Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost Icon and a Question...

This is the traditional Eastern Icon of Pentecost. A theologian of my acquaintance gets annoyed by depictions which show the Mother of God in this context. Why? Not because he doubts her presence, but rather because he sees it as a duplication of symbols. Our Lady represents the whole Church, as do the Apostles gathered together. Thus, showing the Apostles with Our Lady would present two different and distinct symbols of the Church.
The guy at the bottom of the icon represents the whole world which is about to receive the teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

A Question
The second verse of the Pentecost Sequence goes as follows:
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.
I've never quite understood why the Holy Spirit is called the Father of the Poor. That would seem to be a more fitting title for God the Father. Anyone got any ideas?

I note that in some very early Christian texts, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to in paternal terms. For obvious reasons, that particular usage didn't persevere for long.
(For example, see the Epistle to Diognetes which says of Christ: Having then in the former time demonstrated the inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a Saviour able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, mind, light, honour, glory, strength and life without concerning ourselves about clothes and food. )

9 comments:

romaryka said...

Well, I don't have a theologically informed answer, just an intuitive kind of wondering hunch … perhaps "Father of the Poor" because of the Holy Spirit's place in the Trinity as Consoler? And these are not "beati pauperi" as in Matthew, but rather poor in need of a father, in need of consolation - as are all we earthly creatures, left bereft in the still-sudden renewed absence of our Savior. The Holy Spirit who descends into hearts at Pentecost comes, then, to offer comfort like balm for the wound of our deprivation, our distance from Jesus.

Gil Garza said...

I would guess that Psalm 11:6 (12:5) would be the answer.

Mark said...

I was thinking the same as Romaryka. The Holy Spirit descends as the Comforter. The poor need comfort, and thus feel the Holy Spirit as one would a Father.

pjsandstrom said...

Considering the time frame when this Sequence was written, you probably would find the explanation in the succession in the three clauses: poverty, gifts, inner light (lighting of the heart).

Deacon B. Jerabek said...

Your friend's critique strikes me as a bit clinically academic. Is that the reason that orthodox iconographer-purists give, or is that merely what he has come up with on his own? It seems to me that there is no issue with having duplicate symbols of the Church, since the Church can never be grasped in one symbol. The apostles represent the Church as Teacher and Our Lady represents the Church as Mother. What's wrong with that (other than that perhaps it is not in the Eastern iconographic consciousness)?

Quantitative Metathesis said...

The Holy Spirit can be considered "Father" by His role in our being made children of God in Baptism -- without the descent of the Spirit, the Church cannot come into being.

Also, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." I wonder if we can't make some positive connection between becoming Christian and becoming poor, both through the generation of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew said...

Considering allegorical depictions of Transubstantiation from the Middle Ages frequently showed two Jesuses (if that is indeed a plural) at once, nitpicking about multiple BVMs seems rather pedantic. Tradition is often quite logical but it needn't be a priori logical.

Domini Sumus said...

Whenever I see that icon I always wonder why there are 12 apostles pictured when there would have been only 11 present at Pentecost.

Zadok the Roman said...

There were 12 alright... Matthias is elected to replace Judas at the end of Acts 1, whilst the Coming of the Holy Spirit happens at the start of Acts 2.