On the great day of Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. At that time we are given an understanding of how the Lord enabled His followers to preach the Gospel and carry out their mission of making "disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that (Christ) commanded..." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Pentecost was an actual historical event - the last of those accomplished for our salvation. The Church has always been very much aware of its history and reminds the faithful constantly of its past. It does not live in the past, however, as is often said. As a matter of fact, it might be said in some sense, that the historical element of any liturgical celebration is the least important. What is most significant is the impact on our lives and on the life of the world, here and now, of the event remembered. Furthermore, it is crucial to recall that everything done for us by Christ and with the Spirit's descent led to God's Kingdom being initiated now, in the course of human history, before the end of that history. In light of that Kingdom revealed the Gospel tells us that all are called to "repent," orienting their lives toward the "the one thing needful."
Looking back generally and upon their own past, Christians affirm that God Himself came into this world breaking through the long succession of events called history. One might say that He interrupted the course of history. God revealed Himself to man in a close and intimate way, by living with him. He taught man about Himself and the meaning of human existence. Those who accepted His teachings and became His followers were called out into a special community known as the Church. St. Peter, referring to this call wrote, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people;..." (1 Peter 2:9-10)
The Church is both the witness to the Truth that was revealed by Christ, and also the experience, in every generation, of God's people living the life of the Kingdom of Heaven - living it imperfectly sometimes, to be sure, because we are not totally and finally integrated into that Kingdom, and because the kingdom of this world still places before us many and diverse temptations. Yet we are called to live in this world, primarily as citizens of God's Kingdom, to go about our daily routine, not as anyone else might, but as the people of God. We have been transformed by our Baptism, by our personal Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit at our Chrismation), and we are totally and completely united with Christ each time we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. This is our experience of the Kingdom of God by anticipation, right now, before the end of time. Thus, when we go back into the world, having "seen the True Light," we go back refreshed, strengthened, with a renewed vision, prepared to approach this world with more wisdom and understanding. We go back ready to stand out as Christ's disciples in a world that does not generally accept or follow Him.
All of us would agree that what has been outlined above is that which is expected of any Christian. We are to live in constant remembrance of Christ; we are to remember His teachings and commandments, being thankful for these and for all that He has done for us; and we are to live as our Lord showed us, bearing witness in our lives to God's power and presence and to the revelation of His Kingdom in the Church. Those who have done this are called Saints. The Saints were those whose lives were so permeated with the remembrance and love of God that they were transformed and were able to transform those with whom they came in contact. Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Monks, Nuns, Hierarchs, Laymen - holy men and women within these categories of Saints are remembered throughout the year on the Church's calendar, but all together on the Sunday after Pentecost dedicated to All Saints. The exact placement of this one, comprehensive commemoration is understandable. All Saints Sunday is the fulfillment of Pentecost. Through the lives of the Saints the Holy Spirit's operation in the world is evident. The Sunday after Pentecost is a reminder, indeed a declaration, that people from all walks of life, baptized and sealed with the Spirit, have a common vocation or call to holiness. They are all beckoned to confess Christ before the world through their words and by the sanctity of their lives.
Possibly one of the worst indictments against present-day Christians is that many of us do not consciously recognize our having undergone a personal Pentecost. There are those within our ranks who would prefer to live in the past, making the Church into a museum of antiquities, rather than looking ahead to the possibilities that await those who are "called to be saints." In fact, the Orthodox Christian's chief sin in our times is cynicism - we doubt our vocation, we doubt the vocation of others - we talk about callings and vocations and are still skeptical about whether those goals are even attainable - denying in the process the real sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. We can thank our Lord for the gift of recently canonized American Saints who demonstrate that even in our twentieth century society sainthood is possible.
In our gatherings every year to celebrate the Sunday of All Saints, let us remember that it is holiness and perfection to which we are ultimately called. The Apostle Peter writes, "...but as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 15-16)And Christ said, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Let us neither doubt nor run from our common vocation. Rather, let us rejoice in the opportunity to share in all that belongs properly to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ and to help impart that to others.