In the first dacade of the 20th Century the so-called “Charismatic” movement was born (in Los Angeles, California, USA). Its aim was to renew among Christians the supernatural gifts given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost and, in particular, “the gift of tongues,” a sudden ability to speak in different languages. In a relatively short time a number of Baptist and Methodist churches joined the Charismatic movement and it gained much popularity. This thirst for the grace of God was to be expected in the sectarian environment of Protestantism, which cut itself off from the Apostolic succession and became devoid of the revitalizing power of the Holy Spirit which, since Apostolic times, Christians of the true Church received in the Holy Sacraments. Ordinary prayers and singing during religious meetings cannot give complete spiritual satisfaction to the human soul.


As the Charismatic movement became more and more popular, there appeared in different parts of the United States several unions of pentecostals. The Charismatic drive affected also more traditional churches, like the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox. Comparatively not long ago, communities of penteconstals started appearing in Europe and Russia.


Instead of seeking from the Holy Spirit the most important inner gifts – like deep faith, humility, thirst for righteousness, true love and so forth – the charismatics turned attention toward the external and sensational aspects of the Miracle of Pentecost. They concentrated on arousing in themselves the ability to speak in different languages, and in this they turned to some artificial and even shamanistic techniques. This Speaking in “tongues” takes at times ugly forms and has no similarity with the gifts of the Holy Spirit of the Apostolic age.


One learns about the properties of the genuine “gift of tongues” given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost in the initial chapters of the book Acts of the Holy Apostles. The essence and purpose of this gift is explained by the Apostle Paul in chapters 12 to 14 of his epistle to Corinthians. The gift of tongues was necessary in Apostolic times to speedily propagate the Gospel among different nations. Having received from God the gift to speak new languages, the Apostles became able to preach bypassing the time-consuming process of learning different languages. The gift of tongues was an important factor in speeding the spread of Christianity. As we know from the subsequent history of the Church, the gift of tongues did not last for long. As in various countries there appeared local Christian preachers, the need for the supernatural speaking in tongues decreased as well. Thus, in the times of Iriney of Lyon in the middle of the 3rd century this gift became a rare event.


From the message the of Apostle Paul to the Corinthians one may conclude that it was in this church that the gift of tongues was particularly valued. As we know, in Apostolic times the gift of tongues was one among many spiritual faculties given to Christians after Baptism by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands. Since not all Corinthian Christians were properly using the gift of tongues, the Apostle Paul felt it necessary to explain to them its proper meaning and intent. The problem was that at their religious meetings many Corinthian Christians spoke simultaneously in several languages without any real need for that. The hidden purpose was to boast one before another, and the gift of God was clearly misused. Saint Paul explained in his epistle that the gift of tongues is needed for preaching to turn heathens to the true faith, but is useless for those who already believe.


Moreover, used in a wrong place and at a wrong time, the gift of tongues had a negative influence on religious meetings. When, for example, during common prayer a few people simultaneously began to speak in different dialects which were incomprehensible for most of those present, common prayer was disturbed, and religious feeling was lost. To correct this situation, Paul explained to the Corinthians that the gift of tongues was the least one among other spiritual gifts. The Corinthians would do right if they asked God to enrich them with faith, temperance, patience, love, wisdom and other useful inner qualities instead of insisting on the gift of tongues. This clarification made by the Apostle seems to be forgotten by contemporary charismatics.


Besides, when comparing the true gift of tongues of the Apostles’ time with the verbalism during charismatic meetings one must admit a substantial difference between them. In the Apostles’ time Christians were given the ability to speak a true and intelligible human language. It was an articulate and meaningful speech worthy of a preacher of truth. In contrast to this true gift, the contemporary speaking in “tongues” is mere verbiage of incoherent and senseless sounds coming out either as muttering or as frantic exclamations. Pentecostals themselves admit this fact, explaining, however, that they speak the language of the “inhabitants of paradise.” But these senseless sounds could hardly be assigned to a miracle of God. They are just the result of nervous exaltation, falling into a trance and hallucinations which borders on madness. Sectarians are merely blaspheming when they attribute to heavenly inspiration their artificially provoked exaltation and inarticulate sounds.


On a broader scale, contemporary society is on a widespread drive for thrilling feelings. It encourages sexual dissoluteness, misuse of stimulants, chemicals and drugs, passion for movies full of awful crimes and all kinds of demonic horrors, wild music arousing wicked and erotic feelings and so forth. All these perversions are signs of the illness of contemporary society and of religious degradation.


In the same way when a Christian, instead of looking for purity of conscience and closeness to God, during prayer looks for delight and ecstasy, he manifests his passionate and proud spirit. In charismatic experiences there occurs a substitution of the true gift of the Holy Spirit by artificially aroused emotions. By neglecting spiritual experience accumulated by Christianity during two thousand years and rejecting sanctity and Holy Sacraments prescribed by God, modern sectarians try to create within themselves religious sensations by means of doubtful and even dangerous devices. They get nothing but self-delusion and fascination, which the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church warned us about.


An Orthodox Christian should definitely avoid such perversions of religious feeling. He has access to genuine spiritual treasures given in the Sacraments of the Church, in the divine services and in his private sincere prayer. When communicating with God one should seek not delightful or thrilling feelings but a renewal of his sinful soul, and this comes through repentance, humility and obedience to God. In proportion to his inner improvement the Christian will receive from God the true gifts of the Holy Spirit. Occasionally he will be granted by the Holy Spirit such pure joy that all worldly delights will seem to him cheap and miserable imitations.


Sad as it is, in the vanity of everyday cares Orthodox Christians tend to forget about divine treasures they are given in the Church of Christ and even plunge into the troubled waters of the materialism of everyday life and choke in the waves of various passions. In this condition they lose the clearness of mind and the purpose of existence. Their souls harden and they become unsatisfied and irritated. Then no chemical stimulants or indulgence in carnal gratification can bring them true happiness. Their souls need only one thing – the grace of the Holy Spirit!


The feast of Pentecost is aimed at shaking up a Christian and setting his foot on the road to spiritual life. Pentecost is a meeting of the Holy Comforter with the human soul. On this holiday we drink once more from the fountain of life and fill ourselves with the most elevated and righteous feelings. On this day the grace of the Spirit, like fire, incinerates our sins; like a balm softens our hearts; like light illuminates our whole inner being. This a grace gives us spiritual strength to live righteously, be good to everyone, love God and help our neighbours. It removes our previous disarray and bitterness and gives us peace and joy. The monk Silouan witnesses about this, saying: “With God’s help it is easy to live, all becomes good, all is kindness and joy, the soul is at peace with God, walking as if in a beautiful garden where the Lord lives.”