On this day, the fiftieth after Easter, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost when the fullness of the Holy Trinity was revealed through the coming of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
On this day we sing that Christ ‘made the fishermen most wise’. How did Christ do this?
Did he sit them on a school bench and proceed to teach them?
Did he give them advanced courses in Greek Philosophy?
Did he set them a translation from Hebrew into Latin?
Did he ask them to learn off by heart an Encyclopedia of Theology?
No, of course not. Instead He taught them humility and purity of heart, and then when they were ready, He sent down from His Father the Holy Spirit. This humility and purity of heart, crowned by the Holy Spirit, is the key to understanding, it is Wisdom.
This explains why very highly educated people are often the stupidest, responsible for terrible misfortunes and genocides. Thus, there have been many great geniuses in the history of the world and many of them have become blood-soaked dictators. It is one thing to have instruction, but it is quite another to know how to use that instruction. This is the meaning of wisdom. Wisdom is discernment, or the ability to use aright information and knowledge. On the other hand, the meaning of stupidity is to have instruction and instead of using it for good, to use it to blind oneself, to fall in love with oneself and be so full of oneself that one is blind to God and so denies the existence of God, which is so obvious to the simplest peasant. As the Scriptures say: ‘The fool has said in his heart, there is no God’.
Pride blinds but humility opens eyes.
Pride makes the Holy Spirit to flee, but humility draws the Holy Spirit like a magnet.
This is why two equally educated people may read the Gospels, one will become a believer, the other will dismiss them as a myth. The first has humility and purity of heart and therefore his spiritual eyes will be opened. The other has pride and therefore he will be blinded by pride and self-opinion and puffing himself up, will make himself ridiculous. Thus, understanding is quite independent of education, but dependent on humility and purity of heart. For it is not written, ‘Blessed are the educated’, but: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.
On account of this you will notice that wherever there is pride, there are stubbornly-held opinions and therefore divisions. For pride leads to disunity, and humility leads to unity. This is what we sing of in another hymn today, the kontakion. We recognise that at the time when men in their pride built the Tower of Babel, there was a confusion of tongues. Indeed the very word ‘Babel’ has become a synonym for confusion. On the other hand, we recognise that among the humble the Holy Spirit brought unity and different peoples were able to understand one another despite difference of language. Why is this? It is because opinions and opinionatedness and so divisions are the fruit of impurity in the heart, the fruit of pride.
For example, many people say of the Church: ‘Ah yes, that is a good idea, but I do not go to Church because there are so many divisions and splits’. But no divisions exist in the Church, they exist only among those who break away from the Church and Her Spirit, the Holy Spirit. All divisions, from the most ancient to the most modern, exist because of pride. If we look at every single split from the Church, we find pride, either personal or collective.
Thus there are those split away from the Church because of their nationality and language and politics: collective pride They refuse to belong to the same Church as those of another nationality and language and politics. This is true of the Monophysites in Egypt and Armenia; it is true of Roman Catholics with their Latin racial and cultural base; it is true of Anglicans who prefer to follow a specific English Protestant culture from after the Reformation instead of English Orthodox culture of their forebears of the First Millennium. Then there are those who leave the Church because they prefer to follow one man instead of God. All such groups are named after the man they prefer to follow, be they Wesleyans or Calvinists, Lutherans or Arians and so on.
All these groups, whether they follow a political or a national or a personal ideology, end up leaving the Church. Why? Because they put the things of this world first and the Spirit second. Where there is the Holy Spirit, there is unity. Where the Holy Spirit is not, there is an ideology of whatever sort, and thus division. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’.
That is why today faithful Orthodox Christians, members of the Church, of all ages and all over the world and of all nationalities and languages celebrate the Feast of Pentecost together. Today we concelebrate the Feast with the Apostles and the Fathers, the Martyrs and the Confessors, of all ages, of ages past and of the present age and of the age to come. Today we concelebrate going back in history, with the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors, with the Martyrs and Confessors of the Croat yoke, with the Chinese Martyrs whose feast-day it is, with the Martyrs and Confessors under the Turks, with the English Martyrs under the Danes like St Edmund, with the Martyrs and Confessors of North Africa, with the Martyrs and Confessors of Ancient Rome, with the Martyrs and Confessors of Asia Minor, with all Orthodox Christians of all the ages. And this day we concelebrate the same Faith with the faithful in our churches in Jerusalem, in Alaska, in Siberia, in Argentina, in Uganda, in France, in Athens, in Tokyo, in Lisbon, in Sydney, in Bucharest, in Ottawa, in San Francisco. For we confess the same Orthodox Faith of the Holy Spirit, ‘Who proceeds from the Father and rests on the Son’, for we confess the same Orthodox Faith of the Holy Spirit, Who brings Wisdom and Unity wherever there is humility and purity of heart.