10 May 2008

Pentecost 2008 -- Cave of the Heart: Word of God, Fire of the Spirit and a World Remade

Pentecost is upon us and we celebrate with the ancient prayer, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love!" So many of the images that precede this feast use references to a Christ who leaves us behind while we are left looking forward to him returning "in glory," we are apt to miss just whose Spirit it is we celebrate is being poured out into our hearts and how it is Christ is still present. We are also apt to miss the import of the pouring out of this Spirit or what it is that it is in the process of creating. A Church, yes. The Body of Christ, yes. Perhaps even, a New heaven and a new earth," But how often do we hear these as bits of poetry, mere metaphors we hardly take seriously?

Last week though during vigils (actually it was on the feast of the Ascension) one of the readings struck me with a force that was visceral. The reading was from the letter to the Ephesians, and the passage went as follows: [[It is he who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ, till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God's Son, AND FORM THE PERFECT MAN WHO IS CHRIST COME TO FULL STATURE.]]

Now, isn't that an awesome thought? We as church are to become "the perfect man who is Christ come to full stature"! Poetry? Assuredly, but also a poetry we are to take with a literalness and deadly seriousness that will transform the way we see ourselves, our notion of Church, and the responsibility we have to BE Christ with and for others. Apparently the Christ Event is "not finished," --- even with the resurrection and Ascension --- nor did the Ascension spell the movement of Christ to some remote heaven. Instead, it signalled a new kind of presence, a presence marked by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Father and Son, the Spirit of Love, with a new power into our midst. Heaven and Earth interpenetrate one another in a new way --- if only we could learn to see it --- and, as Christ's own Body we are now an integral part of the Christ coming to full stature in what will truly be a single reality the Scriptures call "a new heaven and a new earth"!!

The reading continued, [[Let us be children no longer. . . let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.]]

To love we must first be loved; to profess the truth effectively and with integrity we must first be made true; to speak and live with the integrity and maturity of real adults (Daughters and Sons rather than children) our hearts must be transformed in the power of the Holy Spirit that does indeed enkindle within us the passionate and powerful fire of Divine love. The really privileged places we encounter such a love and open ourselves to the Spirit of Christ are in the Scriptures we contend with daily, and the Eucharist we receive similarly. As we move forward from this Easter Season in the power of Pentecost, let our hearts truly become those places where the Word of God is enthroned a living and sovereign reality, where the Fire of the Spirit burns with a passion the world both needs desperately and cannot deny, and, wholly transparent to the light of heaven, transform our world with the presence of Christ "come to full stature" into that place of true peace and justice where God is "all in all."

(Pictures from Sky Farm Hermitage, Sonoma, CA) These pictures of a hermitage chapel (one of the most beautiful and powerful I have ever seen) convey very well what our hearts (and selves) are to become in the power of the Holy Spirit. Beautiful, solitary -- though communal -- enflamed with love and steeped in the Word of God. A "place" where others are always welcome and find a peace and freedom they hunger and thirst for. "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love! Make us together into the perfect One who is Christ come to full stature!"