Monday, May 20, 2013

Pentecost

Red is the liturgical color of Pentecost, a color of blood and birth and life.

Pentecost is when we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit to the earth, to abide with us in the absence of God the Father and God the Son. I have to say, the Holy Spirit has always been my favorite member of the Trinity, the one most immediately accessible. God the Father has always seemed so distant and Out There, and in the past the Father was even this austere, exacting, domineering presence that I avoided as much as possible. And of course Jesus is great, but I love him more for the fierce beauty of his life on earth, the symbolism drawn between the active engagement of the imagination of the participant and the narratives and teachings that we have of him.

But the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is there, right There, palpable and present, a force and a source to be tapped into whenever we ask.

The Holy Spirit is named in the Nicene Creed as a "he," which, as I've written before, bothers me, and I think is a mistake. Some of my most potent experiences with the Holy Spirit have been with the Spirit as Comforter. Yesterday I came across an interesting passage in Crossing to Avalon, by Jean Shinoda Bolen, one of my very favorite writers:
In the theology of Protestant Christianity of my experience, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was male. In my own experience, because Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost was invisible, it became genderless. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, which is a feminine symbol, and was called the Comforter. When we need comforting--when we have been hurt, or are in pain or grief, or are sick and afraid--we feel small and want mother to put her arms around us, to kiss the hurt and make it go away. Even when our own experience of  mother was not this, we yearn for what we know is archetypal; we miss Mother.
She goes on to say, "Long before Christianity, the dove was the goddess Aphrodite's symbol." Symbols can become mixed up and co-opted by the dominant forces in a culture. Perhaps the Holy Spirit, being more definitively formless than the other members of the Trinity, can be a mediating force for the sacred feminine that is lacking in our culture. Julian of Norwich wrote of God our Mother, and certainly others have conceived of the Holy Spirit as She.