Today Western Christians observe Pentecost, the day 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and 10 days after his ascension into heaven. Pentecost celebrates the moment when the disciplines saw themselves surrounded by tongues of fire and felt lifted up by the Holy Spirit. In the Book of John (14:16) Jesus is reported to have promised the disciples that he would “pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” According to the Book of Acts (2:1-4), that comforter came to them as an ecstatic rush:
On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind. It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.
As I understand it, through Pentecost we articulate our sense that God is within each and every one of us. Jesus experienced this inner divinity and passed it along to his followers, who then spread out to teach the world about it.
Pentecost occurs this year in May, and there is a powerful poem by Mary Oliver celebrating the month that seems Pentecostal, even though Pentecost is not mentioned. She talks about a life force that comes storming out of darkness and of bees feeding upon the “spiritual honey” of this force. Regardless of how dark the earth seems, the bees are left with a deep certainty and sense of well-being. In the presence of a beautiful May day, we all have the chance to feel ourselves near the hub of a miracle and know that “everything is a part of, is as good as, a poem or a prayer.” Everything is luminous. Here’s the poem:
May, and among the miles of leafing,
blossoms storm out of the darkness—
windflowers and moccasin flowers. The bees
dive into them and I too, to gather
their spiritual honey. Mute and meek, yet theirs
is the deepest certainty that this existence too—
this sense of well-being, the flourishing
of the physical body—rides
near the hub of the miracle that everything
is a part of, is as good
as a poem or a prayer, can also make
luminous any dark place on earth.