I’ve always loved the Holy Spirit rather more than most, I think. For years, I told people he was my favorite person of the Trinity, if it’s not blasphemy to pick favorites among the coequal, coeternal persons in the triune Godhead. When your gifts are as churchy as mine, it’s easy to have powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit. And I certainly have, whether it’s through speaking or giving counsel or just following God’s prompting to visit a random town in Ohio or fly out of Norfolk for no good reason.
I describe him as a power running through my veins, like adrenaline or alcohol or caffeine. He heightens my experience of the world and makes me more alive.
But last week in a powerful homily Father asked us to imagine the Holy Spirit not just within but behind us, catching us up and pushing us along, and the Lord gave me the most beautiful image. I’m sure I can’t describe it adequately, but I think I have to try.
The Spirit is a wind that you can see and feel, a wind that has a personality you can understand, though he speaks only mutely. He communicates by the things he catches up and shows you, the places he draws you, and the way he moves you. When he first begins to blow around you he may be gentle and enticing, but at a certain point he sweeps you off your feet, spinning you around before gently setting you back down. When he takes control, you can choose how to respond. You can fight, clinging to lamp posts and trying to keep charge of your life. And more often than not, he’ll back off and let you continue trudging along through your dreary life, oblivious to the joy and wonder he’s trying to open to you.
But you’ll find that when you fight him you often end up hurting yourself. The less you trust, the more you clench your fists around your own plans and ideas, the more you find your shoulder wrenched, your nails broken, your neck aching from whiplash. When you give in, though, surrendering to the movement you don’t understand, there’s an unexpected comfort and even a whimsy. You might be spun into the air laughing for joy or gently cradled for a moment of rest. The wind is at times warm and comforting, at times a bracing chill to wake you. He’s got emotions, too, that you can sense from how he’s moving but that you also inhale, finding yourself filled with power or clarity or peace amid turmoil. It’s different depending on what he’s doing–he’s nothing if not unpredictable.
Watch this brilliant video for some sense of what I mean, only with more of a personality and taking you into the air as well as around on your feet:1
I’ve been sitting with this image of the Spirit all week, allowing myself to be caught up in his dance and filled with his power. Sometimes I see myself reaching out to grab something that isn’t for me and left tumbling, falling, falling before suddenly he catches me again and puts me back where I belong.
It’s somehow both thrilling and peaceful, a gentle ride on Aslan’s breath or an hour in a tornado. It’s more a relationship with a person than just the motivation and inspiration I’ve felt before. I’m not sure if I’ve described it well enough, but maybe you can pray with this image during the octave of Pentecost, asking the Spirit to show you who he is and how he works. Find someplace still (before the Blessed Sacrament is always best) and picture yourself being caught up and carried about by the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s terrifying or out of control or just as it should be. Maybe you’re fighting it and the Spirit won’t leave you behind or maybe he leaves you be to try again later. Maybe there’s something specific you grasp that causes you to be pulled out of God’s will. Maybe it’s all too speculative. But this is where my spirit’s been all week and it’s been absolutely lovely to be getting to know the Spirit as a real person, not just a force. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!
- There’s some other animated piece, I think, that accomplishes what I’m imagining, but I can’t quite think what. It’s a little bit Toothless the dragon and maybe something from Peter Pan? And a lot of the Genie from Aladdin. And other bits that make it much more personal than this, but this is a start. [↩]