When the Jews reproach Jesus for healing the paralytic on the Sabbath, Jesus answers: “My Father is working still and I am working” (Jn 5:17). God is master of the Sabbath. His rest after creation does not mean that He turns away from His work, nor that He leaves creation without direction. Quite the contrary, God’s powerful hand sustains the created world and ceaselessly supports it above the void. When He heals the sick man on the Sabbath, Jesus declares Himself to be the Son of God, sent by the Father to save humanity which is on the road to perdition, which is adrift without the permanent support of the Master and Creator.
According to the Church, the meaning of the feast of Mid-Pentecost is the link between the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. On this Wednesday of the fourth week of Pascha (exactly in the middle between Pascha and Pentecost), we celebrate Christ the Mediator. He is sent by the Father, and He promises us the Holy Spirit.
"Today is the celebration of Mid-Pentecost.
On one side, Pascha illuminate with its divine splendour,
on the other side is the radiant grace of the Paraklete."*
(The Canon, Tone 4, Ode 6)
The gospel read at Mid-Pentecost (Jn 7:14-30) begins with the following words: “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.” The feast is the Feast of Booths, celebrated by the Jews in Sukkoth (September-October). It consists of the blessing of the fall harvest and thanksgiving to God for protecting the people during the stay in the desert. On the eighth day of the festival, special prayers are made asking for rain. It is on this day, the last day of the feast, that Jesus stood and raised his voice: “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me!” For, as John specifies, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:37-38). Living water is the sign of Pentecost. This Wednesday feast falls just a few days before the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. Now we live in the expectation of the Holy Spirit Our thirst for God quickens our senses and gives us the impulse to accept God’s gift:
“As a hart longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God!”
The Icon of Mid-Pentecost
The iconography adopted by the Church to illustrate Mid-Pentecost shows us Jesus teaching in the Temple, just as in the gospel. Jesus is sitting at the centre of the Jewish scholars and wise men. These express their amazement at his knowledge: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (Jn 7:15). In answer to this question, Jesus speaks of his connection to the Father, of His divine origin.
Most often, the icons of Mid-Pentecost represent Jesus’ first encounter in the Temple with the doctors of the Law – this is the episode described by Luke, when Jesus was twelve years old (Lk 2:41-50). “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” - He says to his worried parents, thus openly declaring that He is the Son of God and the He must carry out His mission. On that day, Jesus declares His independence from Joseph and Mary; He disobeys them and escapes their tutelage. He tells them about His unique link with God the Father. He accepts filial obedience to the end, and obedience which will lead Him all the way to the cross. “Not My will, but Yours, be done!” (Lk 22:42). Divine Wisdom is revealed to the doctors of the Law who admire the wisdom of the child, revealing Jesus as the Child-Emmanuel announced by the prophets (Is 7:14). The authority of His teaching is already confirmed during His infancy, for “He is before all things,” He precedes creation (Col 1:17 and Prov 8:22-30), “He is begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father” (the Creed). He is “the Wisdom, the Word, and the Power of God” (Matins at Pascha).
The Temple, Site of the Teaching
From His infancy to His passion, Jesus teaches in the Temple, the place of divine presence. In this we can recognise the unity of His teaching and the fulfilment of the Old Covenant in His Person. For He is the “Temple not made with human hands” (Mk 14:58). The hour is coming when all the faithful will be assembled in the Body of Christ.
The Master and Saviour never speaks of Himself. He always refers to the heavenly Father, in this way avoiding the egocentrism which haunts so many so-called masters who hold away the weak-minded. These seek only their own glory, and not the revelation of God to the world. The revelation of the Name of the Father appears in all of Christ’s teaching.
* the Comforter
(The Incarnate God - The Feasts and the Life of Jesus Christ and Mary, Vol. II,
SVS Press, 1995)