his own gifts, over which we should not look to
others with suspicion or anger, but rejoice as if they
were our own: “The treasure that my brother acquires
… I possess also,” proclaims Macarius of
Egypt (Spiritual Homilies 3, 2,
ΒΕΠΕΣ [Library of Greek
Fathers and Ecclesiastical Authors], 41, p. 156).

Every local Orthodox Church has its own treasure and
offers it to Christ. The eye cannot say to the hand
“I have no need of you,” nor again the head to
the feet. Within the Church, there is no individual local
Church that does not hold significance in its own right,
so as to enable the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church not to be in need of each and every one of its
members, nor can one member exist independently and
absolutely sovereign, as is being attempted by those
outside of the Church; especially during these last days.
The Orthodox Church Militant, most honorable brothers,
which is present on earth, perpetually continues the
“upper room” of Pentecost, our local Churches,
which are represented by all of us here today. We
represent the mystical body of Christ, which extends unto
the ages and delivers the human race from manifold
suffering and impasses, and we are united with the Church
Triumphant, fulfilling God’s dispensation and
unifying the earthly with the heavenly (see the Kontakion
of the feast of the Ascension). This is precisely the
mission of our Orthodox Church.

At the same time, today is a day of crying out to the
gracious Paraclete to come and abide in us and keep us in
Its Truth and Its sanctification, as stated by our Lord
during his agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
This entreaty of our Lord, which is fulfilled here on this
great day of Pentecost, is and remains the primary request
of all humanity in a divided world that is full of strife,
and which thirsts for unity, on behalf of which the Son of
God gave up Himself so that all of us may have life, and
that we may have it more abundantly.

Our Orthodox Church has the supreme gift and blessing of
possessing the treasure of truth and preserving intact the
gift of the All-Holy Spirit, which “has filled the
whole world” (Wis. 1:7), and it is obliged to give
the contemporary world a testimony of love and unity, and
to reveal the hidden hope that lies within it. Of course,
we do not boast over the truth of our Church. We sense its
singular splendor, but also our own personal weakness and
unworthiness. However, this is not enough when it remains
on a theoretical level. It behooves a response on the
practical level, where, unfortunately, we are greatly
lacking.

The Lord began His preaching to the world by calling on
the people to repent. The work of a Christian throughout
the duration of his life is repentance. We, the leaders of
the Church, especially, are obliged to provide a good
example and embrace the entirety of the truth which we
have received; because our opponent tries to scatter
misguided ideas in our hearts which negate the truth of
our faith. Those fellow men and women of ours who are
misled about the truth spread these misguided ideas, which
appear novel and worthy of attention, and often manage to
lure away a good amount of faithful through the repeated
skillful presentation of these ideas. For this reason, we
Bishops ought to gather together to discuss the matters
that are confronting the Orthodox Church at different
times and throughout the world, so as to adopt the
appropriate measures to protect the faithful from the
prevailing errors. Especially in our time, there is a very
large number of errors that are circulating, and the
arguments used by the deceivers are particularly
sophisticated, which means that a coordinated effort on
the part of the shepherds of the Orthodox Church is
required in order to inform the faithful. The number of
religious factions that are attempting to lead the
Orthodox faithful astray are in the hundreds. The
discussions and exchange of related experiences on the
manner in which to counter the methods of the
aforementioned organizations during the Council will have
much to offer to the Orthodox Church.

The Lord of the Orthodox Church, Who is “the same
yesterday, today and forever,” worked with us so
that we could reach today’s historic moment of the
Holy and Great Council, this liturgical Gathering, and
communion from one Common Cup. Regardless of our different
opinions, we Orthodox Christians ought to point out that
the only road on our course in this world is unity. Of
course, this road demands a living sacrifice, much work,
and is achieved after great struggle. It is certain that
this Council of ours will contribute towards this
direction by creating a climate of mutual trust and
understanding through our meeting in the Holy Spirit and
through an edifying and sincere dialogue.

The unity of the Orthodox Church and its faithful
represents our mission. It is followed by the testimony of
our Church, so that the world may see “its good
works” – our good works – shining
brightly, be refreshed, and glorify “our Father who
is in heaven.” Our ecclesial unity does not take on
the form of a federation, nor does it stem from the
congregating around some mortal figure. It proceeds from
and is made complete by our common faith, which is
synonymous with salvation, with eternal life. “And
this is eternal life,” to know the Father and Him
whom He sent, Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of
lords, as he is depicted in our Orthodox Iconography as
well.

Your Beatitudes, Holy brethren,

Your Excellency Mr. President of the Hellenic Republic,

Blessed Orthodox Christians, clergy, monastics, and people
everywhere under the heavens,

We are convinced – and we proclaim at this historic
moment from the altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the
Island of Crete, which is an extension of the one
belonging to the Holy and Great Church of Christ, the
church of the Haghia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), Haghia Irene
(Holy Peace), and Haghia Dynamis (Holy Might); that is,
the Holy Synthrone of John Chrysostom, Gregory the
Theologian, and Photios the Great – that only in
unity and by living out our Orthodoxy as an experience of
faith and life is it possible to navigate through the
modern world’s dramatic history and give a testimony
of salvation to those both near and far.

Setting aside the problems that arise from our different
ethnic backgrounds, we beseech the descent of the
Paraclete upon all of us as well, so that illuminated by
Him – by the “Light and Life, and living
fountain of reason; by the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of
understanding … the Spirit of sovereignty and the
Spirit that expiates sins; the God Who deifies” (cf.
sticheron for the vespers of Pentecost) – we may
issue a message of truth, genuineness, and hope all across
today’s world, which thirsts, and our Churches as an
institution and we as persons may reaffirm that we are
precious vessels.

The Holy Spirit unites us in the Church through the
“bond of perfection” and love, and is
expressed and borne witness to by the persons of the Holy
Trinity, which is of one nature, but reveals itself in
three persons. Similarly, the Orthodox Church is One, but
reveals itself in the world through its individual local
vines, which are unbreakably and indivisibly attached to
one – to one Church, to one body.

Brothers, fathers and children, today the totality of our
Holy Orthodox Church is represented here in Crete:
“we have seen the true light; we have received the
heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshipping
the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved
us.” Therefore, we bless the Lord of Mercy and
Compassions, and every supplication with one voice and one
heart, for He is “the source of our existence, our
breath, our understanding, our knowledge of God, the Holy
Spirit and the Father Who is without beginning, and His
only begotten Son … the One Who gave us to
comprehend the beauty of heaven, the sun in its course,
the orb of the moon, the order of the stars and the
harmony and different movements that prevail among them
… the turning hours, the changing seasons, the
flowing air, the cycle of years … our hope of
gaining the heavenly kingdom, equality of honor with the
angels, the contemplation of glory.”

To this All-Holy Spirit, which brings to perfection all
good things, and today’s concelebration, and the
testimony of our Orthodox Church to the entire world in
and through this Holy and Great Council of ours, to It,
together with the Father and the Son, do we dutifully
offer praise, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

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