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"A noise that rends stones and darkness" - Pentecost Sunday

Icon of Pentecost (18th c., Russia. Priv.coll.).jpg

Father Vassilios Argyriadis

Today's Gospel passage begins and ends with two public proclamations of Christ. In the beginning: "If he is thirsty, come to me and drink. He that believeth in me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water . " And at the end: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will be the light of life" . It is interesting to note the context in which these words are spoken.

We called them "public declarations". Indeed, at least in the first of these, "Jesus stood up and cried out, saying..." , the evangelist John tells us, emphasizing the declarative nature of His words. It happened in the middle of the temple, on the most glorious day of the Feast of Tabernacles ( "on the last day of the great feast" ). The Feast of Tabernacles lasted a week. It had two main characteristics from what experts inform us. The first was that the altar was sprinkled with holy water from the pool of Siloam (it was brought in procession by a priest). The second was that four golden candlesticks in the "Court of the Women" of the Temple were kept burning throughout the festive seven-day period. So water and light, two characteristic elements of the celebration. And Christ publicly proclaims, at the climax of the celebration, that this Himself is its content, its deepest essence and its transcendence. Rituals are no longer the way or the way, it is Himself: Whosoever seeks water in Him quenches his thirst. He dispels his darkness, whoever turns light to Him.

"As the scripture said..." , says Christ, speaking of the rivers of living water that will flow "from the belly" of the person who believes in Him. What scripture is he referring to? NT scholars again inform us that it is not referring to a biblical scholar, but to an image: the image of the water that flowed from the belly of the rock, in order to quench the thirst of God's people in the desert. From something as hard and unyielding as stone, water flowed. And from the belly of stone people, whole rivers will flow with faith.

Between these two phrases of Jesus at the beginning and the end of the passage, a bunch of words intervene, words and works of the world. The mob and the Pharisees, Nicodemus and the "servants" sent to arrest Jesus. Some spoke for Him, others against. The crowd was confused. Nikodimos, a voice that is drowned out by many. The "servants" are confused — they are sent to do some things and do others. The Pharisees are angry. No result: "each one went to his house" . Universal confusion, rage and disharmony, nothing leads anywhere. If one wants to see all this from afar, he will understand that John gives us a picture of our world, a picture full of stones and darkness, hardness and blindness. In this darkness Christ comes to become light. He comes to crush these stones so that water will flow from them - "I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh..." (Ezek. 36,26).

Why are we reading all this today, on the day of Pentecost? The evangelist John answers it clearly: "he said this [the word about the rivers from the belly] about the Spirit which those who believe in him will receive in the future, for he was a Holy Spirit..." . The words about the rivers from the stone and the light over the darkness, concern what we are celebrating today. And we all know what we celebrate. Moreover, we heard it again in the apostolic reading: a noise from heaven engulfed the "house where the Apostles were sitting" , and they all received the Holy Spirit together (and each separately) (Acts 2,1-4).

Really, have we considered who were the ones who received the Holy Spirit? They were His disciples, they were the ones who lived with Him for almost three years. They went where He went, they lived with Him day and night. They saw him perform miracles. They knew and they didn't know who he is. They were probably confused. They wanted him to be the Messiah, but maybe not like that. He told them that he had nowhere to lay his head (Lk. 9:58) and they asked him for primaries (Mark 10:37). He asked them for faith and they failed — "How long shall I put up with you?" (Matthew 17,17). When He wanted them to keep vigil with Him, they surrendered to sleep. In the end, someone denied Him. Another betrayed Him. All abandoned Him into the hands of His executioners. On His cross they were invisible, hidden in some palace, afraid. Now they had in their hearts wonder and fear; and hope—as much as wonder and fear would permit. Confusion and confusion and some faith and some expectation. People of our world too, full of stones and darkness and a creed like faith. And suddenly: a noise from the sky crushes the stones and turns them into rivers, there is light and everything is now clear.

In the picture of the world that the evangelist John presents to us today, with all those Pharisees, servants, mobs and Nicodemus, we must see the stones and darkness of this world. And Christ promises to dispel the darkness and make the stones give birth to "water of life". For whom; For the one who believes. The disciples just before Pentecost should not be seen apart from the stones and darkness. But not even orphans of any faith. And the noise comes from their own "homothymadon", it gives birth to the Church; from their own faith, it gives birth to the Faith. Christ asks for faith from the stones and darkness — as much faith as can be born in there. But the Holy Spirit teaches faith what it lacks to become Faith: to turn stones into rivers and darkness into light.

All this is of great importance for us today. Because today's Christians too often see ourselves losing hope. Inside and outside we find stones and darkness everywhere. And our Christian consciousness is full of a twisted maximalism: we consider it our debt a faith that alone will do everything, heal our wounds, multiply the will, purify the calculations - "where is your faith? ", we say recklessly to anyone we see losing their courage. And because we walk constantly full of pain and wounds, with empty will and cheap calculations, we lose our hope and are filled with disappointment. Our world is immersed in "darkness" and our heart is "stone". But we must always remember that Christ became light and "life" for this world, no matter how many stones and darkness there are in it (within us and outside of us). And even what he asked of us - faith - he again undertook to support it: he sent the Holy Spirit to take it and make it a Church. Within the Church, which the Holy Spirit gave birth to at Pentecost, faith becomes Faith and life becomes Life. Rivers flow from the stones and the darkness becomes light - "And there is no night there, and they do not need a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God gives them light" (Rev. 22,5). The consciousness of our own inadequacy is no longer a cause for despair. We don't have to be adequate. We need to be there, "like-minded" , all together as one, each presenting his weak and missing, and together whatever faith is born through such materials... Above all, with determination! Karteria for a rumble that tears stones and darkness.