Recovering our Pentecostal Identity

This week we prepare our hearts for Pentecost Sunday–celebrating the Father’s gift to humanity of pure, “excessive,” boundless love in the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2. As Paul says, “For God has poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…”

Modern approaches to the Holy Spirit, however, can leave one with the feeling that the Spirit is either an impersonal force or some vague, shadowy member of the Godhead, rather than the one whom the Creed declares is the “Lord and Life-giver”, who “with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.” Christendom is badly in need of a retrieval of the true “Petencostal” identity and passion of every member of Christ’s body.  But how shall such retrieval occur?

A medieval abbot named Bernard of Clairvaux can help us in this matter. Frustrated with the rationalistic approaches to interpreting the experience of the Spirit he saw in his day, Bernard developed a language of the Spirit grounded in passion. In a series of sermons he delivered on the Song of Songs, Bernard wrote:

Surely if the Father kisses and the Son receives the kiss, it is appropriate to think of the Holy Spirit as the kiss [itself], for he is the imperturbable peace of the Father and the Son, their secure bond, their undivided love, their indivisible unity.

To come into an experience of the Spirit is to share in the infinitely completed and yet eternally dynamic love that is shared between the Father and the Son. And insofar as between the Father and the Son there is no antagonism, no shadow of hatred or malice, so those whose hearts have been captured by the Spirit will show forth the fruits of the Father and Son’s “imperturbable peace” in their lives–for they will no longer relate to “others” as threats, and they will seek love in and for all things. What else would they do? They are sharers in the infinite and undivided love of the Father and the Son, whose love for one another is the source and measure of God’s love for humanity.

Our hatred and malice have no place in the Triune God. And as we find ourselves “kissed” by the Spirit, so does that hatred begin to evaporate, and the flame of love that burns in the heart of the Father and the Son, that flame that is the Holy Spirit, begins to arise in us.

Those who surrender themselves to this “kiss” and find themselves increasingly transformed by it are truly “Pentecostal”, whatever other identity they may claim.

Fall upon us, Holy Spirit.

  • I had a wise teacher many years ago introduce me to the imagery of the Holy Spirit’s movement, particularly in the act of sacrament, as “God’s hug and God’s kiss.” May we continue to feel his embrace and the passion of the kiss day by day, moment by moment, in “whether to the left or right” encounters of with-ness.

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