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The Holy Feast of Pentecost : Kathi In A Prayer
“In my most childlike hour, my heart has not deceived me. I will not break faith with my childlike heart.”
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know you always hear me...”
“The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the main aim of man (people) upon this earth, for it is through this ascetic struggle of ‘pulling down’ the Holy Spirit into a repentant, humble heart that man (people) gains justification before the face of God.”
Abbot Herman, editor of :
The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia
By I.M. Kontzevitch 1952
When I first began my iconographer’s apprenticeship in September 1990, I was also aware I was, by a deep sense of responsibility and respect, called to learn as much as I could about Orthodox Spirituality and Theology. I began by reading Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar’s essay on Vladimir Soloviev, in his book “Lay Styles” and then many books on Russian saints, and spiritual writers. I did not do much reading in Greek Orthodox Theology, because my teacher, was the Russian American Master Iconographer, Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. Much later I was introduced to (now my dear friend) Christopher Pramuk’s masterpiece, including a very beautiful introduction into Russian Spirituality; his book, “Sophia : The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton.” The first quote is by James Finley who is also like Chris Pramuk, (in fact it seems like all my friends named Chris sense a calling from ￼God) a very holy man, spiritual writer, but also, a former novice of Thomas Merton. If you want to read just one thing of Russian Spirituality, I would suggest the story of St Seraphim of Sarov’s meeting with N.A. Motovilov in a winter snow laden forest, where St Seraphim is illuminated, almost like Jesus in the Transfiguration, and thus shows Motovilov what “being inhabited” by the Holy Spirit can do to a person. There are many icons of this luminous transcendent meeting. As we approach the Season of Pentecost I wanted to talk about just a couple of things the Holy Spirit will do for you. One) the Holy Spirit calls you into prayer, or conversation with God. Two) the Holy Spirit can make you weep, (this is just a part of the ancient sequence, or exquisite poem, used on Pentecost Sunday).
“Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way.
Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who in You, Trust with childlike piety, Deign Your sevenfold gift to send...”
I painted this image of my dear cousin Kathi as a “spiritual portrait” of her being called into a prayer by the Holy Spirit. I have written about my cousin already, in a blog about St Francisco Marto of Fatima. By suffice it to say now, that because my Mother, Marjory Hart gave me her maiden name as my middle name I became a close friend with Kathi Hart, my cousin around age nine, and much to our parents dismay, we talked on the phone at least once a day, sometimes more, until we were 18. I had no idea that actually, we were learning to process our feelings about just about everything, during those wonderful talks. And it saved my life, in a real way, during a difficult childhood because I was a frightened, bewildered gay boy. One of Kathi’s greatest gift was always making me laugh,
“Lave my dryness...melt the frozen, warm the chill.” I can now see the Holy Spirit which “visits” many of my icons, as the One who suddenly causes you to cry or weep with the palpable sense of the presence of God inside you.
I know now, everyone can experience this sensation, and as another quote says above, “The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is the main aim of (all of us) on this earth...”
I am not going to pretend and tell you that I have reached this level of acquisition, even as I approach age 71, but I can promise you my friends, that I will never give up trying. And that trying brings me new hope and joy for the moments when I am in a prayer, every day. But especially now, when we have been called by quarantine into “the upper room” to wait for the Coming of the Spirit .
“Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the Fire of Your Love. Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
For the Season of Pentecost 2020
Fr William Hart McNichols