I often wish I had the spirit of Georgia O’Keefe, so I could paint beautiful close-up images like hers that take over your entire view when you look at them. Or the spirit of Walt Whitman in order to create a sustained homage to nature. Of course, I can imitate other artists, looking long at an O’Keefe painting or reading Whitman’s poetry hoping to catch the spirit from which their work sprang. Artist and poet look at the world more intensely, with more intentionality, so that every day things like a piece of drift wood or even the tiniest blade of grass come to life in a way that allows us into their singular vision, and enlarges ours. Mary Oliver meanders through the woods early in the mornings with her notepad, watching and waiting for the deer to come down and drink at the pond, or the flower to open at the first light of day. I often read her poems of a morning as I would the psalms, wanting to enter into the spirit of the world that she has been able to capture in well-chosen words. Her poetry also brings with it a sensibility for the sacred and the blessed in our world. As the artists opens other worlds for us, we glimpse this world with more truth, beauty and grace.
Jesus left his Spirit with us in a very decisive and intentional way. Two thousand years later how do I come upon his Spirit? How does his Spirit enter into you and I so we might see more truth, beauty and grace in the world and in ourselves? Can I look at his life and his ‘work’, what is left to us of him, so I can enter into the Life of his Spirit? Shall I watch and wait for his Spirit to come down from Galilee to the river, or like St. Paul says, ‘walk according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4) looking for the day to open its broad petals across the landscape.
We are the people of Pentecost. On that day Jesus poured his Spirit out upon the world, like a rainbow of colors spilling down, transparent, washing over us all, the felt experience of his life. His Spirit is like the rainbow in Genesis that the Lord set in the clouds as a sign of his promise and blessing upon the earth and all the people in it.(Gen.9:13) Christ’s Spirit remains too as both promise and blessing. The promise of our becoming and the blessing by which we are touched by his Life in his Spirit. He is with us too in a reign of words that comes down to us in stories about him. Whatever he did and whatever he said, he was unforgettable. Surely some sacred Spirit created in those whose lives he touched the need to tell others what they knew of him, so that we too might get a glimpse of him from the distance of two thousand years and today enter into his Spirit, and into the timelessness of his presence as it remains with us. Perhaps all I need do is stand under the rainbow and believe.
St. Paul can rightly be called the first voice for the coming of Christ. We speak of the Christ child, but it was the person of Jesus who was born at Bethlehem. Jesus as the Christ came to be call or known at or after his resurrection. Jesus was proclaimed ‘messiah’ after his resurrection, when his disciples realized that this is who their leader was and finally got what he had been saying to them. [Or now believing who he was, infused their gospel accounts of his life with the words and sayings that would tell the world what they saw and now believed.]
It is no stretch of the imagination then to say that Paul is an artisan of Advent, an artisan for the coming of Christ. For to each community that he founded and preached to his was the message that brought the Christ-life to those people.
To speak of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the co-creator with the Spirit of God, is to acknowledge her own art, the art of the spirit’s fidelity to the sacred that she would, before all else, make manifest to the world.
Mary’s let it be is the creative and life affirming response that marks all of sacred scripture, including the letters of St. Paul. From a woman who calls herself a handmaiden, by her let it be she becomes co-creator with the Lord of Life, open, responsive and receptive to the sacred spirit that overarches our finitude to bring about that which is no longer bound by time. At the moment of Jesus’ conception eternity entered the world and became available to all. For Paul to live in Christ is now our ever available opening to infinity and beyond. Today and every day, with the fidelity of each new sunrise, is the echoing fidelity of the Lord of Life who brought life out of a manger, beyond a cross, and into the gardens of our lives.
Be it child or image, painting or poem or the life lived authentically in response to the sacred spirit hovering over the waters of this world, we, like Mary, give faithful worship to that same spirit in each new day, in each new creation we bring forth, ever open and attendant to its advent. With each new day we have within us the enduring capability to fashion and give form to the Word become flesh.