Today is a beautiful day, the great feast of the Pentecost. The Holy Scripture tells us all about it. Many years ago, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the house where the Apostles were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them (Acts 2: 1-3).
The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and the Holy Church. Our churches and chapels are overflowing with flowers and beautiful green garlands of eternal joy, youth, and love. Likewise, the blessing of the Holy Spirit brings beauty and a glimpse of paradise to our hearts.
The Lord bestows upon us the abundant gifts of His Holy Spirit in different colours, shapes and hues. Every human being is a universe. No two are alike. As the Apostle Paul teaches us, there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them, there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord; and different kinds of working, but in all of them and everyone, it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12: 4-6). In the eyes of God, every person is one of a kind; everyone is beautiful and precious. Everyone is God's beloved.
All too often, people distort this wonderful image of God in themselves by separating themselves from Him. A life without God is self-serving, self-centred and egoistic. In it, there is no room for sacredness or the sense of His presence. Sometimes, people cannot get themselves to spend some time alone and concentrate instead on impressing others. They make their lives look like a boxing ring, a theatrical stage, or a window shop. Days and years go by as if in a dream, and drowning themselves in their passions becomes their only purpose.
The enemy deceives us into thinking that there will always be time to change our ways, so we need not hurry. He makes us believe that we can forget about our imminent departure. Yet the Russian classic Nikolai Gogol cautions us that believing our enemy's lies will make us think of nothing else but fun and merry-making. Our hearts and souls will become insensitive to the pains and sorrows of others. Our souls will overgrow with flesh, and there will be no room left in them for God. The Holy Church keeps our souls awake and reminds us that the Kingdom of God is not just about good food and drink but also about righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit.
Not coincidentally, the Serbian elder Thaddeus foresees that we will be asked on Judgement Day how we had used our God-given life, His Divine energy and our time on earth. Did we make use of those gifts to seek the grace of His spirit or to let destruction, chaos, hate and despair reign in our hearts?
We live in a troubled world full of complex politics, international tensions and endless struggles over markets and resources. But humanity's most fateful struggle is the invisible battle for our souls and humanity.
May our churches bask in the lush green and in beautiful flowers. May faith and love adorn our hearts, and the flames of the Holy Spirit give us the strength and inspiration to proceed on the arduous journey of our lives.
Hegumen Tikhon (Borisov) of Optina Pustyn Monastery