'If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.' (Jn 14: 15-17)
There are several words, which sum up Pentecost for me, Loving Presence, Teach and Learn, Mission in Forgiveness and Love! You will find them scattered throughout our readings either directly or by allusion, but these seem to me to be marks of what the Spirit is about in us, in the communities and individuals that bear Christ's name, in the lives of those good and inspirational people and in the visible and tangible presence of the World and all it contains.
Fortunately the witness of the great communities of martyrs both in our church history, and more recently in the witness of people in the Eastern Churches of Christianity, remind us of the deep, rich and important theology of the Spirit in the life of not only the Church, but the world. Basil the Great, writing his strong defence and apologia for the role and place of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity and life of the Church, reminds us in this passage of the Spirit's importance: "Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of children of God, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all fullness of blessing, Romans 15:29 both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us'(Basil. On the Holy Spirit: 35)
This is a wonderful image, a deep reminder, whenever we get upset about the various debates and arguments that rage in our churches today, that nobody can claim the high ground, why? Because of the workings of the Spirit, that gift who is God, which allows us to be different and yet one in God, that expresses love in the many ways we have of being part of what we call the 'One Body of Christ'. Paul expresses it in a sublime illustration:
'As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many.'(I Cor 12:12-14)
It's a pity that this isn't a mantra we have to pray each and every day, for if we did it may just remind ourselves to be humble before others and to acknowledge that truth is never about rigidity or static uniformity, but organic growth, ever onwards into God. That is Pentecost, a birthday of growth, a feast of our baptism and confirmation, a reminder that everybody, no matter how small, is important because they are a living temple and gift of the Holy Spirit!
Saint Gregory Dialogos ON Pentecost:
"'And my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him' [John 14.23]. My friends, consider the greatness of this solemn feast that commemorates God's coming as a guest into our hearts! If some rich and influential friend were to come to your home, you would promptly put it all in order for fear something there might offend your friend's eyes when he came in. Let all of us then who are preparing our inner homes for God cleanse them of anything our wrongdoing has brought into them."
Saint Basil: On The Holy Spirit
Now the Spirit is not brought into intimate association with the soul by local approximation. How indeed could there be a corporeal approach to the incorporeal? This association results from the withdrawal of the passions, which, coming afterwards gradually on the soul from its friendship to the flesh, have alienated it from its close relationship with God. Only then after a man is purified from the shame whose stain he took through his wickedness, and has come back again to his natural beauty, and as it were cleaning the Royal Image and restoring its ancient form, only thus is it possible for him to draw near to the Paraclete. And He, like the sun, will by the aid of your purified eye show you in Himself the image of the invisible, and in the blessed spectacle of the image you shall behold the unspeakable beauty of the archetype. Through His aid hearts are lifted up, the weak are held by the hand, and they who are advancing are brought to perfection. Shining upon those that are cleansed from every spot, He makes them spiritual by fellowship with Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God. Such, then, to instance a few out of many, are the conceptions concerning the Holy Spirit, which we have been taught to hold concerning His greatness, His dignity, and His operations, by the oracles of the Spirit themselves.
(Basil On the Holy Spirit: 23)
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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