Does Your Paraclete Talk to You?
Unless you have read extensively in Christian literature or are an ace at the Greek language, you may not have gotten the pun above. Paraclete is the Greek word for comforter and was used in the Greek versions of the New Testament to designate the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Godhead recognized by Christians believing in the Holy Trinity. It is the Paraclete who appears dramatically on the first Christian Pentecost, which we acknowledge this June on the 4th, as well as in our recognition of the Holy Trinity on Trinity Sunday, June 10th this year.
Trinity Sunday is the next Sunday following Pentecost. From one source, we learn that the Feast of the Pentecost (called “Shabuoth” by the children of Israel) was held in the Judaic month of Sivan seven weeks after their Passover (which readers of this column will remember they called “Pesach”) in thanksgiving for their grain harvest. It was sometimes associated with the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was frequently the occasion for reading the Book of Ruth, decoration of their homes with greens and eating a meal symbolic of milk and honey. According to another source the term Pentecost is derived from the Greek “Pentecoste” for “50th day” and, of course, it became the major Christian holy day that it now is when, as described in the Book of Acts 2: 1-41, the Paraclete which Jesus had promised them came with great wonder upon the Apostles. After that experience, Peter went out and preached a sermon so articulate that 3,000 in his audience believed and were baptized.
This has led to the reference to the Christian version of Pentecost’s being called the “birthday of the Church”. It also became sometimes known as Whitsunday because of the tradition which developed of baptizing new Christians who wore white on that feast day for their admission into the fellowship of believers. The concept of the Christian Trinity was well stated by Athanasius in his argument against the Arian heresy when he said, “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” The scholar James Kiefer points out that it was 8 years after the death (in 373 A.D.) of Athanasius when the Nicene Creed was affirmed at the Council of Constantinople providing the ultimate defeat of the Arians who thought erroneously that Jesus was less than God, but more than man. The first source mentioned in this paragraph also quotes Origen’s pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus in one of the first creeds (circa 260-270A.D.) as follows: “There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever.” Let us pray during this month that our Paraclete will continue to speak to us.
Sources: Encyclopedia; Encarta Encyclopedia; Encyclopaedia Britannica; and James Kiefer’s Chrostoan Biographies, http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/jek/