|Acts Frontispiece from the St. John’s Bible|
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit / and spoke of the marvels of God.
(Communion antiphon for Liturgy of Pentecost. Acts 2:4,11)
When I was a child, I used to love being intentional about my reading or writing experience. If I was reading a mystery, perhaps I would put a magnifying glass in the satchel that carried the book. If the main character enjoyed a certain food, I would try to approximate it as I read. (Tomato sandwiches come to mind…if you have read Harriet the Spy…). I would carry pens, a feather, pencils, a bottle of india ink that once belonged to my mother, to write…because certain sorts of writing asked for certain writing instruments and I wanted to be prepared.
In some ways, this habit has continued into my adult life. But, it has become more organic…more intuitive…more an integrated part of me… As to what is this IT of which I write and speak and breathe and welcome…I can only call it relationship with Word.
And so it is that the contexts surrounding and filling me as I write on this Pentecost Sunday make for a pleasing coherence. On my left are the original and drafts of a document I have been translating and a page for vocabulary. There are two pens on top, one clicked open, ready for use. On my right, thesauri in two languages, a dictionary, a flopped open missalette, Teilhard de Chardin’s Hymn of the Universe, a laminated and by now much travelled image of Jesus given to me in Rome by the director of my long retreat, poems by Pedro Casaldáliga, and a fresh hot mug of coffee ideally dosed with milk. In my heart, I am in Mexico, Indonesia, and Chile. I am in Cuba and Maine and New York, and my friend’s kitchen. I am within the warmth of a friend’s embrace and walking on the shoulder of a busy road listening to the clack of sticks against a push cart… I am in stillness, I am grounded, I feel free…
On this day when the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, the story is told with fire, with Word and language, with breath and gift. And I can feel that Story alive within and around me as I listen and respond, as I receive and shape words, as I touch and wonder and learn the contours of ideas. I am intimately aware of and infinitely grateful for the Spirit that inspires me…for the Holy Muse that, according to the Latin, inflames and blows into my being…For I AM becoming the great diversity of ALL THAT IS.
The other day I was asked to give a toast for someone at a book release party. I had never done that before and had only a moment’s notice to prepare. It was carried off with apparent success and the effort prompted several people to approach me afterward to ask…How do you DO that? I responded honestly, if with a hint of trepidation…I appeal to the Muse for inspiration and trust in her kindness and generosity. I try to remain open, to listen, and to not take advantage.
Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat said, If we have the Holy Spirit, we have everything. I see the coming of the Spirit…the Muse…as an act of Love, an act of Generosity, Creativity, and elemental Hope. Indeed, what more? If I am open to receiving, if I am open to letting it pass through me as a whisper, rest upon me like fire…what more??
I know something of what that feels like and looks like and it renders me filled with awe when I experience it and am witness to it.
Like those long ago who were all in one place together, I am brought to a clamorous fullness by the great diversity of gifts made manifest in our world that speak in multitudinous ways of the marvels of God.