Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. -John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Prologue: the beginning of the church
The Jewish day of Pentecost celebrated the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. The story in the book of Exodus of the giving of the law is marked by characteristic Baal imagery: God appears on top of a mountain, with thunder, lightning, cloud, and earthquake. Exodus 19:19 says that when Moses talked to God, "God would answer him in thunder." So in Acts 2 God arrives in "a sound like the rush of a violent wind," and fire appears, not on the top of a holy mountain, but on the top of each believer’s head.
–Gail Ramshaw Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary p.423
On This Week's Prompts for Personal Meditation You make the winds your messengers and flames of fire your servants.Psalm 104:4 In his study of mysticism, The Idea of the Holy, Rudolf Otto describes both a sense of awe and a sense of dread when encountering the numinous. Like wind and fire in nature provoking situations of danger or comfort, wind and fire in scripture symbolize Divine Presence evoking awe, terror, and fascination. In mystical progression, Pentecost is the analogue for the union of the soul with God. I think it is impossible to approach Pentecost without a sense of dread. The conferring of the Holy Spirit is the same motion as the commissioning as Apostles. We are “sent” with the Good News to the “ends of the earth” as bearers of Good News. But Good News is real change, and change is dangerous, and often not received well, as tradition illustrates. I love the mystical poetry I found relating to union of the soul with the Divine: the Jewish Liturgical rhapsody on holy fire (meditation one), and Mechtild and Catherine of Sienna's hymns to divine union (meditations two and three) and finally, Mychal Judge's famous prayer sending us out into the world (the Last Word). The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest its voice, but thou knowest not whence it cometh and whether it goeth; so is every one that is born of the spirit. Where are you sent? Blessings of wind and fire, -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) celestial fire Now an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire – a fire that devours fire; a fire that burns in things dry and moist; a fire that glows amid snow and ice; a fire that is like a crouching lion; a fire that reveals itself in many forms; a fire that is, and never expires; a fire that shines and roars; a fire that blazes and sparkles; a fire that flies in a storm wind; a fire that burns without wood; a fire that renews itself every day; a fire that is not fanned by fire; a fire that billows like palm branches; a fire whose sparks are flashes of lightning; a fire black as a raven; a fire, curled, like the colours of the rainbows! -Eleazar Ben Kaller c 6th to 10th century liturgical poet translated by T Carmi The Element Book of Mystical Verse
Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of Holy Spirit, Alleluia, Alleluia
-Dismissal after the Eucharist
The Dove Descending
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.
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.
Little Gidding, IV Four Quartets
Pentecost, Monaco Lorenzo, Letter O, Antiphonary, 1396
Pentecost, French Miniaturist, Ingeborg Psalter, c.1195
Meditation Two (insight) union of desires And God said to the soul: I desired you before the world began. I desire you now As you desire me And where the desires of two come together There love is perfected. -Mechtild of Magdeburg 1207-1297 (trans.by Oliver Davies)
How God comes to the soul: I descend on my love As dew on a flower. -Mechtild of Magdeburg (trans. by Oliver Davies)
There the soul dwells – like the fish in the sea and the sea in the fish. -Catherine of Siena c 1347 (?1333)-1380
Meditation Three (integration) going forth Effortlessly,
Love flows from God into man, Like a bird Who rivers the air Without moving her wings. Thus we move in His world, One in body and soul, Though outwardly separate in form. As the Source strikes the note, Humanity sings-- The Holy Spirit is our harpist, And all strings Which are touched in Love Must sound. - Mechtild of Magdeburg 1207-1297 trans. Jane Hirshfield
The Last Word a prayer for going forth Lord Take me where you want me to go, Let me meet who you want me to meet Tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.
-The Rev. Mychal Judge O.F.M. d. 9/11/2001
Pentecost, Unknown Illustrator of the Petites Heures de Jean de Berry, 14th century
… when I say unrestricted love I do not mean perfect love. I simply mean a love that goes on and on and on, just as man's knowledge and questioning go on and on and on. but, I repeat, it is never perfect in this life: authenticity is never fully achieved. The person with this unrestricted love has his conflicts and struggles, his imperfection and anguish, his neurosis and fear. He has his moments of betrayal and failure and sin. All this is part of that human adventure which is a love affair with the infinite. It is part of the experience of being in love.
-William Johnston The Inner Eye of Love
The beginning of Christendom is, strictly, at a point out of time. A metaphysical trigonometry finds it among the spiritual Secrets, at the meeting of two heavenward lines, one drawn from Bethany along the Ascent of Messias, the other from Jerusalem against the Descent of the Paraclete. That measurement, the measurement of eternity in operation, of the bright cloud and the rushing wind, is, in effect, theology.
The history of Christendom is the history of an operation. It is an operation of the Holy Ghost towards Christ, under the conditions of our humanity; and it was our humanity which gave the signal, as it were, for that operation. The visible beginning of the Church is at Pentecost, but that is only a result of is actual beginning – and ending – in heaven.
-Charles Williams 1886-1945 The Descent of the Dove: A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church (quoted from Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness)