Sunday, May 23, 2010

Whit Sunday

I didn't know it, but today is Whit Sunday or Pentecost, the day that Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It's also the birthday of the church, and in the old days, girls went to church in new, white dresses. 

A short video piece retracing the marvelous Philip Larkin's train journey in his poem The Whitsun Weddings is here.

From the Evening Standard:
Sunday is Whitsun. Pentecost if you prefer. In times of yore church bells would have rung as the villages of England sprung alive with summer games and maypole dancing, mystery plays and fairs. Alas, we don't much go in for that any more. The religious calendar withered from popular consciousness long ago.
In his column, Picturing the Spirit in the Times, Dr Graham Kings, the Bishop of Sherborne asks how you describe the Holy Spirit, and experiments using the the pronoun "She" in a poem by 4th century theologian St Ephrem:
“She bubbles like a spring, tumbles like a waterfall, meanders like a river and welcomes us like the sea. You may as well try to bottle the wind as capture her. She is wild and unrestrained, surprising and unpredictable, yet true to her character and utterly reliable. She is reticent and reflective, giving glory to the Son and the Father.
Like the wild desert wind she drives and scorches. Like the oil of the olive tree she heals and soothes. In a still, small voice she speaks and questions. The contemptuous proud she resists and brings down. The humble poor she supports and uplifts. Our imagination she enlarges and stretches. Our humdrum existence she enlightens and enlivens. Who can resist the draw of her calling to come to Christ and delight in God?
She does not force and manipulate, but coaxes and draws. She inspires, enthuses, interprets and invigorates. She warns and reminds, convicts and convinces. She brings joy and delight, depth and sorrow, a feast in want and fasting in plenty.
She does not ingratiate but delivers grace. She does not calculate but risks adventure. She does not rest on her heels but is fleet of foot. She is not sedentary but agile, not ponderous but quicksilver. All who know her, love her, for she loves the Son and the Father.”
I'm sure God is pondering greater things, such as whether we believe in Him at all, but I am rather keen on this little poem and the answers it provides to a tricky question. I've always struggled with the notion of the Trinity.  And never more acutely than when of my children asked me to describe it.  It is something we've been asked to accept without question and thus Father, Son and Holy Spirit becomes part of our frozen chosen lexicon at a young age, though I doubt that I'm the first to wish I had a Venn diagram to describe the relationship.

Bishop Alan is always good to read and today is no exception.

After church, I took the dogs to Solstice Canyon Park in Malibu, to walk in the cathedral of burned oak trees.  Heartening new green growth is sprouting from every tree. And the sun was bursting through the clouds.

1 comment:

Hannah Stoneham said...

I had no idea that it was Whitsun yesterday - thank you for informing me! I guess that one some level it is a shame about the lack of white dresses and maypoles... maybe we should invent new traditions!

Thanks for sharing