At our recent Synod, one of the very first acts we did, as it was part of the opening Eucharist, was to sing the hymn, Come Down O Love Divine. A traditional hymn, that perhaps you know well.
It begins, and so essentially Synod began with the words:
Come down, O love divine,
Seek thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
And kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
Beautiful words of a beautiful hymn. An invitation and an acknowledgement of the coming of the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit be seen and known and kindle a flame within us. I have sung it countless times over the years, at times seeking the inspiration of the holy.
As often happens when reading or singing or hearing familiar words, something new can pop out and catch one’s attention even still. The phrase, “and visit it with thine own ardour glowing” caught my attention. If I am honest, it was because I was not sure what the word ardour really meant. I have heard it many times but what is it referring to? Maybe many of you know this but ardour is defined as great enthusiasm or love. We are praying in this hymn, that the Spirit would visit our soul with the Spirit’s own great love glowing. I like this and I am inspired by this.
At Synod we called on the Holy Spirit many times throughout the two days. We called on the Holy Spirit not to keep us the same, not to hold us back, not to wish that nothing would change, not that we could be the Church of several years ago. None of this. We invited the Holy Spirit to lead us forward. To invite us to live in the world of today and in the future. To see that the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit is not calling us to simply be the same. No, we are called to be changed. That the soul of our diocese, and the souls of each of us individually know the visit of the Holy Spirit and that we experience the glowing great love of the Holy Spirit. That we be changed and transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is important.
The Church has always been called to change and adjust and reform and renew and rethink and be awakened throughout history. We have never been called to stand still and admire how wonderful our church buildings are. We have only been called to experience the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit as a change agent.
And so, at Synod we talked about priorities for our diocese for the next one to two years. Where is the Spirit calling us? We discerned that the Spirit was calling us to live into priorities related to homelessness, social justice, spiritual development, ministry with children, youth and families, and parish development. There are many other things which are important in the life of the diocese besides these things but these were named as our five priorities as we look to the future.
At Synod we also heard the report of the Homelessness and Housing Affordability Task Force which asked us to take seriously our calling to care for those in need and be part of a solution to this crisis that affects every community of our Diocese. Our diocese still has much work to do to determine best next steps, but we are truly being nudged by the Spirit to respond.
Those are just two examples from Synod where we noticed the Holy Spirit’s wind and fire pushing us not to be the way we were but changed and transformed. Often in the Church we are unsure of how to respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit but if we are praying for it, and singing about it we need to pay attention to that Spirit visiting our soul with the Spirit’s own ardour glowing.
The Day of Pentecost is not simply a day to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit descended on a group of followers of Jesus about two thousand years ago. If it is only a day to remember the event, then it is not worth celebrating. But if it is about understanding that there have been many days of Pentecost ever since then, and in fact every day is a day of Pentecost then we are onto something. The Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity is constantly descending upon each one of us and touching our soul. The Holy Spirit is constantly descending upon the Church inviting us into something more. The difficult piece is that the presence of the Holy Spirit can disturb us, annoy us, challenge us, awaken us to things we might not want to be awakened to. But that is the role of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to see that this remains to be true and be awakened to a new calling. Do we have the courage like thousands of others who have gone before us, do we have the courage to recognize this Holy Spirit and that she is seeking this soul of ours to visit it with her own great ardour, her own great love glowing so that we are never the same but filled with new fire?
Come Holy Spirit our souls inspire.
Photos Randy Murray