The Spirit of Truth: Some Thoughts on Pentecost by a Layman
by Robert Vagias
I would like to start by relating a story, one of the most impressive I can remember. It happened in 1969, at the time of the Apollo moon orbitings. One of the astronauts, seeing the earth from afar — so much so that the earth resembled a floating coin — commented, “We saw the earth the size of a quarter; and we realized then that there is only one earth. We are all brothers.”
Those courageous men took a deeper look into the reality of our world. But that deeper look came by way of standing back — standing afar off — for it was only that way that they were able to perceive the truth and grasp the reality of our world.
During the Pentecostal season we should take a deeper look into the church as a family. There are many elements that can help us take such a look. If you will — if you can — step back and give yourselves over to my endeavor; you will see what has come to me as precisely a deeper look.
Stating it very simply, all men belong to the family of God in that all men are children of God. God’s love knows no discrimination, and nobody is so entirely evil that he is beyond the grasp of His redemptive love. It is this clear and succinct fact that binds mankind together and upon which its salvation is heavily dependent.
Unfortunately, man does not always retain this philosophy in his relationship to his fellow man. Owing to racial, religious, and ethnic differences, man has set up two extremes in attitude and perspective, both of which will prove to be hindrances to the establishment of healthful and family-like relationships among people and parishes.
The first attitude is an attitude of polarization. Each man shall seek his own kind. Black is black, white is white, and ne’er the twain shall meet. This attitude is vividly harmful because, not only does it seek to tear apart God’s family, but it also begins to label people like products. Stereotypes begin to form based on existing and exaggerated idiosyncrasies, and these stereotypes are difficult to dissolve.
The second extreme, just as harmful, denies all differences among people, regardless of race, creed or nationality. The result of such a belief is the direct opposite of the one mentioned before. Belief in absolute equality strips away man’s sacred individuality and leaves no room for his ethnic traditions.
Is there a midway between the two extremes? I feel there is, and that I’ve found in my parish church. With the same ideals that led to the founding of this nation exactly 200 years ago, our parish church was founded. Believing that all men are created equal in the eyes of God, while never denying one’s right to be different, people of Greek, Middle-Eastern and Slavonic backgrounds founded a church which thrives on diversity. Our parishioners have learned to work not in spite of each other’s differences, not because of each other’s differences, but with each other’s differences. Our church is truly a family parish in every sense.
THE LITURGY AS A FOCAL POINT
If you were to view and experience our liturgy, you would be able to feel our strong family bond. Soon we will celebrate Holy Pentecost and kneel together, as a family, for the first time since Holy Week; and our priest will open the service with “O Heavenly King — the Comforter and Spirit of Truth who are in all places and fillest all things.” This is precisely what binds our parish; all Orthodox Christians and the Christian world together, — the Spirit of Truth, the common faith in the Lord and God, Jesus Christ. It is this faith as preserved in Orthodoxy that makes my church a family of God.
Perhaps it can all be best summed up in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said:
He who hears you, hears me. And he who rejects you, rejects me.
And he who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me.
Robert is a sophomore at Mulenberg College in Allentown, Penna.
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America