In his book on icons called, “the Dwelling of the Light” Rowan Williams writes:

Maximus the Confessor, probably the greatest thinker of the seventh century, speaks of how every one of the great separations human beings have got used to is overcome in the person and the action and the suffering of Jesus.  The divide between man and woman, between paradise before the fall and the earth as we now know it…between the mind’s knowledge and the body’s experience, between creature and creator—all are overcome in the renewed humanity that Christ creates. (pp. 30-31)

Williams then begins to focus on a 15th century Russian icon of the resurrection that depicts Jesus standing on this “precarious-looking bridge” that spans a dark abyss.  He bends to grasp the hand of Adam and pulls him beyond the abyss; beyond what separates and into the light.    According to Williams, resurrection happens when we find ourselves drawn beyond the sinful gulf of mutual resentment and blame.  It is then “a new human community becomes possible.”

On this feast of Pentecost, we see signs of this new human community being formed.   In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11) people from every nation are staying in Jerusalem since Pentecost, initially, was a Jewish feast.  It is there something new begins to happen; driving them beyond what separates and setting people on fire.  All those gathered hear Galileans—these followers of Jesus—speaking in ways they understand and in a common tongue about the “mighty acts of God”.

What can this heavenly phenomenon and work of the Spirit mean for us who follow Jesus today?  It involves the work of dialogue and way of speaking than span differences which keep us in the dark when it comes to our true, God-given nature; a way of speaking fostering respect and that sees people of all nations as “acts of God”.  Such seeing, which is the vision of the gospel, happens when we get out of the way and let God act as happened to the disciples who, gathered in one place,  prayed and  waited for God to act in wind and fire.  We need to let the gathering nature of grace pull us beyond those notions and judgments that divide us one from another and be illumined by that fire born of God; to see as God sees.  It is then the abyss and what separates is miraculously bridged.

With this image of the Risen Christ standing on a “precarious-looking bridge” in mind, I’m reminded of words by Pope Francis:

A person who thinks only about building walls—wherever they may be—and not building bridges, is not Christian.  This is not the gospel. 

Walls, whether built from mortar or blind judgments, tend to separate and create precarious situations within the world.  Always, they widen the abyss, born of sin, and sabotage the new humanity Christ was sent to reveal and as we get in the way.  “Come, Holy Spirit!  Kindle the hearts of your faithful with the fire of your love and so renew the face of the earth”.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor


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