Tongue Speaker

Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels…”- I Corinthians 13


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 “glossolalia”, or the language 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.

The Day of Pentecost was a recapitulation. It reversed an ancient curse – the Tower of Babel- where the human family was divided by language. Now, because of the abiding presence of the Spirit in the Church, it would be the place where all divisions would be overcome. The book of Ephesians expresses this wonderful reality. In Christ, there will be no Jew versus Gentile, male or female, master or slave, etc. This is why division in the Church is such a sin against the Holy Spirit.  

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 being 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 drives us to pray and to the confessional. Holy passion causes us to speak in tongues. It was the passionless passion of Christ that compelled Him to the Cross. 

With holy passion, I can learn to speak in the tongues of angels. What are those words?They are  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 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 true charismatic. You gave me the Spirit in baptism and sealed me with holy Unction; now slay me in the Spirit. Let me know each day the heat of holy passion in my heart, so that I too might speak words of life to my spouse, my family, to the Church, and proclaim your Gospel to the whole world.

We have a Vesper service after the liturgy of Pentecost.  In it, we kneel and ask for the Spirit to be a greater reality in our lives.

Lord, give us more true charismatic Orthodox Christians who speak in the real tongues of angels- words of faith, hope and love.     

2 Responses to “Tongue Speaker”

  1. lost and found Says:

    Wwhat a wonderful blog, Father. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I now and then, in times of trouble, used to go to the website of All Saints of North America and read your “articles.” I am glad there is a blog now. May God bless you for all your kindness!

  2. Andrew Says:

    Good blog, Father. It gets me thinking about the wide spread nomanalism that is out there(and can be found in me at times). Seems to be not unique to Protestant circles but can be found in Catholic and Orthodox as well. And I am encouraged to know that Passionless faith makes you want to spit.

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