02 Jun Have You Felt the Wind Lately?
by Fr. Denis Lemieux
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting (Acts 2: 1-2 – First Reading, Pentecost Sunday).
I live in a tiny house atop a tall hill. When I moved into my poustinia last June, there were some things I knew came with the territory—silence, prayer, lots of Scripture, not so much food, and so forth.
One thing I did not anticipate was the wind. A few weeks after I moved in, Combermere got one of its delightful summer storms—thunder, lightning, driving rain, and yes, high winds.
Tucked snugly into bed, I was enjoying the storm as I do, when a particularly strong blast of wind roared around my tiny little house and … well, moved it, just a little.
Now, this was new to me. Before becoming a poustinik I had lived at the MH priest staff dorm, Regina Pacis, a rather large and imposing building buried deep in the valley and surrounded by forest. In other words, not a place for big winds, and when they did blow, we didn’t notice it too much.
But here? There came a big wind indeed, and my little house was actually swaying in it, and swaying me, too.
It wasn’t about to get knocked off its foundations and sent a-tumblin’ down into the cow pasture, Fr. Denis and all. (Our men are far too good at carpentry for that to be a risk.) But I have to admit, I did briefly wonder if I was going to wake up in, say, Munchkinland, sadly without even a little dog to keep me company.
In the ensuing months I have come to delight in the fact that a tiny house atop a tall hill is the perfect place to experience stormy weather, and even the ordinary winds of the day, the least of which will set my poustinia creaking and cracking, have become all part of the desert experience.
All of which leads me to Pentecost and the Mighty Wind of God filling the house the apostles waited in, praying.
The wind became tongues of fire, the fire settled on them, and the Church and its mission were born: a scared uncertain group of men became a powerful body animated by a single soul, the Holy Spirit, and off they went to evangelize the world, to bring Christ to the nations.
Pentecost is the great feast of the Church, its birthday if you will, the day when we remember that a wind has blown, fire has come, and wind and flame have blown and burned down through the centuries and come upon you and me, for we are that Church.
So, have you felt that wind lately? Are you being swayed in its tender breeze or buffeted by its wild blasts, or maybe even truly knocked off your foundations by its gales?
The Holy Spirit, St. Augustine tells us, is the New Law of Christ. By this he meant that Christians are meant to live not by a set of rules clearly laying out what we shall or shall not do, but rather by the constant promptings and directives of the Spirit of God who is within, around, and upon us.
(I know I need to mention in our confused days that the Spirit who thus prompts us is the same Spirit who wrote the moral law in our hearts and in the Church, so the new law does not negate or contradict, but rather completes the old.)
So … listening to the Spirit much these days? What’s he telling you to do? Or … maybe that voice has grown a bit faint, those winds died down to seeming calm? Not much prompting and directing happening anywhere in your life.
Well, that’s a problem if so. We really are—truly and really are—meant to be guided by the Holy Spirit. And he wants to be that guide, that director for us. This is not reserved for an elite group of mystics and spiritual geniuses; it is meant to be the ordinary experience of the baptized.
While discernment is always needed, and we have to be careful in that, we really should have some sense of the Spirit and his action and guidance somewhere in our lives right now.
What to do if that’s not the case? I think the key to it all is to live in a tiny house atop a tall hill. What do I mean by that?
Live in a tiny house: Now, I’m not speaking literally here. I don’t really care what your floor space is. It’s the house of the soul that matters.
Littleness, simplicity, poverty—all this is not about material wealth precisely, but about knowing just how much we need God. How much we need the Spirit to each day blow us here, blow us there, nudge us in one direction, sway us in another. And because of that knowledge, asking him ceaselessly to do just that.
If we are too “big,” too sure of ourselves, too much depending on our own strength, physical or mental, too convinced that in the end we can do it—oh, with a little help from God, sure—then our house quickly becomes a fortress, a castle, a prison … and the wind blows around it in vain.
Atop a tall hill: There can be a sort of false humility that shuts down the Holy Spirit like nothing else.
We really can believe that all this “led by the Spirit” stuff is just fine for St. Francis or Catherine Doherty or random poustinik weirdos living in tiny houses (ahem).
But oh—not for me, surely? I’m just a poor man. I’m just a sinful woman. I’ll just try to keep the commandments, get to confession when I don’t, and forget about all that wind and fire and the New Law of Christ. Surely that’s good enough for the likes of me?
Well no, it’s not actually. God chose twelve pretty ordinary guys to be his apostles, and has gone on choosing pretty ordinary people to do great things for him (and little things with great love) ever since.
The “tall hill” means accepting that we tiny houses, tiny souls are, in fact, made for great things. Made to be swayed and rocked and pushed around and yes, occasionally sent flying by the Holy Spirit; that it is God and not us who is to determine the scope and shape of our lives.
Littleness, humility, poverty, the necessity of knowing our utter need for God, and the sure and simple readiness to let God do anything for and in us, blow us where he will and emblazen our hearts and lives with his passionate love: these are the basic attitudes that open us to being led by the Spirit each day where he wants to take us.
This feast of Pentecost is indeed our feast in every sense of that word. So happy feast day to you all, and I’ll see you all in Munchkinland!