Home Commentary God’s spirit in all things, an ongoing Pentecost

God’s spirit in all things, an ongoing Pentecost

When I was in high school, and that was a long time ago, we were taught a special song about the Pentecost. It also doubles as a song for the Mass of the Holy Spirit. I could not trace the composer of the song but I think it came all the way from the 1960s, right after Vatican II. I can still hum the tune until now. The lyrics runs like this:

Spirit of God in the clear running water

blowing to greatness the trees on the hill.

Spirit of God in the finger of morning,

Ref. Fill the earth, bring it to birth

and blow where you will.

blow, blow, blow ’till I be,

- Newsletter -

but breath of the spirit blowing in me.

Down in the meadows the willows are moaning,

sheep in the pasture land cannot lie still.

Spirit of God, creation is groaning.

I thought that the song is quite revolutionary. It tells us that God’s spirit which is actually God’s incarnation into the world permeates not only human lives but all things — in the clear running waters, in the trees on the hill, in the meadows and willows, in the sheep at pasture, in creation’s groaning. This blows at our human and anthropocentric pretensions. That God is within us and our human communities, fine! But God’s being also permeates all things, which we sometimes forget!

In January 2016, a great Australian ecological theologian who has become a great friend, Fr. Denis Edwards, came to Manila for a speaking engagement. He called me and we had a nice chat over dinner. I came to know later that he passed on just before the pandemic in 2019.

In that meeting, he gave me a book he had written entitled “Ecology at the Heart of Faith” (2006). I went over that book again today. He writes:

“The Holy Spirit is the unspeakable closeness of God in the experience of mountains, deserts, forests, and seas, in the sense of being deeply connected with a place, and in the moments of real encounter with trees, flowers, birds, and animals.

“The presence of the Spirit in the otherness of the non-human is a direct challenge to the anthropocentrism that sees God as focused only on the human. It stands opposed to all attempts to use religious faith to legitimate the ruthless exploitation of other species.

“One of the characteristics of the biblical understanding of the Spirit of God is that this Spirit remains wild and uncontrollable. The Spirit cannot be domesticated. It is the wind that “blows where it chooses” (John 3:8).

As the refrain of the song goes: “Fill the earth, bring it to birth

and blow where you will.

blow, blow, blow ’till I be,

but breath of the spirit blowing in me.”

Our ancestors respect nature; the spirits live there. Before we cut a tree, we ask permission from the spirits. Before we pee, we say “tabi po” dahil baka mamaga yan. Before we construct something, we offer some food to the spirits residing there.

Christian theology has condemned these practices as “superstitious” or “pagan”. Some exorcists even exorcise them with holy water. But our ancestors are right. Nature is sacred. God’s creator Spirit lives there. As we say in the old Latin song: “Veni creator spiritus”.

It is about time to deconstruct our limited theologies of Pentecost. Our Pentecost is too small. It is trapped in our own anthropocentric frames, domesticated by our own limited worldviews. Even before humans were created, God’s Spirit (“ruach”) already hovers over the dark abyss. This is what the first verse of the Jewish-Christian bible says (Gen. 1:1). Before everything else, there was Pentecost.

If on Pentecost, the Spirit descends on the church, it is not limited to the “Catholic” church. It is even beyond the sanctification of other Christian churches. It is beyond the churches of all human religions.

The Spirit descends on the “church” which is the whole world, the whole universe, the whole creation. The Pentecost is not a one-time big-time event, extraordinary and unrepeatable. The Spirit blows wildly from the start in the ongoing groaning of the whole creation.

Father Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M., is the President of Adamson University in Manila. He is a theologian, professor, and pastor of an urban poor community on the outskirts of the Philippine capital. He is also Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at St. John’s University in New York.

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support Our Mission

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.