Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost B - May 27, 2012

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY

Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC
Pentecost B - Sunday, May 29, 2012

Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Flower buds on Pentecost's Eve
like flames of the Holy Spirit hovering in Creation

Picture by Marie-Noelle Del Alamo
For more of her recent Holy Cross Monastery shots, visit her slideshow
Back in 1970 I was minister in North Carolina.  The congregation had a good number of families with children and we had a great time in Sunday School. Particularly with the K through 3 group – ages that still delight and surprise me. One night at a Church supper we lost the kids!  I led the hunt and we found them hiding in a room, giggling and terrified at the same time as only children can pull off.  Finally we got the story – they were afraid of the Holy Ghost!!

A little teaching and a lot of ice cream soon sorted that out.
But I’ve never really forgotten that.  I can still see the delightful fear and sense the delicious tremors.  And I’m sorry to realize that I got them over it.  Now I’m sure it’s humdrum for them as it has become for most of us.

The Holy Spirit is a conundrum for most of God’s people.  The Father we can picture; the Son we can imagine.  But the Spirit is elusive – an enigma.  And so we either ignore her or go overboard and claim that the manifestations of the Spirit are the sole proof of faith as though the Spirit were the magician of the Trinity  – you know, unless you speak in tongues you’re not quite there yet. We’ve distorted the Spirit, I fear, as we try to understand.  We have boxed in the Spirit to suit ourselves.

But remember Paul.  I love his description of the Spirit as the sighing prayer of God within us – uttering the longings and mystery of love until it permeates the whole longing creation.   No prescription or proposition can capture that wonder and mystery.

How many images of the Spirit capture that terror that awe brings!   Wind, fire, movement in the darkness, sounds and voices, the never quiet dove cooing, cooing; and in the Celtic tradition – the Wild Goose – never tamed, driving on and on through storm over huge distances, on and on.  Never settling forever but driving on and on again.

Fascination and the glamour of mystery – never controlled, never controlling but always offering change and challenge – leading mysteriously into darkness to find light. That’s the Holy Spirit.

Suzanne Guthrie quotes in her meditations for this Sunday from Eliot’s Little Gidding:
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
    Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
    To be redeemed from fire by fire.
From Suzanne's blog At the Edge of the Enclosure

In our anxiety we work hard to tame the Spirit – reduce the Spirit to a warm feeling; a benevolent guide that will help us decide what job to take, what decision to make.  When we get along well, it’s that Sweet, sweet Spirit at work.  When we’re discomfited we wonder why God has left us in confusion or distress… never understanding that often confusion and anxiety are the way to truth.

We want the Spirit to pull us back into our dream of what used to be – for my generation, it’s back to the fifties.   Some of you want the sixties and seventies – never today – always back to Eden, the pristine garden.

And yet, I don’t believe in Scripture that the Spirit ever moves that way. It seems to me that always God is pointing us further and deeper into a new way.

Eliot continues:
Who then devised the torment?  Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
    We only live, only suspire
    Consumed by either fire or fire.
I do believe my little friends of so many years ago were more perceptive than we jaded adults are.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to be among us, within us – and then stand back.  All these gifts of the Spirit will lead us not to tranquility or comfort but into love.  And,
Love must act, as light must shine and fire must burn.
From the Rule of James Otis Sargent Huntington,  founder of the Order of the Holy Cross

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