In the Christian church, today is the feast of Pentecost. It is considered to be the birthday of the church because it celebrates when the Spirit descended upon the disciples and filled them with the fire of courage to go and spread the message of liberation witnessed to them. Vestments and banners usually are red, filling the church with a sense of the energy that must have rushed into the room that day. It is a joyful feast, bringing the fifty days of the season of Easter to a dynamic close.
I like to imagine that ragtag group, gathered together "in fear," locked in the upper room. And there in the midst of their fright and attempts to secure themselves against a world full of unknowns, right in that place of locked doors and barricades, the Spirit is unleashed and they are forever changed. They breathe in courage, they are freed from the bonds they made for themselves.
This story gives me tremendous hope. Even in the places of my life I most try to keep walled off from the world, in my fear of death or vulnerability, pain or humiliation, or worse–the fear of not knowing what the worst might be–in that place of constriction and unwillingness to share myself with the world comes grace flooding in. Grace in the form of fire and rushing wind. Grace that floods the heart and breaks it wide open. Grace that makes the fears of the world easier to bear, because I have also known profound love, joy, beauty, goodness, freedom, and I can suddenly see that these are the simple gifts I have to offer a world trapped by its own fear.
For me, the spiritual journey is essentially above this movement toward freedom and greater love. The opposite of love is fear and it takes tremendous courage to allow ourselves to love freely. One of the signs to me of an authentic spiritual practice and encounter with holy presence is whether it leads the one practicing it towards an opening of the heart.
May you be blessed with strength and courage in a world of unknowing and doubt. May you find the strength to break free of whatever has been keeping you locked securely behind the door. May you dance out into the world and witness to a life of liberation and beauty. May you become fire.
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbeyof the Arts