The Creator Spirit’s Deep Embrace

"Flight of the Golden Hawk" by Wingsdomain

“Flight of the Golden Hawk” by Wingsdomain

Spiritual Sunday

Both today’s Old Testament and New Testament readings give us images of people opening themselves to the divine without hesitation. In the first of the two stories, the child Samuel hears God calling in the night and, after first mistaking the voice for that of the chief priest, says, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” In the second we read about Philip, upon encountering Jesus, informing Nathaniel that “we have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

In “The Avowal,” Denise Levertov talks about the deep faith required for believing in God. Believers are like swimmers that “lie face to the sky/and water bears them” or “hawks [that] rest upon air and air sustains them.” Put another way, their support seems ephemeral and yet they are upheld. I’ve written in the past about how opening oneself to divinity is like opening oneself to artistic energies, which Levertov refers to as “the Creator Spirit.” Just as we struggle to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so the poet knows that sometimes the hardest part of creativity is allowing a poem to come with “no effort.”

Levertov’s “Creator Spirit” reminds me how Milton’s identifies the Holy Spirit as his inspiration, his epic muse, in the opening lines of Paradise Lost. There are flight images here as well, although of a dover rather than hawks:

And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant…

When the Creator Spirit comes, it is like an act of “all-surrounding grace.”

The Avowal

By Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

 Note on the artist: The photo “The Flight of the Golden Hawk” by Wingsdomain can be found at

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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