Monday, May 12, 2008

The Fire of Pentecost


The tongues of fire that sat on the heads of the Apostles surely signify judgment, as we are reminded by the association of the Holy Ghost and fire in the preaching of John the Baptist. Judgment, for the ruler of this world is judged, and judgment, for the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world. The latter reference is from the Book of Wisdom, whose context serves to indicate that the Spirit knows all things and therefore is capable of judgment.

But the fire of Pentecost also may be said to signify passion. The heart of God is filled with passion, and has been so from eternity, from before the creation of the world. For the Father loves the Son, and the beloved Son loves His Father. And in the case of God, who is one, and simple, this love is not merely an attribute. It is a Person; a Person of the Holy Trinity, as the Apostle John tells us: God is love.

God is passionate; and the Passion of God is the Spirit of God, is God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

Thus God is by nature creating and giving; and thus He made the world. Did not the Spirit of God hover over the face of the waters in the beginning? The Spirit was fully involved (God is one) in the creation of the world. The world was created in love.

Therefore, although man has no claim on God, no right in himself to expect God to redeem him, there was nevertheless something in God that required Him to accomplish the redemption of the world. There is something in God that required Him to become flesh, and in our flesh to restore dignity to our flesh. There is love; there is the Spirit. Thus the Spirit of God was upon Jesus, and impelled Him to go the way of the cross. For Jesus loved His Father: this is why He suffered for the sin of the world.

And so, not only did He suffer; He also, on the very day of His resurrection, breathed on His disciples and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained, and whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted."

And so now these apostles (and their successors to the present day) proclaim Christ to all the world, and thus the love -- the Spirit -- of God is spread abroad in our hearts.

Most especially is the Spirit present and active in the Holy Liturgy of the Mass, in which, by the Word of Christ, the forgiveness of sins is seen to be located ("Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins") and distributed. Thus, to receive Christ in the Supper is also to receive the Spirit; that is, to receive the Love of God.

8 comments:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

One of the other attributes of God, though, is that He is radically and absolutely free. Love, to be love, must also be free.

Thus, He became flesh and accomplished the redemption of the world because He willed to, because He loves us, because He chooses to love us. He is not a slave to His own nature, as created beings are. In fact, while for the rest of us, our nature is a given, there isn't anybody or anythhing to give God His nature or determine it for Him. He does that Himself. He freely chooses who He wishes to be.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

It may be that on this point we have a respectful disagreement.

Put simply, it is not God's utter freedom which governs His attributes, but His utter lovingkindness.

It is God's nature to be God; that is, He is not free not to be God (of course, He does not want to be other than God, because He is God). So also, He is Love because He is God. Hence, He cannot not be Love. He cannot be other than He is. He does not want to be other than He is; this goes without saying.

Or, if you prefer, He will not be other than He is. He chooses to be God because, well, He is God. Conversely, He is God because He chooses to be God. This is a necessary choice, however. The choice is not really a free choice, from a philosophical point of view. God is Love, God is Truth, etc.

There are some things He cannot do: He cannot lie. He cannot turn back on His promise.

His Love is an absolute. It is God. It is the Holy Ghost.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Perhaps the answer to this question will bring us to agreement: Who or what determines God's nature?

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

It is an odd formulation, to say the least, to say that God determines His own nature. God is who He is. He did not make Himself; He just is. He is YHWH, the God who is.

I do have another agenda here: I have a determined reticence about allowing that God's sovereignty is His primary attribute. For our Calvinist friends, what this means is that His will is supreme over everything; even, presumably, over His word. By this token, He would be utterly free even to break His own promises, if He so desired. The late medieval nominalists called this something like potentia dei absoluta, I think.

Such sophistry is, in my view, not only misguided, but demonic. God is Love. I would think we can agree on that.

Jeff said...

All we need is love...

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Get your lyrics right:

All YOU need is love. Yah da da da da . . . .

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, I think perhaps you are right that it is a strange formulation. It probably ought to be in line with other formulations we make, such as that God is the uncaused Cause, the unoriginate Origen, etc. We ought to say God is the indeterminate Determiner.

Either somebody or someone else endows God with His nature, or God does it Himself, OR His nature is indeterminate.

But an indeterminate nature makes God even more radically free.

What saves this from anything Calvinistic is that in God, freedom, like His love, is perfect.

A freedom that gives in to evil (e.g., breaking a promise) is evil's slave. Our compromised freedom does contain something of that contradiction in terms, but God's freedom is perfect, never a slave at all to anything or anyone. Hw keeps His word precisely because His freedom is absolutely perfect. Only an imperfect freedom does otherwise.

His love has no competition, as ours does, from self-interest or self-seeking. His freedom isn't compromised as ours is by urgings contrary to love. Nothing tugs at His freedom's sleeve. He has no demands of His own, no motive other than love. His freedom to love is total. Freedom NOT to love wouldn't be real freedom at all, but slavery.

There; I've said it about six different ways...so I'll stop now and refrain from another six! The Calvinist thing is a red herring.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Very well put, I'd say.

Sometimes, as history has demonstrated repeatedly, the red-herrings ironically make our own creeds and confessions clearer.