I don't think anyone here is passing judgement on the gift of glossolalia. Clearly, it was given by the Holy Spirit in one form at Pentecost, and in another form to the Corinthians.
That much is obvious indeed. Particularly since the mentioning of Glossolalia in Acts 2, seems to be purposefully staged
by St. Luke to get a theological point across. I do not think St. Luke was reporting mere practical things here, as St. Paul would in the letter to the Corinthians. St. Luke is a good story-teller, and his history-telling is never without purpose. It is not an academic enterprise to him, but an educational enterprise which allows him to stage
things to uncover the deeper meaning of events he had witnessed or had otherwise learnt.
St. Paul is facing a practical issue. Critical studies of the passages in 1 Corinthians on glossolalia have unearthed what seems to have been a serious abuse in the Corinthian Church corrected by St. Paul. It would seem that the term pneumatika
was favored by the Corinthians, whereas charismata
is favored by St. Paul. Pneumatika
appears on St. Paul's lips merely to condemn
the Corinthians in their own terminology. St. Paul seems to be concerned that abuse of glossolalia is leading the Corinthian Church into a gathering of individuals, each having their own privatized, ectstatic experiences and ambitions. St. Paul puts down a clear corrective for them, in emphasizing his principle of building up the Body
(ie the Church). Glossolalia benefits the practitioner, but not the community. The practice of tongues in community, should preferably not
occur, but if it does it must
be interpreted in order to build up the Body
. This principle of communion and the importance of communion, finds expression in the Russian tradition of sobornost
. Tonguespeaking is fine, in so far as it does not break sobornost but builds it up. For this reason, it is preferably a private thing. It is a gift to be excercised in one's private devotions.
The terminology, pneumatika and charismata, may indicate the beginning of the gnostic temptation that would threaten Christianity for the next two to three hundred years. The Corinthians, considering themselves pneumatic people, as manifested in their individual ecstatic experiences of the Divine, were moving in a decisively gnostic direction (which might also be the background of St. Paul having to correct their spiritualizing
tendencies that conflicted with a sound doctrine of resurrection in ch. 15. St. Paul's antidote to this proto-gnosticism is liturgical consciousness
. Liturgy, as I am sure we all know, means common work
and that is precisely what the Church in gathering or worship is to St. Paul. Liturgy. There is no place for isolated individuals, but there is only persons in communion, made one in the Spirit. For glossolalia to be truly a Spirit-gift, it must be a grace-gift; a gift that is precisely and decisively liturgical
. Glossolalia may build up persons who are about to participate in the Liturgy in their private devotions, but that is pretty much the limit beyond which the gift should not be applied.
But as for this gift manifesting today, I have a few concerns:
1) We do not know for certain what the phenomenon looked and sounded like- how can we be sure that the 'glossolalia' people claim today is the same glossolalia the Corinthians experienced?
Which is where faith in Christ comes in. Do we trust that He is true to His word to give gifts, even if they are unfamiliar to us? HG Kallistos of Diokleia tells us the following:
"All the charismata available to Christians in the apostolic age, Symeon is passionately convinced, are equally available to Christians in our own day. To suggest otherwise is for Symeon the worst of all possible heresies, implying as it does that God has somehow deserted the Church. If the Gifts of the Spirit are not as evident in the Christian community of our own time as they are in the Book of Acts, there can be only one reason for this: the weakness of our faith" (from the article Xaira linked to)."
It seems to me that in HG's reading the continued rejection (under whatever pretext) of glossolalia (which is one of the charisms) is qualified as a heresy by St. Symeon the New Theologian. Of course St. Symeon's theological opinion does not have canonical status, but it does show how deeply charismatic his spirituality is. I have no doubt St. Symeon would have certain reservations concerning Fr. Stephanou, but I also have no doubt that the spiritual enterprise of Fr. Stephanou is much truer to the mind of St. Symeon as are some of the other authors mentioned in this thread who oppose Fr. Stephanou.
2) There is a very grave danger of 'plani' or 'prelest' here. The devil can also compel people to make strange utterances. From the charismatics and Pentacostals I know, there is a requirement to 'surrender' oneself to 'the Spirit' in order to experience glossolalia. How can we be sure this is the Holy Spirit? You suggest that we should "leave it to the Holy Spirit to decide", but this contradicts Scripture which commands us to "discern the spirits" to see which come from God, and which come from the enemy of souls.
This is precisely the point. We need to discern
spirits. The spirit denying charismata is discerned
by St. Symeon to be a heretical one. St. Evagrios of Pontos warns us that the demons who seduce us to sin, can also seduce us to go overboard in certain pious thoughts, such as the one that prevents prelest. This way the demons try to keep spiritually beneficial things from us, under the cover of piety. For this reason the 153 Chapters on Prayer
starts out by saying that the balance
in spiritual things will make us grow, without this balance inner calm
will not be reached and our ascent to God will fail. The latter, being the purpose of the demons. Further on, the same master of the spiritual life, tells us that demons hate
prayer as much as they envy it. In prayer we attain something which the demons have irretrievably lost, which makes them furious. And as we have seen, in St. Paul, glossolalia is valuable precisely in one's private devotions and prayers. As such it may be helpful for the practitioner to attain the state of pure prayer
which, ultimately, is also a charism.
When I worked with "EPIC" (Early Psychosis Intervention Centre) in the west of Sydney, more than 60% of our clients had their first psychotic episode shortly after attending a Charismatic or Pentacostal church. I have to doubt that this is the work of the Holy Spirit
Having been a psychiatric nurse for a while, I have noted no such thing. There have also been thorough psychiatric studies been done as well as religious studies regarding the phenomenon of glossolalia. The outcome of which is usually that glossolalics are perfectly healthy in mind. There is Morton Kelsey's outdated book, and a little more recent (but also rather dated) book ed. by Cecil M. Robeck, mentioning such research and its outcome. I am unaware, cos I haven't searched lately, of more recent research and results. I have noted that psychiatric patients, are usually more open to relgious ideas as are normal people. However, this hardly justifies making a causal link here. I'de say the same goes for your experience at EPIC.
Plus, as a psychiatrically trained person, you ought to know that psychosis is not merely manifest in glossolalia, but also in visions, dreams, fast-speech, incoherent thought patterns, irrational thought patterns, and magical thinking. In fact, the latter might (by DSM IV and Gordon Patterns), be apllied to our Orthodox belief in the Eucharist, Icons, angels, etc. In fact, during nurse-training the head of the Schizophrenic Ward and prof. gave a lecture making precisely that point. One of the examples he used were the voices and visions of Jeanne d' Arc (but he may as well have used, had he known of him, St. Seraphim of Sarov).
Also in my 8 years of intimate contacts with charismatics and pentecostals I have not noticed any particular innate psychiatric imbalance. Of course, such cases may exist, but they are not typical of that movement. Just like Grigorii Rasputin is not typtical for an Orthodox starets.