Tongues of Fire and their implications for us all.

Pentecost

The Orthodox Church is masterful at setting before us some seeming dichotomies. At the Feast of Pentecost, literally the birth of the Christian Church, we have such an apparent paradox, and it is one that has caused me to think a good deal about several issues, as well as causing no small amount of consternation within and outside of myself.
I actually began to write this post a year ago at the Feast of Pentecost. At that point in time, I had noticed a good deal of talk about in the media and in everyday conversation about English and it’s role and place in American life and as the default business “lingua-franca”. At that point in time, I had just completed my first semester of College Spanish. I have a long standing love of the Spanish language, going back to the five years I had in high school. I find it to be a most beautiful and expressive language. I say all that to say that Spanish also seems to be the object of much ire here in the United States due to the fact that it is the native tongue of our neighbors to the south, Mexico. But alas, I really digress a good deal here. In fact, I honestly don’t remember all of the thoughts that I was having at that time.
What was brought to the fore for me this year however were two completely different notions, both of which were epiphanies. The first occurred during the Great Vespers of the Feast. I was privileged to be able to read the three Old Testament readings, including the one from the Prophecy of Joel:

Joel 2:23-32 (Vespers, 2nd Reading)

23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you– The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month.
24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
25 So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the Lord has said, Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.

Coming from the background that I did, I was not unfamiliar with this prophecy. In fact, anyone who has been a part of the Charismatic Movement, be it as an Evangelical Protestant. or Roman Catholic, is familiar with it. It is a proof-text for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the coming promise of His outpouring upon all flesh,. he part that always puzzled yet fascinated me was the first verse, which in the more familiar translations speaks of “the former and the latter rains combined”. This had stuck with me for 25 years. I had inquired of Orthodox priests as to its significance, but found no real answers.
Then, while listening to Fr. Gregory’s homily this past Sunday, it hit me. The former rain was that first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that given to the Apostles to forgive sins. The latter rain was that recorded in the 2nd chapter of Acts. This led to another epiphany, that we are all given exactly the same measure of the Holy Spirit, the former and the latter rain combined. Fr. Gregory’s message was that it is our response to this outpouring that is determinate of the effect that it has in and on our liuves. He does a much better job with the theology than I, and I strongly suggest reading his recent blog entry on the matter for clarity and coherence.
Anyway, these are my rambling thoughts and musings. Pentecost undoes the resultant division that came around from man’s arrogance at the tower of Babel. The outpouring of the Spirit holds great promise. The disciples rocked the world as a result. Will you and I do the same ? We will if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in love towards our fellow man, as well as the whole of creation. I really like what Fr. Gregory has to say in his entry, and for lack of better words, I will leave you with his:

If we wish to acquire for ourselves the gift of the Holy Spirit, if we wish to experience the fullness of what we have received, let us go where the Holy Spirit is, let us do what the Holy Spirit does. Taking our cue from the Kontakion, we acquire the gift of the Holy Spirit by our willingness to love others, to forgive and to encourage others. We grow in the Holy Spirit only to the degree that we cooperate in the Spirit’s work of reconciling of the whole human family to God the Father in Jesus Christ. To acquire the Holy Spirit let each of us be committed to be a sign and a cause of reconciliation in ways great and small.

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~ by rdreusebios1 on June 16, 2008.

2 Responses to “Tongues of Fire and their implications for us all.”

  1. I know this reply is a bit late but…
    I beleive that you and Fr.Gregory have made some simple but profound observations. Truly, our “willingness” to ” cooperate” in the work of the Holy Spirit seems to be the lunch pin that connects and binds us to this work of God in the world. Reflecting personally, I see in myself at times a willingness, and at times a cooperation, but usually my will is on auto pilot, most of the time, either being bound by my own passivness or cooperating with my own desires unconsciously apart from God. My constant attention must be on the will of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit is always continually being poured out as the prophet Joel and St. Peter have said, and the effort we need to focus upon is first to aquire a will that is our own so that we can give it to the cooperation needed to fulfill this love in Christ. I seem to be personally drawn to St. Paul’s words to the Romans, I beech you therefore brethren by the merices of God to present you bodies as a living sacrifice…and be…transformed by the renewing of the mind (attention, presence, consciousness, awareness, spiritual vision). The apostle says that it is by these efforts, and by His mercy that we can prove or see or truly experience this will of God: to forgive, and to love our brother. Essentially he seems to be saying–awaken, change your attention and your focus from ourselves, and look to Christ, seeing through His vision, so that our will can become His. Then we can pray with St. Silouan the Athonite: “O Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself, and for the whole universe, that the nations may know Thee and live eternally with Thee, O Lord, vouchsave to us the gift of Thy humble Holy Spirit that we may apprehend Thy glory.”

  2. Dude,
    i did not hear back from you…your email may be corrupted…

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