This Sunday we, along with Christians throughout the world, will celebrate Pentecost:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)
This, in fulfillment of Jesus’s promise recorded in the Gospel of John (14:16): “And I will ask Abba God, who will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.”
The images and power of the Holy Spirit are so powerful, they have inspired many texts, chants and songs over the centuries. One early version is the Veni Sancte Spiritus, whose origin a likely dates from the 11th or 12th century. This text celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to “wash what is soiled, water what is dry, heal what is wounded, bend what is rigid, warm what is chilled, and guide what is astray.” (from a translation by Irene Nowell, OSB)
Our hearts have been lifted in singing another form of this text at Holy Wisdom Monastery this week, in a hymn written by Paul Gerhardt (1648), and translated from the German by Madeleine Forell Marshall (1998):
Sweet delight, most lovely, shining, faithful friend in love and grief,
Holy Spirit, all divining, ever with us, our relief:
As the rainfall comes, descending, wash and bless us with your grace;
All creation comprehending, sanctify our human race.
Wise and careful, you have counted each electron, all the sands.
All-embracing, you have bounded space and time in your kind hands.
Source of life and every blessing, come in answer to our prayer –
As you came, our sin redressing came to save us from despair.
When I fail you, please exhort me to return to righteous ways.
When I stagger, please support me through the long and painful days.
Save me, hold me, every steady, now in life as after death:
Consolation, ever-ready, ever-lasting, vital breath.
Another very familiar setting of this text comes to us from the Community of Taizé:
Come Holy Spirit, from heaven shine forth:
With your glorious light, Veni Sancte Spiritus
Come Father of the poor, come generous Spirit
Come light of our lives, Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Come from the four winds, O Spirit
Come, breath of God, disperse the shadows over us
Renew and strengthen your people, Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Father of the poor, come to our poverty
Shower on us the seven gifts of your grace,
Be the light of our lives, O come, Veni Sancte Spiritus.
You are our only comforter, peace of the soul.
In the heat you shade us, in our labor you refresh us,
And in trouble you are our strength, Veni Sancte Spiritus.
A lovely experience of meditation is available through the music and images recorded in a Taizé gathering in 2009, available at this link on YouTube, and another at this link to an AnglicanYouTube production using the Taizé chant. May the gifts of the Holy Spirit be ever present in all our lives, even as we pray on Pentecost morning:
God of light, from whom every good gift comes,
send your Spirit into our lives
with mighty wind and flame of fire.
Open the horizons of our minds,
and loosen our tongues to sing your praise
in words beyond the power of speech.
May our lives announce the truth of Jesus,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. AMEN