“Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels…”- I Corinthians 13
I was only a boy about six, maybe seven years old. I sat in amazement and with a bit of fear as I watched my pentecostal grandparents and the rest of the congregation go through the “glory fits” (This is what they called the times when the “spirit” would descend upon them and they would speak in tongues and dance and shiver and shake).The wildest moment occured when they would get “slain in the spirit,” and they would fall to the ground and seem to lose consciousness (and yes, they would roll sometimes). What was interesting to me was that this was the same grandmother that had been in bed all day. When we went into her bedroom, we found her propped up on pillows, her bed surrounded with small tables where every inch of table space was covered with some kind of medicine bottle or ointment. Most days, we would find her in the same place. The odd thing was that she believed firmly in divine healing and in every service, she raised her hands in the air and was slain in the spirit and would proclaim her healing. The other odd thing was that as I grew older, I came to know some of the people in that church. Despite all the hand raising and tongue speaking, there were a lot of hard and mean people sitting in those pews.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve known some wonderful pentecostal people. Still, thank God, I’m Orthodox.
It’s a wonderful idea to think that the Lord never gives us a command without giving us the means to fulfill that command. Christ told the Apostles to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. This is tough to do when all you speak is some Aramaic, and maybe a little Greek or Latin. On the day of Pentecost, the early Church received the grace to fulfill the command of Christ. When the Holy Spirit fell upon the Mothers and Fathers in the upper room, they spoke in tongues. No, I don’t mean the babbling of charismatics or modern day Pentecostals. I mean that the early Church was given the grace to fulfill the Lord’s command, and on that first day of Pentecost, those gathered from all parts of the earth heard the Gospel proclaimed in their own language.
One of the most enduring symbols of the Holy Spirit is a cluster of grapes. From grapes we get wine, and wine can alter our sense of reality and put us in touch with a lot of passions (I do speak from a good bit of personal experience). When drunk, we are either filled with rage or overcome with giddiness and foolishness. It might seem odd to us that the grace of the Spirit should be compared to drunkenness, but this means that Pentecost is about being filled with Holy Passion and aflame with love to the point of intoxication. In fact, there is nothing worse than an Orthodox Christian with no passion. It makes you want to spit! (Revelation)
But wait, doesn’t Orthodoxy teach us that we are to flee from passions? Yes, but I’m talking about Passion, not passions. Holy passion drives monks to fast and fast and fast. Holy passion keeps priests up at night praying for their people and struggling with their own sinfulness. Holy passion helps us to continue on despite our persistent sinfulness and failings. Holy passion caused St. John of Shanghai to walk the streets of San Francisco at night sprinkling holy water and praying over a city that hardly knew him or cared to know him.
I must become a tongue speaker – to speak in the tongues of angels – so that I too can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I need the Spirit to help me speak words of faith, hope, encouragement, love, and grace. These words save souls, makes disciples, and establish the church. With these words I can speak to a Boston sophisticate or a Georgia redneck or a California hippie. This is how St. Paul said it: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. ”That is holy passion!
Sadly, I speak in the tongues of men. I speak not with Holy Passion, but with my passions. My words are words of faithlessness, despair, judgment, anger, narrow-mindedness, worldliness, insincerity, and complaining. These words do not build lives or strengthen hearts. These words only tear down and destroy. I am just like those Pentecostal people in my grandmother’s church. I was given the Spirit, and blessed in so many ways, but I am mean and hard and sinful.
Lord, I am Orthodox; now make me a charismatic – one who has received a gift and lives in it. You gave me the Spirit in baptism; now slay me in the Spirit – give me the grace of Holy Passion that I too might speak in tongues and proclaim your Gospel to the whole world. In the Vesper service of Pentecost, I will kneel and ask for it. By the prayers of St. Seraphim, may it be so.
Source: Ramblings of a Redneck Priest
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