2011. június 13., hétfő

The Cross of Pentecost



Recently I have been reading Karl Rahner's meditations on Pentecost. The text from the 1970s has remained amazingly fresh. "We may think we find in and around us too much of the spirit of the world and too little of the Spirit of the Father. While these impressions may frequently be valid, there is usually something false in them, too. Something false, I say, because the human eye cannot detect the Spirit in us and in the Church." The thought he continues with is also important: "We must not interpret our experience of life falsely, and think that the Spirit of God has become distant and weak. Rather, we must learn from these experiences that we are always seeking him in the wrong place and in the wrong way, that we are always ready to confuse him with something else. If we reflect in this way, then we shall perceive over and over again with trembling joy that the Spirit is there that he is with us." (The Eternal Year, Meditations on the Mysteries of Faith Expressed in the Liturgical Cycle)

Perhaps, this Pentecost has been the first time that I asked as an adult: what does Pentecost mean for me? In the light of the above quote: that there is another viewpoint on our world. There is a viewpoint, outside our eyes, from where everything is seen in freedom. Everything is richer and capable of change. In one word, when we can see persons and things in the Spirit.

Since Rahner, the world has changed enormously. The same applies to our "sight". In our pluralist Europe, Christians for the first time are facing the task to announce the "Cross" to pluralist consciousness. To put it more humbly, in presenting the Cross, we should not be afraid of asking of "present consciousness", with a readiness to learn, what does the Cross means to them? What can Pentecost mean in their life?

Pentecost, in effect, shines forth from the Cross. When we ask about its meaning, we also have to listen to our "pluralistic mind", which we share with those living in the world. The question is: what change, what transformation can it bring about in our lives? In our interconnected life. The experience of a multilayered world connects us all who live inside and outside the Church. Thus, for me, Pentecost means the opening up of the Church's borders. When, we re-define the function of these borders. When we see these 'open' borders of the Church in love. Then the church becomes a living membrane of grace. For it is through these borders that Jesus goes freely in and out between our sacramental vision of life and "this world", in which, we should not forget, we live, too. I would say that Pentecost is that border through which Jesus can communicate freely. The meaning of "inside" and "outside" has changed radically in Pentecost. The outside should be welcomed as encouraged to be an 'anonymous Christian', to paraphrase Rahner. Pentecost compels us to see the world as an 'anonymous convert'. If we do not see it with this generosity, the world will remain in their futile postmodern revolts.

Pentecost, for religious identity means the birthday of the Christian community. The very fact that the Holy Spirit was poured out as a life-giving fire is remarkable. But the community upon which this life has landed is equally deserves attention. What community was it upon which the Spirit descended? What was the nature of this community at the very moment of its birth? The Church, in this momentum of life is a community of total openness. It looks upon the "outside world" as his Christ! This church has recognised Christ in the world. He was the centre of its perception. This state of openness is the prototype of Christian life. Pentecost is the prototype of the re-births of the Christian community. Recalling this moment entrusts us with the courage to come out of our fears, from self-enclosure, from our turning away from the world; nay, often, from our clinging to worldly power. Pentecost is a pure, genuine interest in the passion-stories of the world.

What this Pentecost-Christianity − we − can show to the world is crucial. We can tell our culture that its symbols are deeply in crisis. The symbols of European culture, so to say, suffer from a burnout. That is why our life does not have true centres any longer. For the function of symbols is to nourish the person and the community. They are living mirrors which give time to ponder our humaneness and to transform us into the message of our symbols; into the inner life of the "Cross", love. There is no time for growth; there is no time for inner development. That is the Beckettian stage of Europe, at the moment. Empty repetitions of values without the intention to remember the roots of these values. There are no symbols through which God could speak to us. At Pentecost this is what we should brood on together with our secular culture.

In view of this, we should look back to the first, historical Pentecost. For this was the voice of the church stepping into the world. They offered an attractive Symbol of life to the world. They offered Pentecost as a 'symbol' of life, a story to join in. The story of transformation.

We can recall how the apostles stayed behind closed doors. These are all too familiar, uncanny images, when we saw them in confusion. They perceived Jesus' presence after his resurrection; and yet, it turned out that it was not a full perception. They were puzzled and perplexed. It was a phase of confused horizons and lost equilibriums. They took the Resurrected Jesus to be a gardener; or a ghost. This was, in their life, so to say the time for creating their Symbol. Correspondingly, as it is the case with newly emerging cultural Symbols, it was also the time of mourning of old symbols. In their delirium − on the road the Emmaus, the twelve behind closed doors − we find them in a deep 'mourning'. Before that, the apostles were in depression and fear. A delirium of failed expectations. They were in a deep mourning: on their way of accepting the loss of their old images of faith, their old hopes and expectations. Pentecost is the awakening from this 'mourning'. They were enlightened by the Cross. Pentecost, the power of the risen Lord has changed everything. They come out to life. Before that, they were clinging to 'their' God, the way they wanted to see Him. They could step out from among these images − precisely through pronouncing the cross as the "Cross", with capital C. They could turn the shameful, prosaic fact of the cross, a device of turture into a living Symbol; into a presence full of Life. Which Presence creates an ethical community: where brothers and sisters, slaves and full right citizens can freely meet. That was the way, through a new 'symbolisation' the first Christians overcome their 'cultural depression'. They could inscribe their life into the symbol of the Cross and the symbol of Pentecost.

The historical conversion of the Mediterranaeum shows that the Cross became a healing symbol to renew culture. It severed peoples and communities successfully from the melancholy of the past. As a result, the whole antic world came out from its deep cultural depression − from the state of not knowing Christ. I surmise that this very same creating of symbol is awaiting our postmodern, post-Christian world. Our secular world, we should not forget, is 'suffering secularity'. It is a deep, common link with us. The experiences of our culture are rich, in positive and in negative sense, too. A very rich and complex ʻmourning' is awaiting the world. Our world, potentially, can produce a new, beautiful imagery of Christ's cross. It is our truest potential.

Back to Rahner's opening quote, it is quite certain, that this 'symbolisation' is already on the rise. One thing, however, is for certain. In this world, after Pentecost, Christians cannot speak about the Cross in the same way as they had done before. Whenever we make an utterance about Cross in our services it has to bear relevance to the 'outside' world, too. For the world is en Christo, that is, in Christ.





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