11 May 2008

pentecost

Today we celebrated Pentecost at church, with red paraments on the communion table and strings of paper doves among the rafters above. And we should rightly celebrate.

In one sense Pentecost is what it's all about - the biblical story in its entirety - for the sending of the Spirit from heaven is the inception of that great eschatological transformation for which the world was created. As Peter preached upon the first Pentecost, it was for the sake of the promised Spirit that Jesus came and died and rose again, in order that a way might be provided for sinful, broken humanity to enjoy the Spirit's renewing and transforming work.

The biblical story begins with the Creator Spirit sweeping to and fro above the watery deep and ends with the Spirit having prepared the Bride as the New Jerusalem, the descent of heaven to earth. This same Spirit incarnated the eternal Logos of the substance of the Virgin Mary, rested upon Jesus in his baptism and filled him beyond measure, drove him to the desert of temptation, healed the sick and drove out demons at his word, gave him the very words of the Father to speak, and raised him to transfigured life from the silence of the grave as the first fruit of a new creation. And it is this same Spirit that birthed the church upon Pentecost.

Leo the Great writes of the great feast of Pentecost, "The reverence due to it is beyond all question, because this day is consecrated by the most sublime and wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit." He continues:
...since the day of Pentecost a rain of charisms, a river of blessings, has watered every desert and dry land, for "the Spirit of God has swept over the waters to renew the face of the earth," and a blaze of new light has shone out to dispel our former darkness. In the light of those flaming tongues the word of the Lord has shone out clearly, and a fiery eloquence has been enkindled which is charged with the energy to enlighten, the ability to create understanding, and the power to burn away every sin and destroy it.
And thus we celebrate the Spirit and pray that he might fall upon us afresh.