Sunday, May 31, 2009
The icon above comes from the Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos. Look at it carefully. The Apostles are gathered in a horseshoe formation - the traditional plan of an assembly of equals. In the centre an old king emerges from a doorway bearing a scroll while from above heaven is open and the Spirit descends on them as tongues of fire. Just a typical image of Pentecost right?
Yet there is no Mother of God and only the Apostles are present, indeed Paul replaces one of the Twelve, Matthias! What is going on here? In this icon the Church is teaching us that Pentecost is not a day but an event. The Church is Pentecost.
As Fr. Barron explains in one of the videos on the sidebar only Christianity proclaims that "God is love". Other religions may say God loves but we say God is love. God is love implies that in God there is a Lover, a Beloved and Love between them. The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Love of the Father for the Son is the Holy Spirit. This love was revealed by the Son on the cross. He needed no nails to hold Him on the cross. He willingly embraced the cross to give us as concrete an image of the Father's self-giving love for the Son and the Son's loving obedience as was possible and to make it possible not only to know of but experience that love here and in the world to come.
When we were baptised and confirmed we were immersed into the Son so that the Father loves each and every one of us, individually, as He loves the Son. The love He loves us with is the Holy Spirit. This is not one event but an eternal self-gift of the Father to the Son into Whom we have been incorporated.
So in the icon above we are reminded that the Church is a body, the body of Christ and it therefore has an organic nature, an order instituted by Christ, a sacred order or hierarchy. The Spirit is given to the Church through that sacred order. That is why the Gospels tell us of different 'givings' of the Spirit. Christ breathes on the Apostles and yet the Spirit descends on the Church assembled in the upper room and again on the gentiles. The Holy Spirit is eternally processing from the Father and returns to the Father through the Son. So the Spirit is always being poured out on the Church. It is He who conveys to us all and every gift of the Father. As it says in the Creed hE is the Lord and Giver of Life. Love is the Lord and the Giver of Life. The universe is no accident nor are we. Love is our origin and our destiny and, although fallen, the creation is recreated by the Father through His Son in the Holy Spirit and we are bathed in their Uncreated Light. Pentecost is about this New Creation, the Kingdom made manifest that is the Church.