Preparation for the Feast of the Pentecost – Literature – Resources (2022)

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Preparation for the Feast of the Pentecost – Literature – Resources (5)

"To which course, many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit. Without paper or ink, they carefully preserved the ancient traditionThose who have believed this faith without any written documents are barbarians as to language. But as to doctrine, manner, and tenor of life they are, because of faith, very wise indeed" Irenaeus (c. 180).

The Glorious and Divinely Inspired Feast of the Pentecost heralds the beginning of the missionary sojourn of the twelve Apostles. It earmarks the beginning of each of the twelve Apostles’ journey into oft time’s unfamiliar and hostile territories. The crucial crux of these journeys would be to find all those who would but hear, accept and then be obedient to the teachings of our Ascended Lord Jesus Christ. The task would be a daunting one of overcoming cultural mores, idolatry in worship, language barriers, and primitive belief systems. Not only necessitating courage, apostolic evangelism required extensive knowledge derived individually and collectively from the personal teachings of our All Knowing Lord Jesus Christ while upon this earth.

Apostolic teachings would carry out the "Great Commission" given to them by our Lord, in an era without the benefit of our fundamental resources. There were no handouts from a xerox machine or a booklet from printing presses to reinforce teachings. The twelve Apostles were without theologians and reference books. In particular they were without a non-prejudicial justice system of equality for all men.

The apostles had no tele-communication systems to cross-check events, parables, miracles and understanding of each among themselves, or to receive and provide support, much less warnings to one another of impending danger. It would prove to us all what dedication, love and willing sacrifice of a small group of faithful who possessed no wealth nor weapons can accomplish by sheer will. It was termed accurately the "GREAT Commission"-- the greatest and most historical significant of tasks that continues to impact our world more than two thousand years later.

The apostles travelled either alone or in small numbers, would threaten or condemn no one. They would throw no stones nor would harsh words taunt their enemies. Those who were martyred would suffer persecution and die alone. Truly to withstand the odds against them, much prayerful preparation would be required of them. The Holy Spirit could not abide within them without the conviction of faith and the love and care nurtured from their personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, of which they were sustained immeasurably and grew strong in fervor without fear.

The apostles were not churched upon the Holy Gospels because they did not exist. Those among the twelve Apostles would actually come to author them. From the twelve Apostles would spring forth their teachings they had been indoctrinated to by our Lord Jesus. From the twelve Apostles teachings would rise the ancient Christian writers and the pre and post Nicene Fathers. Translations of the Holy Gospels continue until today. Further, the remaining Holy Books of the New Testament are based upon the teachings of the twelve Apostles again derived from the original teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Society and circumstance did not favor individuals with an evangelistic message but rather radical groups that could incite distrust and disbelief. Families were often distinguished by Jewish standing and oratory skill. Those with the loudest and most aggressive voices frequently drew the curiosity of the crowds as was the case with the Holy Crucifixion of our Lord the twelve Apostles less than two months prior had been confronted with. What we do know is that the disciples were not born with fortitude and courage, and that they were not prepared for the horrendous crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, for a crime in which our Lord did not commit nor blasphemy in which our Lord did not actually utter.

With this type of ancient earthly environment in constant flux, how could anyone venture out without preparation of a Divine Nature?

Apostolic Preparation
Four important phases of preparation would ensue. Four phases that continue to be applicable examples to our lives today in continuing the missionary work of our beloved Church: 1) utilize self-control, wait upon the Lord, He will guide you, 2) go the extra step in prayer supplicating His will, 3) continue in prayer without ceasing, and 4) guard against sin.

First the twelve Apostles were prepared by learning self-control. The apostles were instructed by our Lord Jesus to "wait" for the Promise of the Father and not to depart from the City of Jerusalem. Being obedient to the authority of their Teacher they remained assembled together and in Jerusalem. The apostles did not impulsively go out and immediately preach or teach nor venture toward a direction of their own human understanding or self-preservation.

"...He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father "which" He said ‘you have heard from Me, for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit, not many days from now" (Acts 1:4-5).

Second, the apostles while remaining in Jerusalem and anticipating the Promise of the Father did not lackadaisically wait, did not sit and grumble as to not having a specific date and time, and though with vague understanding of a predilection to come did not day dream about what this could actually entail. Rather they called themselves to action and purpose. They prayed in unison, in search of understanding and for the fullness of time to comprehend what their humanness rendered them incapable of.

"And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alpheus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and in supplication" (Acts 1:13-14).

Third, the apostles remained in prayer. They had not been commanded to pray, only to wait. Their prayer was cohesive making them one, and of group effort making it persistent. A prayerful time of contemplation and an attempt to comprehend the fullness of what they followed, pledged to obey the teachings, and dedicate their earthly existence to the evangelism promoting it. During the time of the return to upper room they continued in belief of an earthly kingdom in which our Lord Jesus Christ would live and reign. It was only after fervent prayer and a supplicating nature following the Pentecost their minds would be open to accept the full understanding of the Kingdom of God.

"The Christian feast of Pentecost falls on the fiftieth day after Easter. It commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and disciples. Now the custom took its rise from apostolic times. The blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares this in his treatise ‘On Easter.’ In it he makes mention of Pentecost also, upon which day we do not bend the knee because it is of equal significance with the Lord’s Day" Eusebius- citing Irenaeus (c.180).

The twelve Apostles expectations were that the Kingdom of Heaven would be restored to Israel. Many misconceptions would be clarified at the Day of Pentecost. Israel and the world--those who accepted and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ would be restored TO the Kingdom of Heaven. For such understanding to transpire with comprehension in the minds of earthly man- would indeed require the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

The apostles, the core of the disciples, would forever engrave the term "prayer meetings" in the hearts of us all.

"As I conceive it, sanctity is perfect pureness of mind, deeds, thoughts, and words. In its last degree, it is sinlessness in dreams" Clement of Alexandria (c. 195).

Fourth, during the days of waiting the Holy Gospel writer St. Luke would record the legitimacy and vital function of the eleven Apostles restoration of a vacant position (Judas Iscariot) in the service of twelve Chosen. St. Peter with sound conviction would assert the premise that the apostolic replacement must be one who accompanied our Lord’s disciples from the time of St. John the Baptist until the Lord Jesus Christ’s Heavenly Ascension. He further must have been a witness to the Glorious Resurrection and the Risen Lord and Savior. St. Peter staunchly promoted that the one selected to replace Judas Iscariot must have been with our Lord’s travels and travails and have a working knowledge of the Lord’s words and miraculous works.

Two candidates were selected and chosen was Matthias. Matthias was to begin apostolic succession but at the time it represented a dire concern, sin could creep into the line of the Apostles and it was essential to restore leadership. It is doubtful that even the apostles could imagine such a long line of unbroken patriarchs that would follow in the paths of their examples and teachings.

Lots were cast for the two candidates from whom Matthias was chosen. Each of the two had their name placed upon a stone and the stone placed into a container. The container was shaken and turned upside down until one of the stones fell out. The implicit desire was for our Lord Jesus Christ to choose the member who would fill the vacant position just as He chose the eleven remaining.

"But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My father bestowed one upon Me that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:30).

Preparation for the Age to Come
Matthias many scholars believe was an evangelist to the Ethiopians. I often think of the parallels of the fullness of time that encompasses our beloved Coptic Church as well. Just as God supplied the twelve Apostles with St. Matthias, our Lord Jesus Christ will supply our beloved Church with all the gifts, talents, and resources it needs for fulfilling the apostles footsteps and evangelism fervency.

When I ponder upon the accomplishments of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, it seems it took 116 popes before His Holiness to prepare for the great evangelistic efforts that took place during His Holiness papacy. Each of our 117 Coptic Holy Fathers within a long unbroken lineage was gifted and talented for his papacy which systematically led up to the great evangelistic fervor that exists today in our beloved Coptic Church.

Evangelism has taken such a Coptic stronghold that there are large church populations in which clergy are needed as well as bishops. The Holy Synod numbers in the hundreds, the priests are countless, and the announcements innumerable of churches being established in new cities, in new provinces and in new countries "to the ends of the earth". This does not account for the churches in same cities and surrounding areas that out of necessity due to ever growing and expanding populations are constructed.

The Coptic Church seems to follow in the same path of preparation for the evangelistic journey. Bishops and priests whose first language is Arabic and second is fundamental Coptic love of our Lord Jesus Christ take them to countries whose language and culture is different from one in which they are acquainted and familiar and THRIVE. Churches grow and buildings swell and then multiply infinitely. Following the churches in missionary lands are monasteries, residences for Nuns, theological colleges, schools for children, hospitals, recreational areas, and bookstores dedicated to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The homeland of the Coptic Orthodox Church has prepared us for status as a minority not to be moved and to remain unchanged. It has skilled us in facing diversity, challenges, and survival. The desert and its heat have prepared our consecrated for the winds of change, acceptance of the sand as well as the rain, and prayer for each one.

"What else is the preservation of humanity that to love a man because he is a man and the same as ourselves?...If it is contrary to nature to injure a man, it must be in accordance with nature to benefit a man. And he who does not do this deprives himself of the title of a man" Lactantius (c. 304-313, W).

Multitudes attend church with the uncertainty of safety yet the courage and conviction of faith keep white church candles burning brightly, communion can take hours forging patient endurance and conviction of divinely inspired belief, and to wear a cross symbolizes understanding of the consequences of a life following our Lord Jesus Christ carries a risk worth taking and an understanding that eternal life- not a mortal one is optimal for an existence in peace.

To fully understand peace one must understand wars and rumors of wars, one must comprehend and experience prejudice not simply read of it, to have a greater understanding of martyrdom one must realize the very enlightening possibility it could happen to them or to someone they are acquainted with. This is reliving the preparation of what is necessary to spread the Holy Gospel by deed if not by preaching and teaching.

We too must find our place in evangelism whether it is promoting the church’s efforts through our gifts talents, and blessings or ensuring the stabilization of the mother church and homeland. We must pray for those who are being challenged, light candles in continued prayer for those who are chartering new paths of preaching and teaching and if called follow the path we are led in firm conviction and unwavering faith following the examples of the twelve Apostles upon the Day of the Pentecost.

Evangelism is not to be taken lightly but of extreme seriousness, just as are the last words, the last instruction of the risen now ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord does not mention multiple choice options or give alternative dictates. Let us all be assured our Lord Jesus Christ will also be a returning Lord who will follow up on His last words in His humanity prior to His Ascension...

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20).

He is with us now, will be with us forever, and until the ages of ages if we are obedient to those teachings given unto us by the twelve Apostles anointed with Flames of Fire...

May we all truly seek that perfect reign, that perfect kingdom, that glorious and anticipated eternal life through the evangelistic precepts set forth by those Twelve present at the Divinely Inspired Day of Pentecost. Amen.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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