The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday. Fr Piers Linley is inspired to get poetical for Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit can’t be pinned down to a single name or image
He is like the wind
He blows where he chooses
whence He comes and wither He goes no one knows
He is God communicating himself, love over-flowing
He is the fountain’s spray and bubble
A spring of living water in the hearts of the faithful

The Spirit’s portrait is in symbols
The Dove –
Going forth from the Ark and not returning
Later resting on the Son himself at baptism
He is in a bush burning but not consumed
He is in tongues of fire
Turning us into prophets lest we be mere dry sticks

The Spirit is in all things new and fresh
In the sense of wonder that strikes us all too rarely
The Spirit is the beginning – and the end – of wisdom

The Spirit comes as the mystery of a love both tender and strong
He is our quest – but our comforter
He is the Spirit of the Father whose peace Jesus promised us
He is the Spirit of the nameless God who showed himself to Moses
As the one who would be whomsoever He chose to be
The Spirit both of the elusiveness and otherness of God
And of the intimacy of the Son’s friendship In conversation as familiar
As Abraham bargaining for Sodom and Gomorra

The Spirit is the pledge, the assurance in our hearts
The certainty of harvest that possession of the first fruits brings
He convinces us that we may go forth to sow even when in sorrow
Only to find ourselves overtaken by the joy of reapers
Carrying back their sheaves with joy
So quick does the seed sprout and produce a hundredfold

The Spirit is the inner instinct of a paradoxical freedom —
The light yoke of slavery to His will

He comes fruitfully – in harvest of patience and peace
But in the midst of suffering and strife
For the Spirit’s peace is not peace as the world understands it
He is the Spirit of the Son who overturns all worldly standards

The Spirit is unexpected – yet one hundred percent reliable
Even if more than a hundred percent unpredictable
You can’t book an appointment with the Spirit
But is always there without one when needed

He seals us with an inner instinct whereby we follow him
As a duckling imprinted on its mother follows her quacking

We follow the Spirit’s murmur
But sometimes He doesn’t murmur but shouts – and that gets difficult
We try to resist the temptation to turn the volume down
To shelter from the mighty wind rushing
And sometimes He doesn’t shout but whispers
And in the silence we need love-alerted ears

The Spirit isn’t afraid to let come again the chaos and the void
Over which He hovered at the first creation
So that it is out of nothing that the new earth is re-created

The Spirit is against – legalism, formalism and stuffiness —
against boredom, prudery and stodginess
He is against fringes and phylacteries and ostentatious posturing
He is against all ecclesiastical pomposity
He is against sin and all resistance to His heaven-ward springing love

The Spirit is for – sonship, liberation and friendship
He is the Spirit of the Son who calls us not servants but friends

The Spirit is the bringer and source of both institution and charism
The creator of inner life of authority and stewardship
But also of rebellion against authority hardened into a false self-image

The Spirit is the bringer of holy jokes
And of those who take no thought of what to say —
Before their persecutors
He is the Spirit of those who laugh at the place of their martyrdom —
At the scaffold steps like Saint Thomas More

The Spirit is unexpected – yet always there
You cannot prearrange him
Yet you can commit yourself with the hope that he fulfil your rashness

The Spirit is in sacramental forms – the oil of anointings
Yet calls for a reliance on less certain, more fallible structures
To demonstrate that His freedom is unimpaired

The Spirit is too difficult to hear – yet too easy

He is the secret-yet-revealed power
The hidden-yet-manifest dynamism
That drive us through our desert days —
His the dry sand

He rejoices with us in our oases –
His the sparkling water and the date palm

He drives us and leads us – going both before and behind
To His last work – the shining forth in our hearts and bodies
The transfiguration of our earthly struggles into the glory which
He has with the Father and the Son whose unity He is for ever and ever


Readings: Acts 2:1-11 | 1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13 | John 20:19-23

fr. Piers Linley was Chaplain to the Dominican Sisters at Bushey in Hertfordshire; he died at the Priory of St Dominic, London. May he rest in peace.