It is a mysterious and wonderful thing when spring skies lift spirits and the earth bursts with vibrant colors. And so it is with Pentecost. After all the low and high tides of the Easter season, there is the mysterious and wonderful burst of Pentecost. Childhood versions of that were sketchy and yet a promise so poorly understood. Ironically, it was a cloistered contemplative whose very presence opened an all new perspective on what both mystery and presence mean. The promise of Pentecost is the vibrant color of spring in the context of ordinary human lives. It is the forever that characterizes the best of what it is to be human in relationship to God.
“I may not always be with you, but I will never leave you”, a friend said. I was puzzled when it was said but hardly concerned. Just days later, she was missing. And then she was discovered: lifeless in her own bed still cradling the mystery book she had been reading. She had known what I never anticipated, and in the following months, it became clear that her presence would live on. She had spoken often about what she would gift to others of her possessions, what could be passed on, what she planned on. It was one of the great privileges of my life that I was able to see to those wishes. And trying to comprehend all the mystery of it was what lead to the conversation with the cloistered contemplative.
For her, there was no doubt that mystery is simply part of life and the gift of the Spirit. For her, the presence of the Spirit was a given, a reality of living and life. The Spirit, for her, was breathing in others, speaking from the touch of nature and the brilliance of a sky. The Spirit was the guide, and hers was to find and trust the reality of the presence of God in so many things. She skillfully exposed a dimension of spiritual life that had gone unnoticed: goodness and Godness are nestled together in the Spirit. For the attentive, there is that endless assurance of unfathomable love and presence, the comfort of constancy in spite of and because of the flawed human self. For her, the presence of the Spirit in the world was better than pervasive. And the Spirit was the ultimate gift of the Father and Son, the unifier. It was, she sometimes shared, the gift of her decades behind the fieldstone walls and within the monastery embedded in the world. It was as if the Spirit animated her words, actions, and birthed her faith. The Spirit was the promise of resurrection come alive through days and decades, centuries and millenniums.
This Pentecost, the thrill of that brightness comes from the readings and the Gospel. The perception of oneness, the ability to identify similarities among human beings, is a vision given by the Spirit. The hope of that, the ability to deal with the fears and griefs so much a part of the ebb and flow of human life, rest on the trust that there is a patient, omnipresent Spirit waiting and welcoming. And best of all, the flame of the Spirit is vividly visible, like the fullness of spring.