Sunday, 24 May 2015

the flux of life

Flux and flow

The celebration of Pentecost is a celebration of experience of the spirit. Evelyn Underhill describes this spirit experience as being caught up in the “flux of life” She says:
The essence of mystical contemplation is summed in these two experiences - union with the flux of life, and union with the Whole of life.

The Pentecostal experience with the overpowering images of fire and wind are not reserved for apostles and not one-off experiences. What seems to me to have happened is that the absence of Jesus after the resurrection opened up a kind of vacuum, an emptiness and also an openness within which the spirit could flow. Jesus tells the disciples he must leave them so that he can send the advocate. The spirit, described as wind, suggests this flow and flux into which we can be all caught up and, again according to Evelyn Underhill it is far more common than we think. Here she describes an experience during a concert:

Do you remember that horrid moment at the concert, when you became wholly unaware of your comfortable seven-and-sixpenny seat? Did you not, "thrill with love and dread," though you were not provided with a label for that which you adored?

These experiences of overwhelming transfiguration come unprovoked and uncontrolled to overwhelm a person with more than just emotion but with an intuitive truth that energises a person and connects them to the whole of life.
I want to suggest to you that Pentecost moments litter our day as echoes of a deeper flow that we are largely unaware of. Pentecost, like cross and resurrection, is a daily reality in which we live- a kind of dna that relates us to the flow of life in the trinity.
I want to relate to you an experience of that spirit I had many years ago and then suggest you spend some time today recognising and welcoming the flow of the spirit in your own experience and the times when that flow has overwhelmed you with its energy and loving kindness.

Shrigley Chapel

A key moment for me happened at Shrigley on December 7th 1967. I was sacristan in that big church and had the duty of locking up in the evening. That night I put out all the lights in the sacristy and walked out into the darkened church. The only light was the sanctuary light suspended above the sanctuary. I decided to kneel and say a prayer because it felt so peaceful. 

Then…I don’t think I can describe it really… I was overwhelmed with a sense of love and acceptance that left me breathless and weak. It seemed to roll over me like waves of loving kindness and unspeakable goodness. But here is the thing- I also knew that the love and energy I felt had always been there- quietly present as a companion indwelling and at home with me as a young 17 year old. The experience seemed to last for a few minutes at the most but, returning to a darkened dormitory afterwards I found myself in trouble for being an hour late.
Such experiences are not the norm but they do point to a flow of the spirit at the centre of all our lives that is often lost in patterns of thinking that are more intent upon naming and classifying life like Adam, rather than experiencing life as a gift- as a personal communication from God.

As human beings we are all called to be contemplatives in action and to be in touch with the spirit constantly whilst also engaged in the busyness of life and work. We are called, to seek the soul in all the activity of the day  and to have antennae for the spirit.
To be able to recognise the spirit and follow it in the middle of activity- To be constantly inspired by the flow and the flux of that spirit in every conversation and experience should be a hallmark of all spiritual life.
We tune our spiritual antennae as Salesians through being really present to others, through loving kindness, through being small and humble and through a sense of God being present personally. Every sacrament is an event and a life-long process and confirmation is no different.

At Christian confirmation we consciously embrace an intimate journey with the spirit. Pentecost becomes a spiritual marriage, a communion of life and love that underpins all healthy relationships forever.

May the spirit warm your heart and fill your sail with energy for life!

Quotes from Practical Mysticism Evelyn Underhill.  buy it here