Saturday, August 12, 2006

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

As a matter of celebration, I observe Pentecost with the little children in my Christian spiritiual formation class on Pentecost Sunday. In turn, we choose one gift of the Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decison by what His ears hear

So the children listen as I read the Acts account of Pentecost, this Isaiah scripture and explain each gift, "Knowledge is a gift which will help us know God better. Strength will help us be strong in the Lord. Fear of the Lord means not to be afraid of Him, but to think about how great and big He is. " And so on.

One at a time, the children speak their gift, and somewhere in the mix I select one as well. Over my nine years of teaching, each time I find myself tending toward wisdom, and I must listen intently to hear otherwise.

But not this year. I had an epiphany of sorts on a walk in the park a few days ago during my son's soccer practice. I was listening to my ipod when curious and beautiful music accompanied by chanted prayer I'd never heard before exploded over my headphones. I couldn't make out the words exactly, but I've found them since.

Phos Hilaron

Hail, gladdening Light,

of his pure glory poured,

who is immortal Father,



Holiest of Holies,

Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now are we come to the sun's hour of rest;

the lights of evening round us shine,

we hymn the Father, Son and Holy Spirit divine.

Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung,

with undefil├Ęd tongue,

Son of our God, Giver of life, alone!

Therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, thine own.

Words: Greek;trans. John Keble, 1834

Phos. Light! Beautiful.

Hail, gladdening Light. I know the Light which makes me glad. And better still, He knows me.

I considered the word "hilarion". I know it must have the same root as the word "hilarious". Gladdening. Hilarious. A light that makes us giggle inside and out, from the well of joy in being with Our Creator. Of having friendship with His son, Jesus.

Hail, gladdening light.

So what does this have to do with the gift I seek from the Lord at Pentecost? Everything.

The light of the Word came to me about the gift of understanding. I've explained to the children, "The gift of understanding is coming to understand God better." Oh, not so! As I listened several times to the Phos Hilaron track, and kept walking. Suddenly, like a light bulb switching on over my head, I comprehended the gift of understanding for the first time.

Perhaps I'm a very slow study when it comes to holiness, so perhaps you got this long before me.

Some years ago, a wise man emphasized the need in our marriage for Buck and I to approach one another differently in times of conflict. If Buck saw me flying off the handle, Buck's natural response was to become defensive and fire back at me. The counselor recommended a new way to deal with an undone me in a kinder gentler manner, "I see you are hurting over this. What can I do to help?" I was directed to do the same when Buck came unglued.

Internally, I thought, "Now there's a huge paradigm shift. That sounds impossible.", but I saw the heart and keys of the gospel in it somehow.

My walk with Phos Hilaron brought it altogether for me.

"That I might not seek to be understood, but to understand" as my friend Francis of Assisi taught.

Understanding is a gift I must seek from the Lord, because it's definately not in me. What's in me is imperfection, selfishness, stubbornness, unbridled anger, pain, insecurity, hopelessness. But it doesn't have to be so. Nothing is impossible with God, so I'm asking Him for the gift of understanding here and now. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity to put on this new discipline promised to me.


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