Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Season of Pentecost

The very long, six-month season between Pentecost and Advent is known as Ordinary Time. For those who get excited about the seasons of the Church calendar as I do, this is the boring time, when after six months of walking through the story of Christ’s work in the cosmic story of salvation, we simply go about our business as usual with few major celebrations.

This dull picture of Ordinary Time was indeed consistent with my dull picture of our era in the cosmic story of salvation. Christ came, lived, died, rose again, and ascended to the Father, and now we are left in this awkward time between the climax and the ultimate resolution.

But this year I remember that it is also called the season of Pentecost, a season where the Church colors are green because creation is being reborn (not simply waiting for rebirth in the Second Coming). Christ has already been raised from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”— the Resurrection has begun! The Spirit has already been poured out upon us “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,” just has he had hovered over the waters in the first creation. As the Orthodox liturgy states quite clearly, the sign of the Spirit’s coming demonstrates that the Fall has already been reversed, as those who have been cursed with confusion of language are brought together as the Gospel is proclaimed in all languages at Pentecost:
The arrogance of building the tower in the days of old
led to the confusion of tongues.
Now the glory of the knowledge of God brings them wisdom.
There God condemned the impious for their transgression.
Here Christ has enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit.
There disharmony was brought about for punishment.//
Now harmony is renewed for the salvation of our souls.
So be encouraged, my friends. Creation is being restored, and we the Church already have the firstfruits of the Spirit, who, Psalm 104 reminds us, created and renews the face of the earth. Though we may indeed be living in the “already but not yet,” we are much, much closer to the “already” than I had realized.

And by chance a friend reminded me of Wendell Berry on Pentecost Sunday, a scene from Jayber Crow when the protagonist looks out a flood and is reminded of the Spirit's work in creation. For any Wendell Berry fans out there or those who should be, I will let him end this:
As soon as I shut my eyes, I could see the river again, only now I seemed to see it up and down its whole length. Where just a little while before people had been breathing and eating and going about their old everyday lives, now I could see the currents come riding in, at first picking up straws and dead leaves and little sticks, and then boards and pieces of firewood and whole logs, and then maybe the henhouse or the barn or the house itself. As if the mountains had melted and were flowing to the sea, the water rose and filled all the airy spaces of rooms and stalls and fields and woods, carrying away everything that would float, casting up the people and scattering them, scattering or drowning their animals and poultry flocks. The whole world, it seemed, was cast adrift, riding the currents, whirled about in eddies, the old life submerged and gone, the new not yet come.

And I knew that the Spirit that had gone forth to shape the world and make it live was still alive in it. I just had no doubt. I could see that I lived in the created world, and it was still being created. I would be part of it forever. There was no escape. The Spirit that had made it was in it, shaping it and reshaping it, sometimes lying at rest, sometimes standing up and shaking itself, like a muddy horse, and letting the pieces fly.
--from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

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