Come Holy Spirit

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Acts 2:1-4

This past semester, I took a course in Catechetics which required me to read and summarize the entirety of the Catechism’s teaching on Christian prayer.  I won’t tell you how long I procrastinated on the assignment, but I will tell you that, though strenuous, there is a great richness of knowledge to be obtained by this manner of study.  One of the most spiritually beneficial things I gained from it, however, was being reminded of just how integral and foundational the working of the Holy Spirit is in our life of personal prayer, and indeed our life as Christians on the whole.

The Holy Spirit has always been, to me, the most beguiling figure of the Holy Trinity.  Often we hear or read the Father’s words to us in Scripture, and the innate human tendency is to imagine a face to go with this voice, even if it’s nothing more than the stereotypical majestic and humongous old guy in a cloud.  Christ Himself took on human form when He descended from heaven to proclaim the Kingdom to us.  But the Holy Spirit?  I rarely imagine Him as human.  The imagery the Church has inherited falls more along the lines of a dove, the wind, tongues of fire, an invisible, silent, but no less powerful or divine Spirit on whose behalf the Father speaks (Matthew 3:16-17).  Not the kind of being we easily imagine ourselves having a relationship with.

But the Holy Spirit is, nonetheless, clearly important to our life of prayer, as St. Paul reminds us, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).  And, as we hear in the readings for this Sunday, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” Paul asks us (1 Corinthians 6:19).  This Holy Spirit is not some cosmic force we have to go wrangle or summon by some elaborate means every time we want to pray.  The Spirit quite literally dwells within us, every moment of every day.  This means, for one, that we ought to act like temples of the Holy Spirit.  But it also means that we need never fear that God doesn’t hear our prayers.  If He is within us, His ear is inclined much closer to our supplications than the Tempter might want us to believe.

If ever we need a reminder of just how powerful the Holy Spirit is in the life of the Church, we need only look back to the day on which it first received this Spirit and came into existence.  This Spirit which dwells within us is the same Spirit which caused the believers in Jerusalem to speak in tongues.  And not just in a couple different languages, but a pretty substantial bunch.  This is the same Spirit that Christ promised would guide the Church “into all truth” (John 16:13).  And it is the same Spirit we receive in Baptism, the Spirit who brings each new believer into life in Christ.  It’s a lot to wrap one’s head around, but God does tend to be supremely generous in His goodness, so far beyond our wildest dreams, so far beyond our understanding, but still absolutely true.

Take a moment to thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit which guides you in prayer this day.

Lectionary readings for Pentecost Sunday:
Acts 2:1-11 | 1 Cor. 3b-7, 12-13 | Jn. 20:19-33
You can find these all in one place here.  Pax vobiscum.  🙂

Four Witnesses: A Book Review

Four Witnesses | Rod Bennett
Ignatius Press (2002)

Imagine: living among the first Christians.  What must that have been like?  How must it have felt to hear the preaching of Peter or Paul or encounter a passerby who knowingly traced the symbol of a fish in the dust at their feet?  How terrifying, when the Roman persecution of those professing the name of Christ began in earnest? Continue reading “Four Witnesses: A Book Review”

Twilight / Dawn

Thus turns the world to sleep
Like the thoughts, revolving
Behind my eyelids
                  I see you, there
And I shut them so much the tighter
For I hear a thousand voices
Intone so bright a chord
I know I could never quite dance
Suitably, to such a song.
Thus I clench my fists around
Every word
           and they fall,
Broken, to circumstance
And to some future skyline,
Forgotten like a picture book.
How could I ever dream of days
Filled with anything but despair
And false wells to drown in
Except...  You.
                 All,
                 except for You.
You are
        a singularity,
                      a ray: simplicity
Ebullient and towering and glorious
And altogether baffling
For countless are the days
I've spent, floundering in puddles
Of my own design, silencing
The whispered corners of my mind.
Still,
       even now
You do not forsake me
And still,
           the words I claim are rubble
They all will fade to retrospect
As dust, beside You.
                     Heard softly,
Your words are all that I shall ever need.

Not the prettiest type in the world, but until I find a better way to preserve the structure, it’ll suffice.  🙂

Ooh, I need a song to leave y’all with, don’t I…  So here’s a song about the Transfiguration.  Because, why not have a song about the Transfiguration?  So there you go.  And it’s pretty.

Good old Sufjan never lets us down…

I hope that wherever you may be this evening, dear reader, that you are feeling the peace and joy of Christ that thaws every winter into spring.  (Maybe it won’t for a little longer if you’re up north.  But He will.  Just you wait.  😉

Peace to you, now and always.  Stay classy.

Data-Determinism

“In the information age, we have embraced the language and priorities of technological intelligence to the exclusion of more visceral and emotional ways of understanding human existence.”

– Bill McGarvey

read more (americamagazine.org)

In a world where technology is quickly establishing itself as a sort of pseudo-religion, articles like this one stand out as particularly timely and on point.  Source: America Magazine (a publication I highly recommend).


MLA source citation (good practice for college students…)

McGarvey, Bill.  “Data-Determinism.”  America 28 Sept. 2015: 40.  Print.

A Centennial of Sorts

This blog has always been pretty much whatever I feel like posting.  It’s not really formal, and it’s not at all professional.  It’s just me.  And if you are reading this, I am so very glad that you are okay with that.

It feels like I’ve been absent for a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, the idea of a fortnight being “a long time” is really rather laughable.  We’re so tiny.  We’re here on this Earth for such a tiny span of time.  And I’m not sure what it means that you would spend some of that time reading my blog.  But it’s quite an enormous blessing to me.

I’m not entirely sure where I was going with this.  But I guess this is a good time to say thank you.  Because I hit 100 followers a while back, and that’s awesome.  So, thank you.  Sure, some people have 100 thousand followers to my mere 107, but why would I want to be “some people”?  I came into this last year with no expectations, and I plan to keep it that way.

Actually, I guess I do have one small expectation.  A favor to ask, if you will.

One of the most gut-wrenching things about our brief stay on planet Sol-3 is how crummy it can be sometimes.  Some days, life just sucks.  Don’t get me wrong; the joy and beauty and love and laughter and mind-blowing creativity to be found in life makes the pain worth it in the long run.  But that is often so hard to see in the midst of darkness.  Hindsight is 20/20 but we never understand our own stories until they end.  Or, if you believe in heaven, until they begin in earnest.

So, here is the favor I want to ask of you today, or if you’re reading this in the evening, to accomplish tomorrow.  The favor is this: find someone, someone who’s having a rough time of things, someone you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed or interacted with.  I ask you, dear reader, to seek out a personal encounter with them, and brighten their day.  It can be through a kind word, helping them with their errands or chores, a very large bouquet of flowers, spiritual and/or physical sustenance they would otherwise have had to make it through the day without…  Anything. It doesn’t matter.  Just find some simple way to love them.  Let them feel the light of Christ that shines in each of us.

After all, the instrument Christ uses to spread His love to each human being… is us.  And if I could accomplish one thing through this blog, I would want it to at least have made a few people’s day a little brighter.  My poems, my lists of songs I like, they’ll be forgotten.  But a kind word can save someone’s life.

That’s my wish this summer evening.  And I wish every blessing for you, dear reader.  Please pray for me, and I’ll do the same for you.

Love always,

Luke

Thoughts and Introspections, Part 1: Voices from the WordPress Community

The past few days have seen a lot of thinking on my part about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

I usually make a point of not prompting political discussions here at WP, if only because they so easily devolve into raised tempers and polemics.  But the issue at hand is not political.  It is social.  It is ethical.  For people of any faith, from atheism to Christianity, it is also spiritual.

This is an issue about which I am still not finished praying and thinking.  I cannot disagree with what is in the Bible and the Catechism if I truly believe them to be the divinely inspired Word of God and the definitive reference of what can be interpreted from it, respectively.  Nevertheless, I don’t believe I have grounds to object to the Supreme Court’s ruling.  We do live in a country based on a secular, democratic civil government, and I cannot expect the State to adhere to my religious beliefs.

Really, that’s no longer relevant.  What has been decided has been decided, and it ain’t gonna change.  What is important now is how we, as Christians, respond.  I hate that the issue has already passed from the 72-hour span during which our intellectually crippled mass media is capable of remembering anything that has ever happened in the world, but it has taken me this long to formulate a response.  I post this because there are still questions I need to ask myself, and perhaps that others have yet to ask themselves.  In the hope of formulating at least some sort of guideline for beginning to answer these questions.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce several viewpoints from other bloggers I have found throughout the WordPress community.  My method of researching these opinions was, I admit, not very thorough.  I browsed through the “Christianity” tag on WP a few days back, curating posts written across roughly an 8 hour time span.  As such, there are probably many other thought-provoking posts I haven’t read.  So, if you like, I encourage you to browse through looking for posts on the topic as well.  You may come across some real gems.  I also encourage you to read the posts I quote below in their entirety.  They are most certainly

What follows are three points made by some fellow WP bloggers on the subject of Christianity and the legalization of same-sex marriage that I found novel and/or thought-provoking and which approach the issue with understanding, with a few more to follow in my next post.  They are points I probably wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.  We all gaze from a window at the same vista, as it were, but we often see it more clearly through others’ eyes.

Without further ado:

1. Understand What Compassion Is, and Practice It

Emmy Potter, of The Art of Making Art, writes:

“This is the moment, like the one I had with my best friend all those years ago, that Christians have a choice in how we respond to those who are reaching out to us, and I fear many of us are going to choose the wrong response. Some of us already have.

“Being compassionate doesn’t mean you are condoning the words and actions of another. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with anything. Being compassionate means putting someone else’s feelings above your own. It means listening and seeking to understand another person’s sufferings as best as you can totally free of judgment.” [1]

Compassion.  Oh, compassion.  I really believe this is essential to approaching all the complicated social, economic, and geological quandaries we are faced with today.

Potter’s definition of compassion is as accurate as it is well-written, and, as she goes on to note, it is this type of love — compassion — that Christ best exemplified when He sacrificed Himself for you, for me, for all of humanity on Calvary.  We are called to the same.  Even if one is against the Supreme Court ruling and feels as though the world is against them, Potter writes, “The irony is that is exactly how the LGBT community has felt for hundreds of years. It is how I feel sometimes as a woman in this country. It is how my African American friends feel. We’re all in this thing together, and the sooner we start treating one another that way with true compassion, the better off we are in the end.”

2. Recognize Our Shared Brokenness and Continue Our Mission of Love

rab0325 writes:

“I don’t really care about your supposed sexual identity or whether you are straight or homosexual or black or white or Latino or Indian or some other race or culture. When I look at you, yeah I see all that stuff and I’m human so I have first thoughts and first opinions, but I start processing immediately and working to set all that aside. Because when I look at you, when I really look at you what keeps me awake at night… what I lose sleep over and think about day in and day out and cry over and worry over and constantly go to God with… is your life, is your salvation, is your deliverance, is your healing, is your faith, is your forgiveness, is your broken heart, is your unfed soul, is your broken spirit, is your lost loved ones, is the thing you weep over, is the thing you hurt most for, is the pain and suffering you have endured… I could go on and on because I know it’s tough out there and this is a cruel world in many ways, but what I break over the most – and this is me being me – it’s your identity in Christ.” [2]

This very much goes hand in hand with compassion.  We are all broken; there is no denying that.  Compassion should lead us to this next step, which rab0325 describes so passionately: solidarity.  Ministry.  Reaching out to hold the hand of our brothers and sisters.

“Your rights won’t save you. New laws in your land won’t save you. New “love” or a rallied around flag won’t save you. Oh, and by the way, your church won’t save you either” rab0325 goes on.  “Our hearts still need to break and bleed for the lost. So join with me again, let’s take our eyes off the rainbows and the running colors of old red and blue conspiracies and let’s join hands and get back into the battle for souls. The hurting and the needy didn’t go away this past month, they went unnoticed.”  We can’t ignore issues like this, but we can’t get caught up either.  We’ve got a mission to do.

3. Stop Acting Like Bratty Schoolchildren, No Matter What Side You’re On

Cody Paige writes:

“I saw people reduce themselves to bratty schoolyard children and felt disheartened on so many levels. There was very little pure respect and compassion for others, that I witnessed. It was just so hateful, even if you were happy with Gay Marriage being legalized. No one could see past the passion of their beliefs to see what was going on.

“It was like now we all have to fill out a checklist of things we agree with or disagree with to be friends. Don’t agree with me? Well then, I’m done with you.” [3]

Fellowship, compassion, solidarity…  These should not be based on some checklist of beliefs.  And there were without doubt childishly mean-spirited remarks exchanged this past weekend.  But perhaps the most damning line (and rightly so) I have read in anything written on the subject was this:

“Yesterday wasn’t a victory in my eyes simply because of how we treated each other. Our true colors showed, and it wasn’t a pretty picture.”

Whatever side you find yourself on, no matter the issue, loses when compassion is forgotten.  Ouch.  It’s a reminder I know I could use.  Heck, it means I even have to show compassion towards people who don’t use serial commas, and that’s sure asking a lot.

I agree.  This can’t be seen as a victory when its aftermath was so… unloving.  The good news is that we are always, always given a second chance.  So let’s learn from our mistakes, and move forward in love.  Let’s not repeat this.

This has been a long post, but I’m so grateful to you for sticking around until the end.  I sincerely hope you got something out of this endeavor in making sense of my thoughts and the world.  If there is anyone of LGBT identity reading this, I understand that the world, orthodox Christians included, is often unkind to you.  Be patient with us, try to understand where we’re coming from, and you have my word that I will do the same for you.   Disagreement may or may not be erased, but it is only ever resolved through dialogue, gentleness, and respect.  That, I am convinced, is truly when love wins.

And above all else, pray always.

Pax vobiscum,

Luke

Works Cited

1.  Potter, Emmy.  “Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Compassion.”  The Art of Making Art.  28 June 2015.  Online.

2.  rab0325.  “Battle Lines Made of Rainbows, Flags, Hearts and Souls… Thoughts for the Journey.”  A Journey – Life Should Be a Journey.  28 June 2015.  Online.

3.  Paige, Cody.  “We Are a Bunch of Bratty School Kids.”  Cody Paige Blog.  28 June 2015.  Online.