A sonnet for Pentecost


Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today  the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in  every nation.

Malcolm Guite

The Spirit helps us in our weakness

In his weekly audience last week, Pope Benedict spoke some very encouraging words to those of us who struggle in prayer:

In the Letter to the Romans [Paul] writes: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (8:26). And we know how true the Apostle’s saying is: “We do not know how to pray as we ought”. We want to pray, but God is far off, we do not have the words, the language, to speak with God, nor even the thought to do so. We can only open ourselves, place our time at God’s disposition, wait for Him to help us to enter into true dialogue. The Apostle says: this very lack of words, this absence of words, yet this desire to enter into contact with God, is prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but brings and interprets before God. This very weakness of ours becomes — through the Holy Spirit — true prayer, true contact with God. The Holy Spirit is, as it were, the interpreter who makes us, and God, understand what it is we wish to say.

In prayer we experience — more than in other aspects of life — our weakness, our poverty, our being creatures, for we are placed before the omnipotence and transcendence of God. And the more we advance in listening and in dialogue with God, so that prayer becomes the daily breath of our souls, the more we also perceive the measure of our limitations, not only in the face of the concrete situations of everyday life, but also in our relationship with the Lord. The need to trust, to rely increasingly upon Him then grows in us; we come to understand that “we do not know … how to pray as we ought” (Romans 8:26).

And it is the Holy Spirit who helps our inability, who enlightens our minds and warms our hearts, guiding us as we turn to God. For St. Paul, prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit in our humanity, to take our weakness and to transform us from men bound to material realities into spiritual men. In the First Letter to the Corinthians he says: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual terms” (2:12-13). By means of His abiding in our fragile humanity, the Holy Spirit changes us; He intercedes for us; He leads us toward the heights of God (cf. Romans 8:26).

You can read his whole address here.

Prayer to God the Holy Spirit (2)

Come, perpetual joy.
Come, unwitherable wreath.
Come, O purple raiment of our Lord and God.
Come, girdle, clear as crystal and many-coloured with precious gems.
Come, inaccessible refuge.
Come, Thou whom my poor soul desireth and hath desired.
Come, lonely One, to the lonely one–for lonely I am, as Thou canst see.
Come, Thou who hast become my longing, for that Thou hast ordained,
that I must needs long for Thee whom no human breath has ever reached.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, joy, glory, and my incessant delight.

~Symeon the New Theologian

Prayer to God the Holy Spirit (1)

Come, true light,
Come, eternal life,
Come, secret of hiddenness.
Come, delight that has no name.
Come, unutterableness.
Come, O presence, forever fleeing from human nature.
Come, everlasting jubilee.
Come, light without end.
Come, awaited by all who are in want.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, mighty one, forever creating, recreating, and renewing with a mere wave of Thy hand.
Come, Thou who remainest wholly invisible, for none ever to grasp or to caress.
Come, Thou who flowest in the river of hours,
yet immovably stayest above it,
who dwellest above all heavens,
yet bendest to us who are bowed down.

~Symeon the New Theologian

to be continued . . .

“But Not With Wine”

A Sunday-poem from Jessica Powers:

But Not With Wine

“You are drunk, but not with wine” (Isaiah 51.21)

O god of too much giving, whence is this
inebriation that possesses me,
that the staid road now wanders all amiss
and that the wind walks much too giddily,
clutching a bush for balance, or a tree?
How then can dignity and pride endure
with such inordinate mirth upon the land,
when steps and speech are somewhat insecure
and the light heart is wholly out of hand?

If there be indecorum in my songs,
fasten the blame where rightly it belongs:
on Him who offered me too many cups
of His most potent goodness–not on me,
a peasant who, because a king was host,
drank out of courtesy.

Room in this inn

A Sunday-poem from Mother Mary Francis, from a longer poem entitled “The Mysteries of the Rosary”:

XIII. The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Fiat!  there’s room in this inn
Of huddled community, Mary,
For you and your telling of Jesus
Over and over again
Until there’s a splitting of heavens
And fire comes and Spirit, and souls

Are drenched with the wine of that Fiat!
That suits men for martyrs.  Is there
Space for us, too, in that upper
Room of your love where first Fiat!
Let God be Man, where first Fireing
Of Spirit enkindled Redeemer?

Power made perfect in infirmity

What is a more powerful expression of the power of the Holy Spirit than His work in our personal lives, especially in our areas of weakness?  This Sunday’s poem is by Mother Mary Francis about that very thing.

A Scriptural Commentary

“For power is made perfect in infirmity” (2 Corinthians 12.9)

Predictable Your power, God,
Who shake the heavens into thunderous roar
And split the skies with lightning at Your glance.

You gaze at oceans and they leap
To speak response in crash of waves
And then subside in wonder at Your feet.

Only to think on seed need You
To see a thousand forests rise to praise You,
Hear treble of small blossoms find their voice.

Wave of Your raised almighty hand’s
Enough to call the sun to rise or set,
To light the sky-dome with ten million stars.

Never will skies impediment Your power
Nor oceans strain Your energies, nor earth
Challenge Your might, stand stubborn before Your gaze.

I do applaud Your power, God.
How effortless Your cosmic sovereignty!
Your easy might is something to admire.

Power is wondrous for no need
Of labor, power issued without threat.
But shall unthreatened power be best praise

Of You, O God? Could greater be
Praise of Your laboring omnipotence
To bend a stubborn heart, to tame a will?

I weep to see You strain to win
So small a prize, tense to achieve
Your purpose, and with all the odds against You.

O God, dear God, what wondrous might
Is Yours displayed in me!
Your power made perfect in my infirmity!

Envoi:  Take, God, the scope I bring You
For play of power. See!
And my own power found at last
In my infirmity.

The Holy Spirit, the Innkeeper

A few more quotes from Come Creator Spirit:

‘a humble and contrite heart’ is the place of rest, a kind of paradise on earth, the place to which God feels most drawn (see Is 66.1-2).  We human beings cannot offer God any sacrifice more pleasing, more acceptable to God than a contrite heart (Ps 51.19).  And what is there to stop us burning with desire to have God fine, every time God visits us, this secret place, this place of rest, that God loves so much.

. . . there is a connection between the Spirit and hope is as close as the connection between the Spirit and love.

Iranaeus says that the Holy Spirit is the “innkeeper” to whom the Good Samaritan, Christ, entrusts wounded humanity, asking the Spirit to take care of it.

The Gift of God

If you haven’t read Fr. Cantalamessa’s book, Come, Creator Spirit, I would be so bold as to say you must.  I’ve read it twice and will most certainly read it again at least once.  Some quotes to entice you:

[quoting Thomas Aquinas]”The first gift we give to someone we love is love itself, which makes us long for the good of that person.  Thus it is that love itself is the primary gift, in the strength of which we offer all other gifts that we are able to give.  And so it is that from the moment the Holy Spirit proceeds as love, he proceeds as the primary gift.”  From all of this it follows that the Holy Spirit by pouring the love of God into our hearts, infuses into us not only a virtue, even though it is the greatest of all the virtues, but pours his very own self into us.  The gift of God is the Giver himself.  We love God by means of God himself within us.

Coming to us, the Holy Spirit not only brings us the gift of God, but also God’s self-giving.

[Commenting on the likeness of the Holy Spirit to a “living fountain”] Water is something that always runs down, never up.  It is always trying to find the lowest place.  So it is with the Holy Spirit: the Spirit loves to visit and fill the lowly, the humble, those who know their own emptiness.

More to come . . .