Kontakion for Pentecost

by St. Romanos the Melodist, 6th century

When the Most High came down and confused the tongues,
he divided the nations.
When he distributed the tongues of fire, he called all to unity;
and with one voice we glorify
the All-Holy Spirit.

Give swift and stable comfort to your servants, Jesus,
when our spirits are despondent.
Do not part from our souls in afflictions,
do not be far from our minds in perils, be ever before us.
Be near us, be near, you who are everywhere.
As you are also always with your apostles,
so too unite yourself with those who long for you,
O Compassionate One,
that united to you, we may praise and glorify
the All-Holy Spirit.

You were not parted from your disciples, Saviour, when you took
The road to heaven,
For having reached the things on high, you still hold those below,
for not one place is separate from you, O Uncontainable;
and were there such a place, it perishes and vanishes and becomes like Sodom.
For you establish the universe, filling all things.
The apostles there had you in their souls.
And so, when you had been taken up from the Mount of Olives,
they came down dancing and singing and glorifying
the All-Holy Spirit.

The eleven disciples returned with joy from the Mount of Olives.
For Luke, the revealer of sacred mysteries, writes this.
they returned to Jerusalem,
ascended to the upper room, where they were staying. They entered
and sat down –
Peter and the rest of the disciples.
Kephas, as their leader, said to them,
“Sharers of the Kingdom, let our hearts be on high
with the One who made the promise and said, `I will send you
the All-Holy Spirit.'”

When he had spoken like this to the apostles, Peter roused them to prayer,
and standing in their midst, cried out,
“Let us pray, let us bend the knee, let us ask,
let us make this room a church. For so it is and so it has become.
Let us sing and cry aloud to God,
`Send us your good Spirit
that he may guide us all into your upright land
which you have prepared for those who honor and who glorify
the All-Holy Spirit.'”

On hearing this, those who had been called with him gathered
themselves at once
like lambs to a shepherd, charmed by his word,
and silently they articulated what they longed for
and made intense supplications to the Almighty,
which contained these words,
“To you the Governor and King of the angels,
to the Suzerain and Creator of mortals,
to you, the One who by his mere nod holds sway
over things on earth and sea,
your friends and servants cry aloud, `Swiftly send us
the All-Holy Spirit.'”

As soon as they had completed their supplications, they signed them,
having sealed them with faith and sent them on high.
Their Teacher read them and said,
“Of your own free will, O Paraclete, under no order, but as you wish,
descend.
For the disciples, whom I gathered
for you and the Father, await you,
the ones whom I instructed when I said, `Make disciples of the nations
proclaiming the Father, honoring the Son and praising
the All-Holy Spirit.'”

Then God the Paraclete heeded those who implored him
and took hold of them as they prayed.
Yet the ineffable in no way changed his place,
for condescension did not become alteration,
nor did he suffer diminution,
for he was on high and he was below and everywhere.
For divine nature is ineffable and intangible.
He is not seen with the eyes, but he is known by faith.
He is not grasped by hands, but he is handled
by the hearts of believers,
the All-Holy Spirit.

When the divine Pentecost had been completed, [i.e., 50 days]
the eleven initiates
stood together, persevering in prayers,
and, as the reading from Acts says,
there came a sudden sound, as of a mighty wind,
resounding from heaven,
while it filled the whole room with fire,
but even more, it also struck the loved ones with amazement.
And so, seeing the house tossed about like a skiff,
they cried out, “Master, still the storm and send
the All-Holy Spirit.”

The wise apostles, thinking the whole upper room
was collapsing under the wind,
all shut their eyes in fear.
And then, something more fearful came to pass
and wonder succeeding wonder
added to the first alarm a second terror.
For fiery tongues were touching them again,
and lighting on the head of the beloved,
tongues that were not burning their hair,
but enlightening their minds;
for to purify and cleanse he had sent them on before him,
the All-Holy Spirit.

When Peter saw all that had taken place, he cried out, “Brothers,
let us honor what we see, do not let us pry into it.
Let no one say, `What is this that is being done?’
For what has been accomplished surpasses understanding and vanquishes reasoning.
Spirit and fire are yoked together – certain wonder.
Breeze and flame are linked together – awesome spectacle.
Torches with winds, and sparks with drops of dew.
Who has seen? Who has heard? Who can say what he grants,
the All-Holy Spirit.

“You then, beloved, stand your ground and quietly contemplate the fire
that He who Is in the highest has sent from on high.
Do not be afraid, for the coals do not burn.
Do not be amazed, for this fire does not consume,
but as prudent men remember
how of old the three youths received fire,
how their bodies were not burned, nor a single hair,
how that which received the three showed them to be four,
for it gave up with interest those it had received, because it feared
the All-Holy Spirit.

“So, brothers, let each of you now cast away the fear from his soul
and let him show his longing for the One who was taken up.
For this is how he loved those whom he called:
everything that he foretold he has fulfilled, as he said,
so he has done.
Why then should we be afraid of a flame that does not burn?
Let us think that the fire is a rose, as indeed it is,
for it has been placed on our heads like flowers
with which he has crowned us, adorned us, made us resplendent,
the All-Holy Spirit.”

When Kephas had said this to all the apostles, he became still
along with them
and with them received the Holy Spirit,
for the latter had come after this, as it is written.
He had used as forerunners the two wonders of fire and wind,
because it was necessary that a wonder run before the Spirit,
necessary that a flame precede the Enlightener
and inform the world beforehand like a sounding trumpet
that, as he knows how and as he wills, he comes upon the earth,
the All-Holy Spirit.

Great and fearful were all the things that happened
and they held the minds of all,
for suddenly, being filled with the Spirit, they all
spoke with those who heard them just as they heard them,
to the Romans not as foreigners, to the Parthians like themselves
and to the Medes as their own.
To the Elamites they appeared to be speaking well and clearly,
to the Arabs they were immediately their kin.
To Asians and Phrygians they spoke clearly and distinctly
and to all the nations they were speaking as he gave them power,
the All-Holy Spirit.

But when those who were there from every land saw them all
speaking in tongues,
they were amazed and cried out, What does this mean?
The apostles are Galileans;
how then, as we now see, have they become fellow countrymen
of all the nations?
When did Peter Kephas ever see Egypt?
When did Andrew ever dwell in Mesopotamia?
How did the sons of Zebedee see Pamphylia?
How can we understand these things? What are we to say?
It was entirely as he willed it,
the All-Holy Spirit.

Now those who before were fishermen have become skilled speakers.
Now those who once
stood by the shores of lakes are orators, and clear ones.
Those who previously used to mend their nets
now unravel the webs of orators
and make them worthless with simpler utterances.
For they speak one Word, instead of many,
they proclaim one God, not one of many.
The One as one they worship, a Father beyond understanding,
a Son consubstantial and inseparable, and like to them
the All-Holy Spirit.

Was it not then given them to overcome all
through the tongues they speak?
And why do the fools outside strive for victory?
Why do the Greeks puff and buzz?
Why are they deceived by Aratos the thrice accursed?
Why err like wandering planets to Plato?
Why do they love debilitated Demosthenes?
Why do they not consider Homer a chimera?
Why do they go on about Pythagoras,
who were better muzzled?
Why do they not run believing to those to whom has appeared
the All-Holy Spirit.

Brothers, let us sing the praise of the tongues of the disciples
because, not with elegant words,
but with divine power they caught all mortals in their nets,
because they took up His Cross like a rod,
because they used words again as lines and fished the world,
because they had the Word as a sharp hook,
because the flesh of the Master of all things became for them
a bait, not hunting to bring death,
but drawing out to life those who honor and glorify
the All-Holy Spirit.

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Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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1 Comment

  1. This Kontakion, and its emphasis on fire, reminds me of a conversation I had with a young woman whose 3-year-old son was terrified of receiving Communion – now that you are a priest, I thought you might like to be aware of this possibility. She mentioned his terror to a friend of hers, who said, “Children don’t see what we see. Maybe he sees It for what It really is – a Bowl of Fire. A Chalice full of flame.”

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