Throughout the Scriptural proclamation of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11, 1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13 and John 15:26-27; 16:12-15) there is the underlying theme of restored communication – being able once again to speak to one another.
It has been said that the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost signals the end of the division and discord which resulted from the Tower of Babel. Where the pride of Babel led to the dividing of humanity; now all peoples and nations are united in their listening to the proclamation of the gospel resulting from the coming of Spirit upon the disciples. When the crowd from a multitude of peoples and nations gathers at the door of the house where the apostles were we are told that they ask, Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? Through the Holy Spirit divisions are overcome and it is possible to once again speak to one another.
The coming of the Holy Spirit also brings healing to those divisions that occur within our very selves. We all have these. In some form or another we are each fragmented. These are the wounds and effects of original sin. St. Paul summarizes what we all experience when he says, For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Rom. 7:19) It is only the healing balm of the Holy Spirit which heals this inner fragmentation allowing us to then authentically proclaim, Jesus is Lord! This proclamation found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is not just a nice catchphrase or slogan but is, in fact, a tangible witness of an authenticity achieved by a self that is being healed of the divisions within by God’s grace. This proclamation cannot be faked. It must be lived.
Finally, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit heals the deepest wound within; allowing us to once again hear the voice of God. I have much more to tell you, says our Lord, but you cannot hear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. The Holy Spirit leads us into the very things of God which heal, elevate and enlighten. The Spirit leads us beyond the crass reasoning of the secular and or our age. Transcendence, living by something more than this world, is possible.
I have an interest in iconography. For a number of years now I have been studying icons and even learning how to paint (write) icons. Icons are considered visual theology (very appropriate for a visual age). Over these years one thing that I have learned is that in Russian Orthodox thought red is not the only color that can be associated with the Holy Spirit. (In western Christianity we primarily use red as the liturgical color of the Holy Spirit.) In Orthodox thought green can also be seen as a color denoting the Holy Spirit. When we consider the creed that we profess this makes sense. In the Nicene Creed we proclaim the Holy Spirit to be the Lord, the giver of life… Recently I was able to spend an afternoon on a short hike in the mountains and at one point I found myself right at the edge of a wooded area looking down upon a little vale of tall green grass. It was quiet and still. You could only hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees. The leaves above me were green and as the wind continued to blow I saw waves ripple through the green grass. Green was all over and it struck me how green is the color of life. It is so present (at least in East Tennessee) that it is easily overlooked often, I think, like the work of the Holy Spirit.
I share this thought because I think it is helpful to add a little green to our understanding of the Holy Spirit and I think that the readings for this day with their theme of restored connection, dialogue and relationship allow for this. Yes, the Holy Spirit is red: the Spirit purifies, inflames and convicts us in the truth. And yes, the Holy Spirit is green: the Spirit restores, renews and both summons us and enables us to achieve an authenticity in life and in relationship.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.