Fr.B.M.Thomas (Mumbai Diocese – Indian Orthodox Malankara Church) – OCP News Service – 19/5/18
The church is proceeding towards its next season ‘The Pentecost Season’. Although not as well known as the feasts of Yeldo (Christmas) or Pascha (Easter), this feast of Pentecost is also one of the major feasts of the Holy Church. It is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Pascha (Easter). This is the time of vacations in the outside Kerala context and time for visiting relatives in Kerala, so some of the churches would not have the celebrations of Pentecost, due to the unavailability of the Vicar or Parishioners. It is on this day that we remember the happenings on the first Pentecost day. The disciples had gathered in the Upper Room- following Christ’s command to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and observing the Old Testament Pentecost which remembered the giving of the law. While they were gathered in “one accord”, the Holy Spirit came upon them in a dramatic way. (Acts 2:1ff)
…And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire and, one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance.
There the behavior of the disciples was so peculiar that, people assumed them to be drunk. But Peter preached the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies and as a result there three thousand repented and were baptized. Indeed it is on the day of the first Pentecost that the world came to know the Triune God who is the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
A BRIEF THEOLOGY OF THE FEAST
This feast commemorates the coming of Holy Spirit on those who were gathered in the upper room. Hence it glorifies the Triune God who is invisible, mysterious and beyond human comprehension, thought and mind. The Triune God is self-existent, self sufficient, Maker and Author of all things visible and invisible and has no beginning and will continue till the end. This eternal, everlasting and the incomprehensible one true God is one in nature, one authority and one will of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is not in Him a name without a Person and no Person is younger or older than the other Person, neither is there any transformation or alteration of one Person in another in Greatness and smallness. No name or Person is younger or separated from the Divine Substance. Whenever the Father is mentioned, the Son and the Spirit are of Him, and when the Son is mentioned, the Father and the Spirit are acknowledged in Him, and when the Spirit is mentioned the Father and the Son are included. The Father begets and is not begotten. The Son is begotten and does not beget.The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and is taken from the Son and is consubstantial and co-essential with the Father. And so this feast has a liturgy specially divided into three parts that equally addresses the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
THE LITURGY OF THE FEAST
The church has designed a special liturgy for the feast of Pentecost. It is consummated along with the celebration of Holy Eucharist. This special liturgy of Pentecost is divided into three parts. These are the three prayers of kneeling in the name of trinity.The hymns of the first part are chanted to the third tune, those of the second to the fourth tune and those of the third to the seventh tune.
As per the routine services of the Sunday, Morning Prayer, third hour prayer, sixth hour prayers are completed. At the time of intercessory prayers (Basmalko/Kuklion/NinnaalSthuthiyoduRajamahal) three medium sized bowls are placed on the step (Dargo)of the Altar with water in the centre one and a fan (a bunch of leaves) made up of fresh leaves to sprinkle the water at the end of each prayers. As this liturgy is in continuation to the Holy Eucharist, all at the altar wear their full official vestments.
Prayer of kneeling
The first prayer of kneeling is addressed to the Father. The introductory prayer (Slooso), Psalms 51 and all the following prayers are done. After the evengelion and the litany, the deacon announces ‘Let us all kneel down and plead to our Lord’. At this time all people kneel down and say ‘Kurielaison’ meanwhile the priest too kneels down and says a silent prayer, at the end of which he announces ‘by the power of our God – you all stand up’. Then the priest sprinkles water on the gathering, starting from the ‘thronos’, and moves till the western door, and back to the ‘madbaha’. The first part of the liturgy ends here.
The second part of the liturgy addresses the Son, the sequence of the prayers and the manner of liturgy is the same. Only difference is that the whole importance here is given to the Son.
The third part of the liturgy is also the same with the difference that this part is addressed to the Holy Spirit. After sprinkling of water the third time, the priest and deacons enter the ‘madbaha’ and close the liturgy with the closing prayer. ‘Kurielaison’ meaning ‘lord have mercy on me’ is recited three times before continuing with the Holy Eucharist.
MAKING THE FEAST MEMORABLE
We in the Outside Kerala context mingle more with the other denominations of Christians, who may be living closer to us or may be our friends at our work places, or may be friends of our children at their schools and colleges. It is mostly noted that we being Orthodox Christians, our liturgies and church services are much lengthier to theirs. It is the duty not only of the Sunday school teachers, or the parish vicars but of all the parents too, to make the church feasts and festivals more memorable to the future generations, rather than forcefully making them attend these liturgies, without knowing their rich meanings. If the future generations understand the richness in our liturgies then it is definite that they are going to enjoy the Divine presence and providence through it and will never ever move away from it.
1. Attend the divine liturgy and feel the difference.
Attending the feast of Pentecost is very easy as compared to that of various other feasts as it falls on a Sunday. The special liturgy of the feast follows the Holy Eucharistic celebration. The service in particular fills us with joy as it is here that we receive the gifts of Holy Spirit. It is also for the first time that we kneel down after the paschal period. Participating in the kneeling ceremony fills us with repentance for our sins and forgiveness towards others. The sprinkling of blessed water by the priest, symbolizing the holy spirit, fills us with a tantalizing feeling that smoothens our heart of all the ill feelings created by our worldly affairs. We could explain our children the things that are going to happen during the Divine Liturgy so that they may get prepared for that and also understand the significances.
2. Pray for the universal divine intervention
We the humans are social beings. We depend on others for our very existence. There is no one living on the face of this planet who has till now never mingled with another person and the environment for any matter during his life. Our family is the smallest unit of this social gathering and then above that there are various entities that constitute higher levels of this social communion. There is a divine force that operates this universe, and that has been scientifically proven too. While attending the divine liturgy of feast of Holy Pentecost we have to make sure that we pray for a universal divine intervention. Many a times we become selfish, we pray for our self-well-being, for our near and dear ones, or for only those who request our prayers, apart from that let us on this Pentecost submit prayers for the whole universe. Let us pray for the imbalances that are being caused in the universal – ecological belts, for the ecological and environmental crisis that our universe is facing. Humans have been given the duty of being care takers of the nature. But due to their selfishness they are destroying the very nature without conserving it for their future generations. Humans are struggling day and night, so as to secure a better future for the coming generations, accumulating wealth, and all the luxuries, but what if they are accumulating all these Goodness for their successors at the cost of their environment and nature that are of prime importance for the very existence of the whole Human Race on the face of this Earth.
3. Take Pentecost resolutions
It is on this day that after hearing Peter’s sermon about three thousand repented and were baptized and joined the way. This should be the occasion of our repentance and taking up resolutions.
…Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:14-41). It is a fact that we all were baptized at the time we were newborns, and in that way, we got our citizenship in the world of the faithful. During our baptisms our god-parents on our behalf took the oath of faith, renouncing satan and accepting Jesus as the sole savior. As we grew up, we become more contaminated with the worldly affairs that in our lifetime till now we have many a times forsaken this oath of our God Parents. We have to see the feast of Pentecost as a time to repent in front of the Triune God, submitting ourselves and praying to the divine kindness and compassion to forgive us our sins. Every drop of the blessed water that falls on us should be taken as the dew of blessing, that rejuvenates us to lead a new life in Christ.
4. Feel and make feel the Gifts of Holy Spirit.
…fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control…(Galatians 5:22,23)
St.Paul exhorts that the fruits of Holy Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. Now that we have received the Holy Spirit we should reflect the fruits of Spirit in our lives. And in that way, we ourselves should feel and make feel to all whom we come in contact the presence of Holy Spirit in us. Often it is seen that after attending the divine liturgy and even after partaking in the Holy Eucharist people have no change in their inner beings. Make it a point that after this years Feast of Pentecost, we ourselves and those all with whom we come in contact perceive the presence of Holy Spirit in us. This will ultimately lead us to reflect the divine existence everywhere.
Our family, our society, our country, our neighborhood as a whole is churning hard in the imbalances and disturbances caused as a result of our unknown inclination towards evil. Being in the world has made us worldlier. Let us rise up high and receive the Holy Spirit as was received by those in the upper room. May the divine liturgy instill in us the Fruits of Holy Spirit. May God Bless us all to attend fruitfully this years Pentecost and Bring out the changes in Us.
OCP News Service