The Season of Pentecost and The Spirit of Truth and Life
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. - Genesis 1:1-2
The Holy Spirit (Ruach Elohim in Hebrew; Rucha Qadisha in Syriac-Aramaic; Hagia Pneuma in Greek) is the Spirit of Truth and Life. In all the Churches of the East (Catholic, Ancient Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox) Pentecost is not only a Feast Day but a Season of the Church Calendar, in which we remember, celebrate, and praise the gift of the Holy Spirit. While the coming of spring and summer were celebrated by ancient peoples with rites and ceremonies focused upon flowering, new birth, and the light and warmth of the sun; in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament we see a new meaning in the giving of The Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. “Where in an inexpressible mystical encounter God revealed himself, entered into a Covenant, gave commandments, and promised salvation. …religion ceased being simply nature, and now became the beginning of history.” This will allow the prophets of Israel to see and proclaim a future fullness of God’s reign over his creation. This will allow for the proclamation of the coming of a Messiah who will redeem humanity, and a re-creation through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit of God. As the prophet Joel wrote:
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, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and
maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit. And I will give signs in
the heavens and on the earth…before the great and terrible day of the Lord
comes. And it shall come to pass that all who call upon the name of the Lord
shall be delivered…(Joel 2:28-32)
In the Acts of the Apostles we see that the Apostolic Church realizes in the experience of the Pentecost that the words of the prophets and the long awaited hope of salvation has indeed been fulfilled in their experience of the death, resurrection, appearances, and Ascension of Christ; and now with the Holy Spirit poured out upon them they must proclaim this truth to the world. They realize that the Spirit is the Truth and Life of Christ living in them through the power of God’s Spirit, the same Spirit that Scripture says, by whose power Jesus rose from the dead.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one
place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty
wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared
to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues,
as the Spirit gave them utterance… And all who heard were amazed and
perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking
said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:1-4, 12-13)
To those who did not understand, Peter explained to them that the prophetic witness of Joel was being fulfilled, that the Spirit would be poured out upon all flesh (see Acts 2:17). The Spirit ushers in the Seventh Day, the Last Day, Eternal Life, in which all that has been won by Christ is given back to the Father.
What is the power of the Spirit that bestows Truth and Life, it is the power of Love, Divine Love. “…while the Holy Spirit is the presence, manifestation, and operation of the Father’s love, wisdom, and creative work, He is not the Father. …If the Father is the Lover, if the Son is the Beloved, the Spirit is the Love which unites them, He is their unity, their unified illumination, power and truth.”
The Spirit confirms in us the truth of the Father that has been revealed to us in his Word, Jesus. Looking at the origins and development of the New Testament Greek word for person (prosópon), we discover its root in Greek Theater, with the name for mask (prosópeon). Since the theater used few actors, they needed to play many roles by changing their mask; by the time we reach the New Testament period of (Koine) Common Hellenistic Greek, the word for person had come to mean “face” sometimes translated into English as “presence”. The turning of one’s “face” (personhood) towards another constitutes relational-personhood (hypostasis) and therefore “love”. This can be illustrated in the traditional Greek icons of The Mother of God and The Christ-Child. They either have their faces towards one another, known as the Compassionate (Eleousa) Style, revealing the love and tenderness between Christ and humanity represented in Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos), or they together look out, “show their faces” directly to those who venerate the icon.
The Spirit lifts the mask that was seen by those who sought God before the Word became Flesh in Christ, and that same Spirit who reveals the Holy Trinity, turns our face towards God, and lifts our mask, so that we can truly love him - the Spirit becomes the Truth and Life of God dwelling within us.
Rev. David A. Fisher
1 Schmemann, Alexander, The Church Year: The Celebration of Faith, SVS Press, Crestwood, New York, 1994, p.152.
2 Schmemann, p.110.