The Icon of Pentecost
The Descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of "tongues like as of
fire" upon the Apostles is commemorated by Christians on the 50th day
after Pascha, or on the 10th day after the Ascension of Christ. As a
liturgical feast, this day is correlated by the Church with the Feast
of the Holy Trinity (Trinity Sunday). On the following day, on a
Monday, they celebrate Monday of the Holy Spirit (Trinity Monday), and
All Saints' Day is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost.
So, the Descent of the Holy Spirit finishes the Theophany and opens
the theology of Trihypostatic God. Actually, this Day gave rise to the
trinitarian formula of Baptism:"In the name of the Father, and the
Son, and the Holy Spirit."This day is considered to be the "Birthday
of the Church." The Greek word Ecclesia means "gathering,"and the
gathering of the Apostles came to mean the first "anointing of the
Church with the Heavenly Fire." Traditionally, on this day churches
are decorated with green branches (in accordance with the Russian
tradition, they bring white birch branches) and flowers as a sign of
"spiritual Spring"and the renewal of life. In the Old Testament,
Pentecost was celebrated as the "Festival of Reaping" and the "Day of
the First Fruits" and latter commemorated God giving the "Sinai Law"
fifty days after the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
The Icon of Pentecost
In the New Testament, Pentecost, i.e. the "fire baptism" of the Apostles, which corresponds to the liturgical Sacrament of Anointing all believers with chrism, became a tradition as the "birth" of the Church of Christ through giving it the charisma of Life in the Spirit of God.
Pentecostis the antithesis of the "Babylon separation of peoples. On this day, the Apostles preached to the Jews and Gentiles in many languages so that even foreigners understood and marveled. So, linguistic and ethnic barriers were torn down by the Holy Spirit, Who opened a virtually new understanding of life - "as a Revelation of beneficial life in the Spirit of God." The hypostatic Spirit is the "Giver of Life" (a prayer), because His creative energy is the life-giving Love. In the Kontakion on Pentecost, they sing: "When God distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity," and from that moment the Church entered the beginning of the way to the future fullness of Deification. Therefore, the festival of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is also an anagogical festival, a festival of climbing the steps of spiritual mountains ("mountains" as a symbol of spiritual ascent are depicted on the icon of the Trinity) to meet Trihypostatic God.
Pentecost completes the "paschal cycle." This is a post-festive final feast that completes the seven Great Feasts in honor of Jesus Christ: Annunciation, Nativity, Baptism, Transfiguration, Golgotha, Resurrection, and Ascension. Christ "conceived" and "nurtured" the Church, which was born through the fiery grace of the Holy Spirit, while the Virgin Mother of God, in whom the Infant God was born through the visitation of the Holy Spirit, is made not by hand "temple of birth" and the first living "stone" in the birth of the Christian Church. Like every icon dedicated to liturgical feasts, the Icon of Pentecost has three interpretations: theological (related to God's Trinitarian Revelation), iconological (related to the Divine Economy), and historical (related to preaching to the Gentiles). This iconography expresses several iconological "modes of action": a) white rays (12) of Light, emanating from the diskos of the whole consubstantial Trinity; b) cinnabaric tongues (12) of Spiritual Fire above the Apostles' heads, as a symbol of the second Baptism with the Heavenly Fire; c) cinnabaric"logoi seeds"on the white veil held by the Mother of God.
These three actions are exactly what primarily makes it possible to talk about the "birth of the Church." The fiery action of the Holy Spirit vivifies and transforms Christ's teaching. The
symbolic significance of this teaching lies in the evangelical scrolls (11 +1 books with Paul the Apostle = 12) that are held by the Apostles. "Fired" by the Holy Spirit, the scrolls become cinnabar seeds for new "sprouts", the New Testament faith; the faith becomes a practical discipline of ascending in the Spirit "by grace," rather than "by the Old Testament law," in accordance with the words: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the
Spirit is spirit." The Descent of the Holy Spirit revealed the anagogical idea of "approximations and discernments," which opened an opportunity for seeing and knowing God. In the hands of the Virgin Mother of God, the teaching scrolls are transformed into the seeds of faith.
The cinnabar color is a symbol of transfigured "fired clay," i.e. the physical nature of Man; just as the halo crown depicted in icons symbolizes Alpha, the beginning of the iconological way, so here the creation of the Church was started by the Mother of God. She was the first to receive (the shape of the veil depicted in the icon resembles the "ark") not only the "seed" of Christ's incarnation, but also the cinnabar seeds of the Holy Spirit; they incarnated in Her, and She is the beginning of the fullness of religious concept of "Christ's Church born in the Holy Spirit."
Therefore, the basic idea is this icon of Pentecost (although the historical idea of "preaching to the cosmos" is not belittled) lies primarily in showing the iconographic moment of the mystical birth of the Christ-conceived Church of the Holy Spirit: "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The icon's entire color, light, and linear system is saturated with the gospel of Deification, so that every person who open-heartedly contemplates the idea of the Icon of the Descent of the Holy Spirit could be filled with faith in salvation in the grace of the Father,and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
© PROSOPON SCHOOL Of ICONOLOGY 2016