MAY 22, 2010- VIGIL OF PENTECOST:  EZECHIEL 47:1-12; JOHN 7:37-39

JESUS CRIED OUT SAYING: “IF ANYONE IS THIRSTY, LET HIM COME TO ME AND DRINK, HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME. AS SCRIPTURE SAYS: “RIVERS OF LIVING WATER WILL FROM OUT FROM HIS BELLY.”  Saint John Chrysostom explains that the Greek word, koilias, here is more correctly translated ‘heart’ rather than ‘belly.’ Jesus, of course, was referring to Hebrew scripture where the word (1)v) beten can mean either belly, womb, or heart. We find this usage in a text where 1)v is used in reference to men so it can hardly mean ‘womb’ but rather, has the significance ‘the interior man”, ‘the heart’ as in Proverbs 22:17-18: Incline your ears and hear my words . . .  for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you or in your heart. The Syriac, which is a dialect of the Aramaic that was Jesus’ native language, well captures his meaning. It translates John’ Greek with a phrase that means “from within.” In any case, Jesus on this occasion proclaims that he is the source of life. The living waters he speaks of are a symbol of the true life that he brings, as John had earlier reported when the Lord spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. This living water is, as the Lord told Nicodemus, suggestive of the Holy Spirit who will be given after Jesus ascends to the Father.  The Rabbis understood very well that living water is a natural symbol of the Holy Spirit of God. The prophet also understood the breath of God as imparting life.  As we heard in the first reading today, Ezechiel had spoken of God as imparting life by breathing on the dried bones of faithless Israel and bring them back to life. Later the same prophet had a vision of a flowing stream arising from the temple in Jerusalem that was abundantly fruitful, transforming its banks into sources of appealing fruits, freshly productive each month and so supplying nourishment as a symbol of God’s life-giving blessing. Jesus, in referring to his own body as the source of the life-giving waters, then makes the claim that he supplants the temple as providing the blessings of the Spirit of God. This role as Spirit giving was fundamental to the very purpose of Jesus’ existence. He had been conceived by the action of the Holy Spirit in the womb (1)v) beten of Mary and at the end of his post-resurrection appearances he fulfills the promise to impart the Holy Spirit.

The Evangelist tells us at the end of his Gospel that: JESUS BREATHED ON THEM (the apostles) AND SAID: “RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT.” Earlier, on the night before he went to his passion and death, Jesus had declared to Thomas “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Now, just before he leaves the earth to ascend to the right hand of his Father, he imparts the Spirit who is the bearer of the life and truth that Jesus embodies. In this act of breathing and by the words accompanying this act he bestows a share in the powers that he enjoys by his very nature. This gift specifies a special power, which consisted in the forgiving and the retaining sins. On this occasion, he defines the Spirit's function in explicit detail, and the gift is imparted only to designated persons among his followers, the chosen group of apostles. In another situation, however, he promised this same Spirit to his disciples in much broader terms, speaking of Him as the companion whose active presence is at once consoling and strengthening so as to impart an altogether new sense of confidence. 

As we celebrate this Vigil of Pentecost we are invited by our Lord’s words and by his coming to us in this Eucharist to enter into our own hearts so as the more attentively and fully to open our self by trusting faith that he fulfills his promise to pour out upon us the admirable gift of the Holy Spirit. May we have the faith and courage to believe that God so loves us as to send into the depths of our heart his own Spirit who unites the Father with the Son in love. In receiving this promised gift with ardent desire we enter upon that new life that Jesus invites us to thirst for, the undying life of the Blessed Trinity.&

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

Go to index page