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The Relationship Between the Giving of the Law and Pentecost

A neglected topic taken up by Bossuet in his Elevations on the Mysteries:

When God wanted to give Moses the law on Mount Sinai, we read four important things. He descended to the sound of thunder and trumpets. The whole mountain seemed on fire, and one could see a flame break out in a cloud of smoke. God engraved the Decalogue on two stone tablets. He pronounced the other articles of the law in an intelligible voice, which was heard by all the people.

To publish the Gospel law, he renewed these four things, but in a much more excellent way. The work began with a great noise: but it was neither the violence of thunder, nor the sound of trumpets, as we hear in a fight; the noise which God sent was like that of an impetuous wind, which represented the Holy Spirit; and who, without being terrible or threatening, filled the whole house, and called all of Jerusalem to the beautiful spectacle which God was going to give them. We saw a fire, but pure and smoke-free, which did not appear from afar to frighten the disciples, but whose innocent flame, without burning them or singeing their hair, rested on their heads. This fire penetrated inside, and by this means the law of the Gospel was gently imprinted, not in insensible stones, but in a heart composed of flesh, and softened by grace. There was a word, which multiplied admirably. In place on Mount Sinai God spoke one language, and one people; in the evangelical publication which was to bring together in one all the peoples of the universe in the faith of Jesus Christ and the knowledge of God, in a single speech we heard all languages, and each people heard their own. So Jesus established his law much differently than Moses. Let us believe, hope, love, and the law will be in our hearts. Let us prepare inner ears for him, simple attention, a gentle fear which ends in love.

The giving of the law as a “figure” of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is something that has gotten neglected as the practice of type/antitype has gone out of fashion in Christian circles.  It should not: such a hermeneutic shows that the Old Testament and the sacred history of the Jews was the preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.


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