Babel, Undone

A Homily for Pentecost

Texts: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21


El_Greco_006-large.jpg
El Greco’s Pentecost, 1596

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends the Holy Spirit upon us that we may be one. Amen.

Confession time: I’m not good with languages. My pronunciation is terrible, I have no ear for accents, and, worst of all, I don’t devote the time to studying them that proficiency demands. It’s a shame, too, because I’ve always actually really liked languages, especially the history of how they evolve and borrow from one another. Over the past twenty years, I’ve studied French in middle school, Spanish in high school, German in college, and Greek and Hebrew in seminary.

In fact, I took a full two years of German in college. When my parents were stationed there my senior year, I excitedly went to visit them in Heidelberg, and I was confident that my semesters of anguish would producing stunning results. First night in country, we went out to eat at a local restaurant; I placed my order in my most polished Deutsch:

Ich moechte einmal Radler und ein Jaegerschnitzel bitte.

…only for the waiter to respond in perfect – but frustrated – English. So much for that idea. Continue reading “Babel, Undone”

The Spirit is on the Move

A Homily for the Feast of Pentecost

Texts: Acts 2:1-21; St. John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15


Grace to you and Peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who sends us the Holy Spirit, another advocate, to lead the Church. Amen.

Last Sunday, we read Saint Luke’s twin accounts of the Ascension, those scenes in which Christ led his disciples out away from the city and was taken up from the face of the earth. “Well now what?” they must have asked.

What comes next for the Church, now that Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand? Continue reading “The Spirit is on the Move”

The Triune God, the Holy Spirit, and Gender

Question: The pastor called the Holy Spirit “she.” What’s up with that?

Language is tricky, translation trickier still, and translating language about God is trickiest of all. Relational terms like Father and Son, describing the First and Second Persons of the Trinity respectively, describe the intimate relationship between parent and child but in ways that can, at times, limit our understanding of the Triune God. Trickier still is how we understand the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, and what pronouns to use.

Short Answer: While human language is limited and translations complicate the matter, there are linguistic reasons to refer to the Holy Spirit using feminine pronouns, and the practice was common in parts of the early Church. Continue reading “The Triune God, the Holy Spirit, and Gender”