One of my favorite experiences of the church has been writing songs for our Sunday meetings, and I’ve been honored to see how they’ve circulated in our community. Translating the poetry of Scripture and the church mothers and fathers into music is a meditative act for me, and I hope that you can get a sense of that this week. — Andrew Yang
Today’s Bible reading
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
More Thoughts for Meditation
Circling, Circled, Lover, Loved
You make all things new
You, within, around, above
Remake us in You
St. Hildegard of Bingen was a 12th century abbess who led such an extraordinary life in that there’s really no way to begin a sentence “St. Hildegard of Bingen was…” without ending the sentence with an understatement. She was a scholastic philosopher, a genius composer and poet, healer, religious leader of her convent, and pen pal to multiple popes and emperors. One of her poems is a hymn called “O Virtus Sapientae” meaning “Holy Wisdom” in latin:
O Wisdom’s energy!
Whirling, you encircle
and everything embrace
in the single way of life.
Three wings you have:
one soars above into the heights,
one from the earth exudes,
and all about now flies the third.
Praise be to you, as is your due, O Wisdom.
There’s a theological tradition about the figure of “Wisdom” in Scripture and Apocrypha where no one is quite sure what Divine Person, if any, Wisdom refers to. By which I mean that when Bible writers personify wisdom and call her the proper name “Wisdom” or describe how Wisdom says this or Wisdom does that, are they perhaps referring to Godself saying or doing something? If so, is Wisdom another name for the Holy Spirit, or maybe Jesus, or all the Divine Persons, or maybe it’s just poetry and we should stop reading into it?
Like any writing on the Trinity it’s confusing, but I love that ambiguity, which Hildegard preserves in her “Holy Wisdom.” And I tried to capture that sense of ambiguity in mine. These different ways of referring to God: Maker, Mother, Root of Life, Holy Wisdom, Soaring Power, Mountain Fire, Fiery Pillar, Liberator, etc., are in some sense referring to the same being (or Being), one that, despite all of these powerful names and metaphors, has the quiet grace to “rest upon our heads.”
As a minor aside, this makes me think of all of the Totoro, big and small, who are sometimes scary and sometimes cute, sitting together and playing ocarinas with Mei and Satsuki in My Neighbor Totoro.
Suggestions for action
The author of Acts describes the coming of the Holy Spirit as being accompanied by violent wind, which fills the room. This sense of God filling space is echoed by St. Hildegard when she describes these wings that soar above and below and “all about.” It’s helpful for me to remember this imagery of God as one who is both far and close, grand and tiny, fierce enough to appear as a fiery pillar but mild enough to appear as a tongue of flame.