In the middle of discussing why the Holy Spirit shows up in these visible forms–the dove at Jesus’ baptism, the tongues of fire at Pentecost–Aquinas makes an interesting comment on the role of the Pentecost phenomena:
“To the Apostles, the mission [of the Spirit at Pentecost] took the form of a mighty wind, as a sign of their power as ministers of the sacraments; so the words, ‘Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them;’ it also took the form of tongues as of fire in evidence of their teaching office; thus, ‘They began to speak with diverse tongues.’” (Summa Theologiae, Ia, Q43, A7, ad. 6)
The first explanation is interesting enough: the mighty wind is a sign of the offering of forgiveness, forgiveness is like a great wind pushing back on the sin of the world through the Church. But the second I find more interesting: the tongues of fire signify the teaching office–the “officium doctrinae”–of the apostles.
This is of course a stretch, but what if part of the force of the rise of Pentecostalism is the Spirit’s giving of a new teaching in the Church? Do Pentecostals have any share in the apostolic teaching office by virtue of their unique share in the Spirit of Pentecost? Is the typical Pentecostal anti-intellectualism a denial of the fullness of that which the Spirit wishes to give to the Church through the revival? As a reading of St. Thomas this is not possible, but it still gives me cause for hope, for prayer.