I have long loved the Festival of Pentecost, for it is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the breath of God, like cloven tongues of fire. This coming of the Spirit of God is the creative force of life itself manifesting at this moment in history.
And thus the Church is born, born of this promised Spirit, promised at the Ascension by Christ, to give these men and women strength to do the work of God on Earth, through the Church, the Bride of Christ.
The Creator of the world, and of you and I at the moment of conception in the womb, continues to recreate his creation through his Holy Spirit. And so we sang this morning, “Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,/And lighten with celestial fire…” (217). We desire to be re-created, made anew, given the fresh breath, his breathing, the wind of God blowing upon us, among us, stirring us up.
St. Luke describes the scene, this birthday of the Church, in Jerusalem:
“WHEN the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilæans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judæa, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:1+, BCP 180)
The Jewish festival of Pentecost (fifty days from Passover) had brought pilgrims from afar, speaking other languages. It was perfect timing for the Church to be born, for God the Holy Spirit to descend upon the apostles. The sound was like a mighty rushing wind; they saw cloven tongues like fire descend upon each one of them. They were given the ability to speak in other languages.
This was a mighty event, to be sure, a moment in human history that would change the world forever. This was a moment that gave mankind the creative force of God the Creator. And with this Holy Spirit we are filled with God, when we pray, when we worship, when we call upon him.
This creative Holy Spirit continues to recreate each of us and our world. Each breath we take, each day we live, is spurred by God’s life within us. We are in-spired, breathed upon, by God. We need only ask.
When we were baptized this new life came upon us, recreated us. Other sacraments bring the Holy Spirit to us as well, just as the cloven tongues of fire came upon the disciples. We too, experience this transforming recreation of our souls and bodies, not only in Baptism, but in the Eucharist, in Confirmation, in Penance, in Anointing of the Sick, in Matrimony, and in Holy Orders. These are moments in our lives when God recreates us, makes us whole, makes us holy as we were meant to be. (The English Church sometimes calls Pentecost the Festival of Whitsunday, for Confirmations became a tradition on this day, and the wearing of white.)
It has been said that we are People of the Book, along with Abraham’s other descendants, Jews and Muslims. We bring God among us through our stories, many true history, many parables. And it is in this greater story of man, of humanity, that we learn who we are as God’s children.
For he loves us. He shows us ways of knowing him and of loving him back. He shows us ways that he can enter our lives and our hearts. He shows us ways we can find the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He reaches out to touch us as we reach out for him.
This is good news. And we remind ourselves of this good news as we celebrate the drama of salvation throughout the year in ritual and song. We celebrate creation and recreation, the jeweled moments we experience in our span of life in this time, until we arrive at the Heavenly gates and see him face to face.
I have been memorizing a prayer, and this week I learned the third verse:
“May thy Holy Spirit cover and protect us daily, with mighty angels an prayers of the saints.”
Amen. Come Holy Spirit, come.