Next Sunday the Christian church will celebrate Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s apostles and followers as they were gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, after Christ’s ascension into heaven. Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday.
I have written about Pentecost in this space in previous years, but every year I feel an even more urgent need to do so.
The reality is, I am as unqualified as anyone to truly write about the depth and breadth of the Holy Spirit.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a medieval theologian and scholar most noted for his magnus opus Summa Theologica, suddenly stopped writing the third part of the piece, when he declared "The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me."
Although his words were somewhat cryptic, many believe Aquinas had a mystical experience of this Holy One he had spent his life researching and trying to explain.
Once one has a real encounter with the Divine One, all words do become inadequate, which is unfortunate if, by occupation, you are called to be a writer or speaker.
And yet we try to explain the unexplainable.
The most we can do is say something along the lines of “It’s like…” or “This is how my life has changed since I encountered the Holy One…” because we will never be able to adequately explain these encounters.
While we cannot satisfactorily convey understanding of the Supreme Being while speaking from the brain, I have found in my own experience, that when we share our experiences with each other from the heart, often a light bulb goes on in one another – some kind of interior recognition – that we can identify with, albeit incompletely.
Now, I know that most people who consider themselves Christian, focus mostly on Christ, his life, death and resurrection. And that is absolutely valid. How can we consider ourselves Christian, if we don’t live according to the teachings of the Son of God who lived among us?
And yet, ever since Christ’s ascent into heaven, we are living in the Age of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. The Comforter. The Advocate. The one who intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.
The Holy Spirit dwells within us, is as close to us, and as quiet as our breath, and the Holy Spirit is also “a strong, driving wind.” The Holy Spirit is the one who animates and enables everyone of us to do anything Christ like.
Jesus himself is recorded as saying these words in the Gospel of John:
“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
I have personally experienced the Holy Spirit move in me and through me in extremely powerful ways, ways that could not be explained in any other way than that the Spirit came to rest upon me. And I have been witness to the Spirit working through others and resting on others as well.
When you see it, when you experience it, there is no denying it. There is no other explanation. And the way you can know if it is true, is by the fruit the experience bears.
Does this experience further the message of Christ on Earth? Does this experience edify those around us? Does this experience create in me a deeper hunger, a seemingly more unquenchable thirst for the Presence of the Spirit in my life? Does this experience point away from me and toward the One from whom and in whom all are Created?
If you can answer an unequivocal “Yes!” to all of these questions, then you, my dear reader, have likely been touched and moved by the Holy Spirit.
This experience is not reserved for a few special people. If everyone who calls themselves a Christian were to acknowledge the reality and power of the Holy Spirit to transform this world, our lives, our Life, would change in dramatic, irreversible ways.
I implore you, as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost, ask the Holy Spirit to move in your life in new and powerful ways. Ask for the grace of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, which you can easily find listed online. When you find these gifts and fruits in your life, then you will know.
And then there is no turning back.
Christ told us “if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to throw itself into the sea and it would.”
That’s all it takes. A faith the size of the mustard seed, to believe and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to make your life new, to make your life whole again.
Come Holy Spirit.
SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.