Day of Pentecost

Descent of the Holy Spirit by Michelle L Hofer — mixed media painting on paper, 8 x 10 inches, 2020.

June 5, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C
Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9
Psalm 104:24-34,35b
Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21
John 14:8-17, (25-27)

View Lectionary

My own depiction of the Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost rises out of a symbol found in Christian icon art (see icon image below). At the very top of the these icons there is a semicircle (known as a mandorla) with rays extending from it. Sometimes there are flames at the end of these rays. This symbolizes the sending of the Holy Spirit to earth from God in heaven.

My expression of this visual element is decorative and playful. Set on a flaming bright neon orange-pink background, a beam descends into a central circle shape from which arrow and sword-like rays extend. The overall design is accented boldly with gold lines and energetic dot work.

Pentecost icon, c.1497 — Monastery of St. Cyril on the White Lake, Northern Russia.

You may be interested to know a bit more about the rest of the elements found in a Pentecost icon:

The twelve apostles in the Pentecost icon are harmoniously seated in a semi-circle beneath the Spirit-emitting mandorla. They are not rendered in proper perspective with those seated farther back as smaller, but rather all are equally sized and uniquely posed. This is done to emphasize unity in diversity. Each apostle holds a scroll symbolizing their contributions to the New Testament (in some icons the four gospel writers will hold a book volume rather than a scroll). At the top of the semi-circle of figures is an open seat. This is Christ’s seat, but since he has ascended it is now empty and emphasizes the need for Christ’s presence among the apostles through the Holy Spirit.

Modern versions of this icon will sometimes feature a dove to represent the Holy Spirit. This would be an incorrect addition according to the icon tradition as on Pentecost the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire and the dove is only a specific form seen on the occasion of Christ’s baptism.

Lastly, at the bottom of the Pentecost icon is an aged man standing in a tomb-like space. This man is know as Kosmos and he represents the entirety of humankind. Though he wears a crown signifying his authority over creation, he is trapped in the darkness of sin. On the blanket he holds are the scrolls of Holy Scripture that will teach him and ultimately free him from darkness and death.

Jesus: I will ask the Father to send you another Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will remain constantly with you. The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth, because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him. But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you. — John 14:16-17

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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