To Be A Living Invocation
I have never thought of myself as being an epiclesis, or even a pneumatophor for that matter. In truth, I usually have trouble pronouncing these words. But maybe, that is what all of us are called to be.
By Rule, we as Carmelites not only work and pray and sometimes play, and try to grow in charity, but we also have an opportunity each day to spend time in spiritual reading. Often, and somewhat spontaneously, we share with one another what we have read. There is an added benefit to all of this. We not only come in direct contact with the inspiration of the original author but, in addition, we are enriched by each other's reflection on the reading. Thus, the good word goes forward and lives on and reshapes the situation at hand. In connection with this, I often think of the psalmist who prays: Your word, Oh Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light unto my path. (Ps.119:105) It occurs to me that God may well be saying the same thing to us: Your words, O faithful one, as simple and unimportant as they may seem, are a lamp and a light for Me as I walk your world. As a very young person, I learned that, for every written or spoken word, fifty words are thought by the one who reads or listens. It seems important then, to pay attention to these fifty words. Maybe, that is what is meant by being a pneumatophor," a bearer of the Spirit." Recently, we had such a sharing on an article published in the Cistercian Studies Quarterly.1 Since then, I have been wondering just how a person becomes an epiclesis, a living invocation of the Spirit. First of all, it would seem that one listens to the ever on-going gentle prayer in one's heart. What a sublime calling, to be a living invocation! All we need to do is call. It also occurs to me that the word, invocation, contains within it the word, vocation.
However, there is a bit of paradox in all of this, in view of the fact that the Spirit is with us even before we ask. Perhaps, it is more apt to think of the invocation as being a cry of the soul asking the Spirit to first gently open our hearts that we may become aware of that same Spirit awakening within. I have a friend who speaks of wanting to be a doorway for the Reign of God. Another friend speaks of offering her whole life as a "Come" to the Spirit of God. In his Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross invokes the Spirit saying, "Come, South Wind blow into my garden."2 Come, dispel winter's chill. And, in the midst of summer, we in the Midwest ask "God on our side" to be our "grateful coolness in the heat," as described so beautifully in the Pentecost Sequence. We ask the Spirit to come, not only upon ourselves, but upon the Church, the world, our community, our families and all the other areas that come to mind when we pray.
It is comforting to note that the Spirit we ask for is very attracted to our weaknesses, our upsets, our anxieties, our doubts and our fears. Pentecosts can happen anytime and any day, regardless of the season. The Spirit comes and brings about a union of our weakness and our doubts and fears with the power of God. In a way, our weakness and neediness become an invocation and an expression of God's desire for God within us.
Let our hearts yearn, then, for the Spirit and all that the Spirit brings. In a letter to one of the Carmelite Sisters, St. John of the Cross expresses it well. He writes tenderly: During these days, let your heart be taken up with wanting the Holy Spirit to come. You owe it to your heart to give it this peace and stillness, since your heart is a place where the Spirit is pleased to dwell.3
1Enzo Bianchi, "The Holy Spirit in the Monastic Life," Cistercian Studies Quarterly (Huntsville, Utah: Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, Volume 37.2, 2002); p.154ff.
2St. John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Kieran Kavanagh, OCD, Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, ( Washington D.C.: ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), p.412.
3Letter 20, to a Carmelite nun, Pentecost (date unknown.) Footnote in Mount Carmel, Vol.50 No.2, (Boars Hill, Oxford: Carmelite Priory, April-June, 2002,) p.8.Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.