Seasons of the Soul
The Call to Holy Surprise: Reflections on Pentecost
Pentecost demands that we listen with a willing heart, and that we open ourselves to ongoing radical transformation. Soul work is always challenging and calls us beyond our comfort zone. Prayer isn't about baptizing the status quo, but entering into dynamic relationship with the God who always makes things new. Scripture challenges our ingrained patterns of belief, our habitual attitudes and behavior. Conversion is about maintaining what the Buddhists call "Beginner's Mind." St. Benedict speaks to this in his Rule when he says, "always begin again."
To be fully human and alive is to know the tension of our dustiness, our mortality, to be called to a profoundly healthy humility where we acknowledge that we can know very little of the magnificence of the divine Source of all. Once we have journeyed through the desert and stripped away the vestiges of our hubris, we can dance into the new life awaiting us.
The Spirit descends on those gathered together in a small room and breaks the doors wide open. We are reminded that practicing resurrection is not for ourselves alone, but on behalf of a wider community. Not only for those with whom we attend church services, but beyond to the ones who sit at the furthest margins of our awareness. Pentecost is a story of the courage that comes from breaking established boundaries.
We may limit our vision through cynicism, but equally through certainty or cleverness. Sometimes we fear doubt so much that we allow it to make our thoughts rigid, we choose certainties and then never make space for the Spirit to break those open or apart. The things we feel sure that God does not care about may be precisely the source of healing for a broken world.
Life isn't about knowing with more and more certainty. Life is about moving more deeply into the mystery of things. I find that the older I get, the less sure I am about anything and the richer my life becomes as I make space for unknowing, expansiveness, and possibilities far beyond my capacity for imagining. If when Pentecost arrives you do not find yourself perplexed or amazed, consider releasing the tight grip of your certain thoughts and make space for holy surprise.
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., is a Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery without walls offering online classes and resources in contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author of seven books on monastic spirituality and creativity including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Ave Maria Press), Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings (SkyLight Paths), and Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice (forthcoming 2013 from Ave Maria Press). Christine earned her Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and her work focuses on the intersection of the arts, contemplative spirituality and practice, and the wisdom of the seasons. Visit her website Abbey of the Arts.