Pentecost - 5th June 2022
With the feast of Pentecost we reach the final climax of Eastertide, rejoicing with a lusty final singing of the double alleluia at the end of the liturgy, come what may!
The first climax was of course on Easter Day as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus to a new life beyond death. It is the heart of our faith and the climactic event of Jesus’ earthly life, transforming ignominious death into glorious victory. His followers encountered him after his death in various ways that convinced them that he was now living in a transfigured body that was at home both on earth and in heaven. Since then we have been hearing of their works as they went out into the world empowered by their experience of the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit that he poured out upon them. An extraordinary energy drove them as they confronted all manner of danger and persecution.
As we come towards the end of Eastertide I feel that the energy builds to a second climax, when at Pentecost we celebrate the fact that this extraordinary energy is ours too. At the feast of the Ascension we marked the final withdrawal of Jesus’ bodily presence in a particular time and place. This withdrawal opened the way to a new era in which, through the Spirit, Jesus’ presence can be known in all times and places. But of course for each one of us that presence is known in the particularities of our own lives, circumscribed in time and space. Our mortal bodies become the place where we encounter God and know Christ’s risen life as our own.
As Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, chapter 8:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
That power of the resurrection draws us into fulness of life, a new life in union with God that will continue after our physical death. Yet so often we experience forces that seem to push us away from God and from any sense of the Spirit’s life within. We can find ourselves trapped in selfish, and indeed self-destructive, ways whilst knowing that this is not what we really want. That promised new life can seem a long way off. Paul eloquently describes this inner conflict in the previous chapter of his letter to the Romans.
But then the wonderful opening of chapter 8:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Although we repeatedly fail live up to what we profess we are not condemned. Each day we fall but yet we can get up again. The Spirit sets us free to start afresh as we turn once more to Christ. We are caught up in the groaning of the whole creation, longing for the revealing of the children of God. We long for the day when all humanity is transfigured in Christ and we are set free to live in love and harmony with all that God has made. That seems very distant as we look at the world of today, but we can still hold a hope for a world where all of creation is cherished and our violent, greedy and wasteful ways are relinquished. As we refuse to despair and as we open our own hearts to the work of the Spirit we bring that hope nearer to fulfilment.
This evening we start our silent retreat and I pray that this week will afford each one of us space to listen to God’s word and let the Spirit work in our hearts. It can be tempting to use this time to work through an ambitious reading list but I encourage you to read just a little but to read deeply. And indeed to spend time simply resting in God’s presence without the need to read, do or say anything. Sit in your cell, the solarium or out in the garden and simply ‘be’. There is nothing you need to accomplish to win God’s love. Let this be a time of surrender to whatever it is that God wishes to do in you through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you. As Paul says:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
Let us trust that Spirit to intercede for us and guide us through this time of retreat.
Mother Anne - 5th June 2022