The National Catholic Review
Fire, air, earth, and water, considered in the classical world to be the four elements essential to the composition of the cosmos, surface in the Pentecost reading. We see the fire in the descirption of the tongues of flame carried in by the rushing air, resting above the heads of those gathered in the room. Together the air and fire represent the presence of the Holy Spirit which Christ,. at his Ascension, promises to send upon the apostles. The water appears at the conclusion of Peter’s speech to the crowds in Jerusalem when he calls everyone to be baptized. Doing so will give them a share in everything they are witnessing, and that is the life of Christ. And earth? Where does this essential element come in? The earth is present in the people of Jerusalem and in tnose elsewhere yet unborn, in the material matter under Peter’s and everyone else’s feet and in matter still uncreated. Pentecost is the renewal, the re-creation of the universe which is part and parcel of the Christ event. Renewal of creation that obliterates the hold of sin and death is constitutive of a life in Christ; it is not a mere add-on. I hope that liturgies on this feastday employ all four elements in their worship: clouds of incense, streams of water, and choirs of voice and organ. This copious use of sacramentals calls us to gaze at our creation, and in this gaze we should see far too many instances of war, fear, mistrust, greed, falsehood, and lifestyles of impending ecological ruin. With the confidence and joy of the Spirit, however, the wind of Pentecost can prompt us to rectify these abberatoins of the new creation as they sustain us in hope to see creation brought to its intended end in Christ. Michael Patella, OSB