The Monday after Pentecost is known as the Day of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church.
Some of the hymns in the Orthodox tradition particularly speak to me or stick out in my mind. This morning during Matins there was this ‘Sessional Hymn’:
THE FOUNTAIN OF THE SPIRIT RUSHES DOWN TO EARTH,
MYSTICALLY DIVIDED INTO FLAMING STREAMS,
BOTH REFRESHING AND ENLIGHTENING THE APOSTLES,
FOR THE FIRE BECAME FOR THEM A CLOUD OF DEW,
RAINING ENLIGHTENMENT UPON THEM.
FROM THEM WE HAVE RECEIVED GRACE, BY FIRE AND WATER,//
FOR TRULY THE LIGHT OF THE COMFORTER HAS ILLUMINED THE WORLD!
It is the mixing of metaphors and images which is both entertaining and edifying. The hymn moves between images of water and fire.
The “Fountain” of the Spirit rushes down to earth while being divided into flaming streams
The fire becomes a cloud of dew
The cloud enlightens.
Wonderful images which by their incompatible nature help us understand the mystery of God’s dispensation. Those mixed metaphors drive away wooden literalism and open our minds to marvel at the mystery which is also God’s revelation.
God truly is ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, and incomprehensible as we pray in the Liturgy. So no one image or metaphor can ever properly describe the Triune God. The creative use of fire and water together help us understand the inadequacies of our language for understanding the Holy Trinity.