|39 - PENTECOST. THE EROTIC LOVE OF GOD. June 12, 2022|
Acts 2.1 – 11
John 7.37 – 52, 8.12
Attending closely to the experience of the saints and to the deepest doctrine of the Church given to us in Her Scriptures, Her Holy Fathers, and in the prayers and hymns of Her worship, one may begin to see that the Holy Spirit is the ‘hypostatic movement’ of God’s erotic love. That is, the Holy Spirit is not an energy or a force. He is personal, substantive who heals and unites what is fragmented and broken and restores us to our original beauty in the love of God. ‘Theologians,’ writes St Maximos the Confessor [d. 662], ‘call the Divine sometimes an erotic force, sometimes love. As an erotic force and as love, the Divine itself is subject to movement.’
We see that movement in the beginning: ‘And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.’ (Gn 1.3) The waters can stand for God’s love and deep compassion that ‘cover the earth,’ as it says, for example, in Isaiah: The earth shall be full of the knowledge [the love] of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. [Isa 11:9]
We see that movement when ‘God fashioned Man from the earth as a mound [choun] and breathed into his face the Breath of Life, and man became a living soul.’ A mound of earth was sacred earth. Breathing into Adam’s face the Breath of Life, God filled the earthly temple of Adam’s body with the Glory of the Holy Spirit—as He did the tabernacle of Moses, the temple of Solomon, the Temple of the Last Day on top of the mountain (Eze 44.3), and the Holy Virgin, the Living Temple of God (Lk 1.35), as He did the disciples in the Upper Room on Pentecost, and finally, as He does the waters of the baptismal Font and the Bread and Wine of Holy Eucharist, making them the Heavenly Bread and the Living Cup, the very Body and Blood of the only-begotten God, He Who Is in the bosom of the Father.
‘God breathed into man’s face the Breath of Life, and man became a living soul.’ Adam, fashioned in the image of God, is raised from the dust of the ground as an earthly temple, and he becomes a living soul when God breathes the Breath of Life into his face. Man lives, that is, when he breathes, eats and drinks the Holy Spirit of God.
The Hebrew for ‘soul’ is ‘nephesh,’ which is the area of the mouth and nose. The Father breathed His Breath into man’s face: a life-giving kiss? Or the ‘Mighty River’ that comes down from heaven and heals the waters of creation and makes them to live? (Eze 47.8-9)
By the Breath of God, all things are raised to life. Is the Spirit of God in Psalm 104 the Breath of Life we read about in Gen 1 and 2.7? [Psa 104:10-11, 13, 15-16, 27, 29-31]: ‘The LORD sends the Springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills.’ Our Savior calls the Holy Spirit ‘Living Water.’ Are these Springs, which the LORD sends out into the hills on the canvas painted by the Psalmist, the Living Water of the Holy Spirit that the LORD Jesus ‘sent forth’ from His Cross (Mt 27.50) when He ‘breathed out’ (Mk 15.37; Lk 23.46) and destroyed the evil one with the ‘breath of His lips,’ as Isaiah saw? (Isa 11.4)
The Psalmist continues with images that take us back to the ‘breath of life’ in Gen 1 and Gen 2.7: ‘The waters of these Springs give drink to every beast of the field. From them, the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The LORD waters the hills from His upper chambers’—another image of the snow-melt river, for a snow-melt river comes from above?
‘The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. [The LORD brings forth] wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, and bread that strengthens man's heart.’ Do you see here the sacramental mysteries of the Church? She is not a human institution. ‘She’ is the Bride of God. She lives in the Holy Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead and by whom the LORD God incarnate destroyed death by His death and bestowed Life, His Holy Spirit, upon those in the tombs, on those immersed in His death and resurrection in the baptismal Font and raises them up as ‘living souls,’ children of God.
‘The trees of the LORD,’ the Psalm continues. These are the children of God born from above. They ‘are full of sap,’ the Holy Spirit. ‘These all wait for You, that You may give them their food in due season [the Holy Eucharist!]. You hide Your face, they are dismayed. You take away their breath,’ your Spirit, the Breath of Life, ‘they die and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit (Mt 27.50, Holy Pentecost) and You renew the face of the earth! May the glory of the LORD endure forever (Ascension)! May the LORD rejoice in His works,’ that He has finished in His Holy Pascha—in His death and burial, His Holy Resurrection and His Ascension in Glory into Heaven—as the New Heavens and the New Earth. These are the Church, His Body, the Fullness of Him who is all in all. [Eph 1.23]
In all of these images, we see the Holy Spirit in ‘ecstatic’ movement. This is the movement of erotic love. We see the Spirit sent forth from the Father (Jn 15.26) to rest on the Son in the waters of God’s love (Theophany); and then sent forth by the Son, high and lifted up from His Cross and then from Heaven—like the snow-melt river in ‘erotic’ movement that heals and makes to live everything it touches. The ‘Living Waters,’ then that the LORD Jesus Christ gives to all who are thirsty is the erotic love of the Father. And those who are thirsty are those who thirst for conjugal union with the Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, He Who Is Himself the Beauty and Goodness of God.
It is the mystery of Pentecost, then, that St Maximos describes when he goes on to say: ‘As that which is intensely longed for and loved, [the erotic love, the Holy Spirit, of God] moves towards itself everything that is receptive of this force and love.’ For, as the LORD says: ‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.’ [Pro 8:17]
St Maximos continues. ‘The divine itself is subject to movement since it produces an inward state of intense longing and love in those receptive to God. And it moves others since by nature, it attracts those who are drawn to Him. In other words, it moves others and God Himself moves since He thirsts to be thirsted for, He longs to be longed for, He loves to be loved.’ (Philo II 280-81)
‘On the Last Day of the Feast [Today, Pentecost, the Last Day of the world, the great and holy Sabbath Day], the LORD cries out: If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to Me and drink, and living water [the erotic love of God’s Holy Spirit] will flow from his belly (from his heart transfigured into a bridal chamber).’ ‘And the Spirit [of Jesus the Christ], and the Bride [the Church] say, ‘Come! Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the Water of Life [the Holy Spirit, the erotic love of God] freely.’ [Rev 22:17]
Then said the LORD to them, ‘With fervent desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.’ [Luk 22:15] For how long should we believe the LORD desired fervently to eat the Passover with His beloved disciples? Is not the mystery of Passover that of the LORD’s marriage to His Bride, Israel? We can say that the LORD has desired to consummate His union with His beloved Bride from before the foundation of the world. Indeed, it was for the purpose of becoming one with His Bride that He created the world in the first place as His Temple, His Bridal Chamber, in which He would cleave to His wife and become one flesh with Her. Do you see, now, why marriage of man and woman is so holy and sacred? It is an image of the Icon of Christ and His Bride, the Church!
As I have said, Pentecost is about our ascending into Heaven with Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit. We now can see that our ascension into heaven is the movement of our erotic yearning in the erotic love of the God who thirsts to be thirsted for, who longs to be longed for, who loves to be loved. In Pentecost, the Mighty River of Christ’s Holy Spirit descends upon us and washes over us. He raises us from death to life as He raised Adam from the earth as a living soul, and as He raised Jesus bodily from the dead, and in the Mighty River, we are carried in the arms of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, to Our Father in Heaven.
And so, the Holy Spirit in the mystery of Pentecost transfigures our life as it carries us through Galilee, through our everyday life to the outlet of the sea. It transfigures our earthly life into an ascending movement of erotic love to God the Father in the Love, in the Mighty River, of His Holy Spirit through the Love of His Beloved Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Bridegroom and the Only Lover of Mankind. O LORD, send down Thy Holy Spirit and illumine our minds, touch our hearts that the erotic longing of our soul may ascend to Thee, our true Love. Amen!