Tag Archives: Spirit

Trinity Sunday | Eve of the Visitation

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high, *
but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?
He takes up the weak out of the dust *
and lifts up the poor from the ashes.
He sets them with the princes, *
with the princes of his people.
He makes the woman of a childless house *
to be a joyful mother of children. (Psalm 113:5-8)

This evening one of the Episcopal Church’s seven Principal Feasts (Trinity Sunday) overlaps one of our many Holy Days (the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

In this happy juxtaposition, we ponder this evening the universal mystery of the triune God, “who sits enthroned on high,” and who is made known to us in a specific man, Jesus, born to a specific woman, Mary, whose visit to her relative Elizabeth we honor tomorrow.

“No one has ever seen God,” John reminds us in the prologue to his gospel. “It is God the only Son, who is close to the father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18).

The Trinity whom we adore

John’s gospel opens with a hymn of creation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5).

John purposely reminds us of the opening of the Hebrew Bible, when in the beginning the spirit of God swept over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:1-2). He goes on to equate the Word — who was with God in the beginning — with Jesus, “a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

In the mystery that Christians call the Incarnation, we see “the Lord our God, who sits enthroned on high, but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth.”

Who is like our God, indeed?

Born of the Virgin Mary

“Hail, Mary, full of grace,” many Christians pray as they say the prayers of the rosary. “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary herself cries out in the prayer we call the Magnificat, “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (BCP 119).

Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth - Tapesetry

In this morning’s Gospel for Trinity Sunday, Nicodemus puzzles over Jesus’ words about being born again. “Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus responds with a wry twist. “Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8).

Mary herself had asked the angel, “How can this be, since I am still a virgin?” to which she got the equally unsettling reply that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35-36).

The Spirit of Love

That same Spirit, Luke goes on to recount in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, fell on the early church and inspired them to go out into the world proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord.”

In Jesus, the apostles saw God, “the Lord who sits enthroned on high,” stooping down and joining his creatures. Before he left his disciples, Jesus promised that they would share in his spirit, the spirit of love.

At evening prayer tonight, we prayed for that same Spirit of love.

O God, you manifest in your servants the signs of your presence: Send forth upon us the Spirit of love, that in companionship with one another your abounding grace may increase among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 125)

O God, send us your Spirit through Jesus our Lord.

In companionship with one another …

Abounding grace …

“Hail Mary, full of grace …”

… full of grace and truth.

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Beloved

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The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)

I received an email a couple weeks ago from a young woman asking to be baptized at St. Thomas, the parish I serve in the Diocese of Fond du Lac.

She did not grow up in a religious household, but she has pursued deeper and deeper spiritual engagement and is now led to make a mature commitment to Christianity.

In the Daily Office readings this morning, I couldn’t help reflecting on her request as I read about Peter’s vision regarding the Gentiles. When he arrived at Cornelius’ house, he saw that the Holy Spirit had come into their lives, too. He asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing from those who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47).

This young woman knows that the Spirit is in her life, and that Spirit is moving her to make a public act of faith.

Jesus himself makes the same public act in this evening’s reading from “the beginning of the good news” according to Mark.

The Spirit is surely already present in the life of the Son of God, just as the Spirit “proceeds from the Father” — Jesus does not need baptism in order to receive the Spirit, but the Spirit moves him to reveal his identity in a public way.

And what is that identity? “You are my Son, the Beloved,” says the voice from heaven; “with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

All of us who are baptized into the Body of Christ share in his identity as Beloved.

I look forward to the day — soon, I expect — when we will welcome another Beloved daughter into the fellowship of Christ’s Body.

Can these bones live?

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The Old Testament reading for Morning Prayer today comes from the book of Ezekiel, the “dry bones” story that we heard just a few nights ago during the Great Vigil of Easter.

Ezekiel is led in a vision to a valley full of bones, and God tells him to prophesy to the bones. Bones come together, sinews knit them up, flesh covers them, but there is no breath in them.

God commands again, and breath enters the bodies, “and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude” (Ezekiel 37:10).

God ends by saying “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, The Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord” (37:14).

I couldn’t help thinking of the skeleton warriors from the movie Jason and the Argonauts, created so memorably by Ray Harryhausen in early stop-motion animation.

However, these fighting skeletons are not the living people of Ezekiel’s vision. We call it the “dry bones” story, but it’s really the “reborn people” story. That’s why it’s part of our Easter Vigil readings each year.

It seems to me that too many of us get stuck halfway — we are dried up, but we can at least move and fight and defend ourselves, and we are terrible to each other.

However, we are called to more, much more. Through the gift of God’s Spirit, we can live as reborn people, not just as dry bones.

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of this life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 100)