According to the wish of the Holy Father, 1998 is the year devoted to the Holy Spirit. The Mother-Church of Jerusalem born at the Cenacle on the day of the Pentecost cannot ignore this fact. One could reproach the Latin church of having ignored the Spirit for too long, but the approaching of the Jubilee Year now induces a reversion to the sources. And the source of the church is the Spirit.
Jerusalem is a unique microcosm in its type. Not only are all the churches represented in it, but also, so are all the children of Abraham. To be a church in Jerusalem means to work concretely in an ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. The Spirit of Jesus is a spirit of unity. By dying on the cross to gather together the scattered children of God, Jesus has given the Spirit.
Last year, the church of Jerusalem had tried to respond to the question of Jesus: For you who am I? This year, she will utilise the opportunity of the Easter period to prepare herself for the Pentecost and the gift of the Spirit. A triple reflection will be undertaken from april 30 to may 2: after having examined the Scriptures, a detour through the Patristics will be next. Finally, the diversity of the liturgies in which the Spirit continues to pray and to speak to the churches will present a lived exegesis through the Mother-Church.
First of all, a return to the Scriptures is obligated. There are those who teach us that the Spirit is not only a cosmic puff but that it is capable of inspiring prophets and the wise. On first contact what impresses upon whoever opens the Bible: even a rapid reading of the Bible shows that a big literary inclusion delimits the Sacred Book: at the beginning of the book of Genesis the Spirit of God hovered over the waters and at the end of the Apocalypse an appeal is rendered: the Spirit and the Bride say: Come Lord Jesus. The end of the Apocalypse complies perfectly with the beginning of Genesis. The whole of Scripture is thus put under the patronage of the Spirit. It would be necessary to add that the whole history of salvation is scouted by the Spirit of God. In other words, to know the Spirit one would need to search the Scriptures. The Spirit and the Word maintain a special rapport between themselves.
The Christian tradition guided by the Spirit has unceasingly expounded the Scriptures. The founder of the Biblical School at Caesarea, Origen, in his very rich and instructive commentaries, opened up a line of thought which will be taken up in the East as much as Augustine is the leader of the line of Western tradition.
The Church breathes with two lungs. It is in Jerusalem that one discovers this concretely.
For the Eastern tradition, the Spirit is ecstasy, way out, a gift. It is an opening, the dynamism of divine charity which manifests itself in creation, the prophets and in the incarnation of the Son of God. While the Father is the source, the Son is the word coming from the silence of God, the Spirit is the divine power. The Father works in creation by means of his two hands which are the Son and the Spirit, according to the expression of St. Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 1,22,1; 5,6,1). These two hands are inseparable in their manifestation of the action of the Father and yet ineffably distinct. The Word is somehow like the hand that designs the art and the Spirit is the hand that perfects it. The Spirit wets the land like a useful water which unites the faithful as in a dough, it refreshes the soil and so produces harvest everywhere for Christ. The Church widespread all over the world, engaged with the spread of the Gospel, has to have its cohesion by the same Spirit which inspires the prophets and which through the four evangelists breathes the Christian life to the four corners of heaven. The glory of man is God. God is pleased to make man to be the receptor of his wisdom. The present life is only a period of preparation for the incorruptible life which the Spirit gives.
For the Western tradition represented by St. Augustine, the Spirit is the link of unity between the beloved and the lover, being itself the love. It is the silence of divine communion. The Father and the Son are the one for the other, related one to the other. The Spirit is that in which they are united, in which they greet themselves and repose themselves. The Eastern tradition has recognised him as having a dynamic and creative role. It is the opening of the dynamic communion to the one who is not divine. It is the habitation of God, there where God is in some sort, outside of himself. Also it is called Love. It is the ecstasy of God towards the other, the creature. The Spirit in God is the term of substantial communication.
These different theologies of the Spirit are lived in the liturgies of the Eastern and Western Churches. Liturgy exploits the symbolism of colours when it prays in the Spirit. The liturgical vestments according to the Armenian tradition recalls that the external cult is the image of a luminous spiritual ornament (Nerses Shorali). The Spirit clads with a vestment him who approaches God. Medieval Christianity has constructed around the colour red, a popular theology of the Spirit. The colour is first of light, while upon the theological scheme for one of sensibility. The colour red is that of blood and of wine, the blood of the vine. It is also that of fire which shines and illuminates the night. That which makes the colour red a source of Christological energy, is its density and its concentration. It is this same colour red that suggests to faith the Passion of Christ and which symbolises the Spirit. Everything gets by as if it were the same mystery that one insinuates with the colour red. Christology and Pneumatology are associated, so well that the Spirit is beyond word. Christ offered himself through the eternal Spirit, affirms the author of the letter to the Hebrews 9:14. In the mystery of the Pentecost, the red fire evokes the tongues of fire which descended on the disciples. The Spirit makes one able to speak. The red is to the faith, light and breath, potency and heat of the fire. It shines, enlightens and purifies.
The Eastern liturgies which celebrates the divinisation of man re-echo another symbolism of the Spirit: that of water. In Christ, God has gathered the dispersed humanity to become the body of Christ. The blood which gushed out from the pierced side of Christ saturates man with this great love. To the unity of the blood complies the diversity of the fire, but in fact, the fire already burns in the blood. The blood is hot. The Spirit is fire. That is why the deacon pours a little hot water into the wine before Communion to symbolise the fire of the Spirit.
The reflection of the Church of Jerusalem wishes to see itself as ecumenical. The bishops of the Orthodox, Armenian, Latin, Coptic, Syrian and Melkite rites are participating in it. It wishes also to be inter-religious, there is even a Jewish and Islamic representation at the round table conferences. Judaism knows a multifarious theologies of the Spirit of God while Islam depends partly on Judeo-Christianity for their own theology of the Spirit.
The Spirit is the reminder for the Church, it is also its master of thought. It teaches.
The messianic gift of the Spirit has been announced under the form of anointing. This anointing has been effected on every Christian during Confirmation and on the ministerial priesthood whom it places at the heart of the Church. The Christian forms a part of the priestly people who through Christ can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. The Spirit confers on him the mandate to proclaim the wonders which God effected when he, at various times, set at liberty the children of God. Thus the Spirit confers by the symbolism of the anointing on Christians the capacity to announce the Gospel forcefully even in the face of great obstacles. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechesis 18,3 recalls that In the same way that the eucharistic bread after consecration is no longer ordinary bread, but the body of Christ, so is the holy chrism no longer ordinary oil
The grace of the Spirit is necessary if we want to talk about the Holy Spirit. Because we cannot talk about him in an adequate manner; we can only do so without damage when we limit ourselves to what the Sacred Scriptures say about him (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 16,1).
Please fill in our Guest book form - Thank you for supporting us!
Created / Updated Friday, December 24, 1999 at 16:56:46 by John Abela ofm
This page is best viewed with Netscape at 640x480x67Hz - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex