Dear Friends in Christ,
At the end of this week, the calendar page turns from May to June. Nine days later we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost, an ancient harvest festival and, for us as Christians, the day when we celebrate the bestowing and outbreak of the Holy Spirit.
As some of you know, it was a folk Mass written for the feast of Pentecost that was my introduction to the Episcopal Church. I cannot think of the preface for this feast without hearing its setting. The music helps me remember these powerful words, “it is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ our Lord in fulfillment of his true promise, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven lighting upon the disciples to teach them and to lead them into all truth uniting people of many tongues in the confession of one faith and giving to your Church the power to serve you as a royal priesthood and to preach the Gospel to all nations therefore we praise you…” To this day, I am deeply moved by the power of those words and the work of the Holy Spirit it presents.
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Truth. In this age of spin and cacophony from news outlets and public officials, where truth is seen by some as something personal and relative, I give thanks that God’s truth is bigger than all others. I often think of it ontologically. To apply the method of St. Anselm in his ontological truth of the existence of God, we can conceive a truth greater than all other truths, therefore, such a truth must exist. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth. And so we pray that it may be so.
The Holy Spirit is a spirit of unity — the spirit brings people and things together. I have come to believe that whenever there is a desire to separate based on difference, the Holy Spirit is not present. It is this spirit that guides our ecumenical work and our work in reconciliation. When we engage in this work, we are participating in the work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is power to serve and proclaim. Jesus sent the Spirit to empower the work we do as the Church, as we preach the Gospel in word and deed to everyone we meet. We are sealed in this Spirit at Baptism and it is strengthened and affirmed in confirmation.
This Spirit of truth, unity, and power is ours through Christ. It is a gift freely given to us. The call to us on this day is to use that gift to the glory of God.
As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, I ask you to join me in praying daily the words of this ancient hymn:
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
and lighten with celestial fire;
thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love;
enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but one,
that through the ages all along
this may be our endless song:
Praise to thine eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Yours in the power of the Spirit,
The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee