Saturday, May 22, 2010
Pentecost in Green
Pentecost is about feelings you do not think you will ever have – or have again.
When any of the great Church feasts approaches, I can go through a period asking what possible difference this specific lens on the human story makes.
I grew up attending a Catholic elementary school where my classmates and I recited the rosary every weekday afternoon in May. On different days of the week the repetition of the Hail Mary’s was flavored by references to different events in the life of Jesus or his mother Mary.
In theological language those events were mysteries -- events that could make a difference in human lives. Each Wednesday the Glorious Mysteries allotted time for meditation first to the resurrection of Jesus, then to his ascension into heaven, next to his sending the Holy Spirit upon his apostles on the first festival of Pentecost after his death.
There are images involving these events that I still recall from the prayer books and missals in my parents’ home. Artists’ images of the Glorious Mysteries invariably featured a world open to the sky, airy visitations by flames, angels pointing to the clouds. I sensed that I was meant to like these light-saturated landscapes, and I used to try. In my experience, however, sunny summer days were humid and inevitably uncomfortable, and May in New Orleans was already summer.
In the years that have passed since then, I have had experiences of reflecting on a story from the Gospels or listening to preaching inspired by one of them and finding myself unexpectedly and sometimes unaccountably consoled, restored and even healed. The stories have helped me face my life and what I may have resigned myself to and what I had forgotten to expect.
For the past two years, I have found myself on the road at this beautiful time in the New England spring. Both times I have driven up the Connecticut River valley and let my life and its hopes breathe again in sight of the green mountains. Both times I took a journey into an unknown future and met what I thought I had lost.
A glorious mystery. Pentecost is indeed about feelings you do not think you will ever have – or have again.
Photo of Walpole, NH from Seattle Tall Poppy