Happy Birthday Church!

A couple of observations about some Pentecost icons.

First, the empty seat at the top is the Empty or Teaching Seat. This Seat represents the place where Christ sits, not physically present but present now through the Holy Spirit and continuing to instruct the church.

Second, Paul is included among the apostles sitting at the top right across from Peter on the top left. Frequently icons conflate or stack time, stacking past, present and future events on top of each other.

Third, who is that old king at the bottom of the icon?

That is Kosmos (or Cosmos) representing the entire world, not creation but the peoples of the world. Kosmos holds in his hands scrolls of apostolic teachings symbolizing that with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the commissioning of the church the teachings of Jesus are spreading throughout the whole world. And having received this teaching Kosmos--the peoples of the world--are now emerging out of darkness.

I hope you have a blessed Pentecost.

Happy Birthday Church!

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2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Church!”

  1. Fourth, note that there are no women in the icon. (Quelle surprise.)

    It is usually, and not unreasonably, assumed that the "they" in "they were all together [pantes homou] in one place" in Acts 2:1 refers back to the 11+1 apostles at the end of Acts 1, but it certainly need not do so, particularly as Mary, the mother of Jesus, "together with certain women", are mentioned in block with the 11 apostles in Acts 1:14. Check out El Greco's terrifically dynamic, even psychedelic painting of Pentecost, which actually has Mary the mother of Jesus centrally placed, with Mary Magdalene on her immediate left (and, btw, the artist himself fourth on her left, looking, dare I say, rather cynical about the whole business).

  2. Pentecost is NOT the Birthday of the Church.... εκκλησια simply means 'assembly' and therefor is an assembly of the elect people of God, which existed even before the Pentecost. So what you could say is: Happy baptism-day, Church!

    To quote an Eastern Orthodox source:

    Some erroneously hold that Pentecost is the "birthday of the Church." But this is not true, for the teaching of the holy Fathers is that the Church existed before all other things. Saint Gregory the Theologian speaks of "the Church of Christ ... both before Christ and after Christ" (PG 35:1108-9). Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus writes, "The Catholic Church, which exists from the ages, is revealed most clearly in the incarnate advent of Christ" (PG 42:640). Saint John Damascene observes, "The Holy Catholic Church of God, therefore, is the assembly of the holy Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, and Martyrs who have been from the very beginning, to whom were added all the nations who believed with one accord" (PG 96, 1357c). According to Saint Gregory the Theologian, "The Prophets established the Church, the Apostles conjoined it, and the Evangelists set it in order" (PG 35, 589 A). The Church existed from the creation of the Angels, for the Angels came into existence before the creation of the world, and they have always been members of the Church. Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome, says in his second epistle to the Corinthians, the Church "was created before the sun and moon"; and a little further on, "The Church existeth not now for the first time, but hath been from the beginning" (II Cor. 14).

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