No one saw the hour of your victory. No one is witness to the birth of a world. No one knows how the night of that Saturday’s hell was transformed into the light of the Easter dawn.
Asleep it was that we were carried on wings over the abyss, and asleep did we receive the grace of Easter. And no one knows how it happened to Him. No one knows which hand it was caressed his cheek so that suddenly the wan world beamed with a thousand colors, and he had to smile involuntarily over the miracle that was realized in him.
Who can describe what it means to say ‘The Lord is Spirit’? Spirit is the invisible reality that asserts itself more manifestly than all that is sensible. Spirit is the invisible fragrance of the Paradise that has arisen in our very midst. Spirit is the great invisible wing which we recognize by the blowing of the wind and by the keen desire that overflows us when we are grazed by its down.
Spirit is the Paraclete, the Consoler, whose tenderness makes the world of remorse be muted unsaid, absorbed like a drop of dew in the sunlight. A great white mantle, light as silk, is laid about your body, and under it the clinging garments of despair fall to tatters of themselves.
Spirit is a sorcerer: it can create in you what does not exist; it can make disappear what appeared to be irremovable; in the midst of a wilderness it creates gardens, fountains, birds; and what it conjures is no specter: it is sheer truth.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Heart of the World
Reflection - This is another great classic of contemporary spiritual reading. Those who have heard of von Balthasar, are a bit intimidated at the prospect of reading him, especially since he tended to write his books not so much by the word as by the pound, may find this title a good introduction to his thought. It is (relatively) short, accessible to the normal literate reader, and (oh yes) also stunningly beautiful and shattering in its insight into God’s love and human sin, mercy and what our need for it is.
As we start to draw our attention more towards the other pole of the Easter season, the great feast of Pentecost, it is good to meditate some on this reality of ‘Spirit’ in our lives. What does it mean, anyhow, that God is Spirit, and that, as in John 6, ‘it is the Spirit that gives life’?
Well, it means a great deal, and hopefully none of you expect me to comprehensively treat it in a blog post. What strikes me on this early morning hour is this business of the hand brushing the cheek of the dead Christ, leaving in its wake a flush of warmth and color on that pale fixed visage, stirring to motion and vitality the dead God of the world.
This is the great action of the Spirit in time and history, the raising of Christ from the dead. But it is also the great action of the Spirit in the history of all humanity. The Church, understood at its deepest reality, is this very resurrection of man from the dead, the whole human race stirred to new and everlasting life by the brush of the hand of the Holy Spirit.
It is also the great action of the Spirit in your life and mine. Whenever there is a stirring to life in us, whenever ‘love is come again’ just when we thought it couldn’t possibly, whenever repentance cracks our hard shell, and hope awakens in us, when faith blossoms after a season of doubt and near-despair, whenever forgiveness happens, whenever gifts flower, whenever good triumphs, even in some little way that nobody else even notices—whenever any of this blooming into new life happens, the Spirit is acting.
And it is the ‘personal touch’ that I want to highlight. The action of the Spirit is not some wholesale thing – like a big fire hose of water being poured out on a bunch of people. The Spirit is given to all, but to each it is that hand caressing the cheek, that personal intimate and very loving contact with God.
Spirit is deeply personal, deeply a matter of communion, of freedom, and of a great encounter of love with Love, of person with Person. And it is this encounter that rebirths a world in peace and in joy, and that rebirths you and me into sons and daughters of the Father of us all, by the saving work of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.