Friday, March 27, 2009
The Holy Spirit ...
Is not ...
Means not ...
Does not ...
? What say you?
(How's that for a little light Friday fare?)
Buechner, from his book "Wishful Thinking."
"The word spirit has come to mean something pale and shapeless, like an unmade bed. School spirit, the American spirit, the Christmas spirit, the spirit of '76, the Holy Spirit -- each of these points to something you know is supposed to get you to your feet cheering, but which you somehow can't rise to.
"The Latin word spiritus originally meant breath (as in expire, respiratory, and so on), and breath is what you have when you're alive and don't have when you're dead. Thus spirit=breath=life, the aliveness and power of your life, and to speak of your spirit (or soul) is to speak of the power of life that is in you. When your spirit is unusually strong, the life in you is unusually alive, you can breathe it out into other lives, become literally in-spiring.
"Spirit is highly contagious. When people are very excited, very happy, very sad, you can catch it from them as easily as measles or a yawn. You can catch it from what they say or from what they do or just from what happens to the air of a room when they enter it. Groups also have a spirit, as anybody can testify who has ever been caught up in the spirit of a football game, a political rally, or a lynch mob. Spirit can be good or bad, healing or destructive. Spirit can be transmitted across great distances of time and space. For better or worse, you can catch the spirit of people long dead (St. Therese of Lisieux or the Marquis de Sade), people whose faces you have never seen and whose languages you cannot speak.
"God also has a spirit -- is Spirit, says the Apostle John (4:24) Thus God is the power in the power of life itself, has breathed and continues to breathe himself into his creation, in-spires it. The spirit of God, Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, is highly contagious. When Peter and his friends were caught up in it in Jerusalem on Pentecost, people thought they were drunk even though it was morning. And they were ...
"If the idea of God as both Three and One seems farfetched to you, look in the mirror someday. There is (a) the interior life known only to yourself and those you choose to communicate it to (God). There is (b) your visible face, which in some measure reflects that inner life (the Beloved One, some still say Son). And there is (c) the invisible power you have which enables you to communicate that interior life in such a way that others take it in till it becomes part of who they are (Holy Spirit). Yet what you are looking at in the mirror is clearly and indivisibly the one and only you."
RAWK, as Luke would say. :-)
Anything but the Vaudevillian Holy Ghost that passes for the Holy Spirit of God.
Geoffrey, Luke, Feodor, you too -- y'all need to load up and go to a real get-down, pew-jumpin', Holy Ghost revival shoutin' meetin' if you haven't.
Our Pentecostal and Charismatic brethren -- a birthmark on the Body of Christ, IMHO. Weird. Off. Often a magnet for attention and a cause for misunderstanding. Like a birthmark.
I don't want to be staring at the right butt cheek of Jesus, you know what I mean?
Feodor, now that is a faskinatin' question I hadn't thought of! Do people have birthmarks on their tongues?
"It" is grace (God's love), the experiencing of "it" is the activity of the Holy Spirit.
(How's that? The equation, life of God = grace, would be largely a Thomist notion.)
Har har. Jesus is one with the Force.
Feodor: Idn't that the way most people envision God el Papa? A cartoon version of ... well, crap, it's Friday and I am whupped and fixing to head for the house ... that paintin' where God in the sky is touching the hand of a dude ...
He looks intense, but not angry at the creation of Adam (or Tex as I like to call him; "dude" for ya'll that don't have the privilege of a great state).
"The Acts of Thomas, gives a graphic account of the Apostle Thomas' travels to India, and contains prayers invoking the Holy Spirit as "the Mother of all creation" and "compassionate mother," among other titles. The most profound Coptic Christian writings definitely link the "spirit of Spirit" manifested by Christ to all believers as the "Spirit of the Divine Mother." Most significant are the new manuscript discoveries of recent decades which have demonstrated that more early Christians than previously thought regarded the Holy Spirit as the Mother of Jesus."
By the way there are two versions of the Acts of Thomas. An interesting exercise is to find both of them, the official one, and the Nag Hamadi one. They are both on line. One has been purged, changed, fixed, and subtracted from and added to, compared to the one pulled from the sand.
You can see it for yourself. Don't even need someone to tell you about it.
This one book's change, alone, should make any biblical scholar super cautious about how much else has be altered over time.
Oh yes, the Thomasian Christians are still there in India today.
DrLobo: Very cool.
Father, is wisdom, power, all knowing. Just like we see our earthly fathers,
Son, is the brother who is beside you always, kicking your enemies butt. Carring you when you can't make it home.
Holy Spirit. is like a mother, brings comfort, peace, calming, teaching you of the inter strength she is giving you.
I know this is simple. Sometimes I think we look so hard we miss what is right in front of us.
I also like his beginning - all this "spirit" talk strips the word of any animation, killing what is supposed to be most about life.
For me, as a general thought, the Holy Spirit is the animating force behind human life, collective and individual. Sometimes we get glimpses of those so in tune with it that it boggles the mind - King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela. Sometimes, whole moments in history seem pregnant with the possibilities the Spirit promises; consider those heady days in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and the whole ideological struggle between the west and Russian led communism just ended, with a whimper. Of course, through a combination of arrogance, simple-mindedness, and blindness we pissed it away. That same year saw China hang in the balance, with the tanks and tear gas and bullets of the PLA killing the spirit and bodies of the Chinese people gathered in Tiananmen Square. The image of that one man standing off a line of tanks, though - that's the Spirit embodied.
It is always there, even when we don't perceive it, refuse to acknowledge it, the mystery of Providence that keeps human life and history alive despite our best efforts to destroy ourselves. It is there every time a hungry child is fed, an abused woman is rescued, every time a prisoner is reminded of his humanity behind bars. The Spirit breathes real human life in to the dry bones of our sinful existence in all its guises, even those we call virtuous. It is the surprise of love and forgiveness we call grace.
The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, changing forever what it means to be truly human by reminding us what God had always intended. The Spirit closes the open circle of creation.
Here endeth the lesson.
Tom Joad: Well, maybe it's like Casy says. A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then...
Ma Joad: Then what, Tom?
Tom Joad: Then it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.
Ma Joad: I don't understand it, Tom.
Tom Joad: Me, neither, Ma, but - just somethin' I been thinkin' about.
Spirit. Life. Grace.
I would resist isolating on the metaphor of "mother" for the Holy Spirit.
The end result of a divine nuclear family - Father, Son, and Mother - has inferences and expressive power that is deeply troubling to me. One, it preserves a fixed notion of God as Father, which has had a disastrous effect on the construction of church leadership and leadership style, as well as notions of being male and female. Second, some medieval theologians and mystics developed very significant notions of Jesus as mother, and by this we should learn how to see each person of the Trinity as mothering love. Third, I think it is more helpful to stay with adjectival compounds rather than nominative phrases for the person that is fundamentally represented as "spirit," a decidedly and intentionally non-concrete referent to God's agency rather than the agent.
Fourth, I would say that the protestant culture seeks a mother because it threw out the person of Mary from its church and thereby lost a model of heroic, steadfast and proud faith, obedient to the point of excruciating sorrow, only to be victorious to the point of being swept into heaven to receive her reward as Queen of Heaven. We continue to underestimate and delegitimize motherhood by looking elsewhere.
If I had my way with the christian church, the Holy Spirit would be the slightly crazy aunt or uncle, childless, who would sweep into the family on yet another unannounced visit, breaking all the family rules about what needs to be eaten when, what goes where, what chores need to be done, and says to each of us children - precisely at bedtime - that, even though we are only fourteen, we are all going to be taken to a hole-in-the wall deep into downtown and have pizza and a sip of beer.
And God the Father and Jesus the Mother throw up their hands and say, "why the hell not?!"
I like Jeanie Diane's contribution, though. Knowing her as I do, and for years -- she is a wisdom-filled redneck from the same hills and bottoms I'm from -- we both know that it's crazy mamas who sometimes sneak the kids out for a sip of beer, or a dip of snuff, or some other devil-may-care minor indulgence, letting the overly pious im the family tsk-tsk until they throw their hands up and say WTH! :-)