An Advent Reflection
The theme of the second week of Advent in our parish is “The Promise of the Spirit” from last Sunday’s readings. The advent verse for Saturday is from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. — Galatians 5:25
It’s easy to let ourselves by governed by our passions. That’s the function of emotions. They help us run from danger. They give us the courage to ask a girl to dance in the 9th grade (and the persistence to keep trying). They drive us into marriage and make us wish we could lay down our lives for our children. They can also seduce us into drinking too much or giving up too early or being afraid to go out our front door. Emotions are powerful things.
We think we are generally pretty rational, but much of our reason is only a rationale to justify what we desire, rather than a guide for what we should do or be.
Cold logic can’t really answer whether to buy broccoli or green beans for dinner. You will pick what seems good to you. Reason may urge you to choose a vegetable, but you will pick the one you desire (or perhaps, the one that fills your desire to think of yourself as ‘healthy’). We are governed by our passions. Even those things we feel compelled to do are compelled by other emotions – not wanting to disappoint a friend or endure a partner’s ire.
So what does it mean to be guided by the Spirit? Is it another passion? for compassion, for truth, for peace, for justice? for the radiant presence of the divine? Is it a desire for the holy? Is it a passion born of the scripture? a conviction that in this Jesus is the ultimate truth of our existence?
There are people in my neighboring apartments who frequently sing. Some, with operatic volume. I have a hard time wanting to silence anyone from singing, but I wish they could sing in key. Is this what the Spirit is? The power and presence that is the ultimate harmony of the cosmos?
I understand the traditional language of the church and the doctrine of the Trinity. I confess that the Holy Spirit is the third ‘person’ of the Trinity and the fullness of the Godhead. But those doctrinal formulations don’t really help us to distinguish this holy Spirit from all those other spirits and passions and self-deceptions driving the world. But there is something different about this Spirit. And I know that I can learn to recognize it. I know that it is possible to let it guide me. And I know it is the true heart beat of the world.