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.