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Pentecost Reflection

God Outpouring    Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Love flows from God into [humans] 
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
. . . Thus we move in [God’s] world
One in body and soul, . . .
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,

Humanity sings—
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound.
—Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207–c. 1282/1294) [1]

Protestant theologian Jürgen Moltmann grew up in a secular home in Hamburg, Germany, and was drafted into the German army at age eighteen to fight in World War II. As a prisoner of war, he began reading the Bible and encountered God in the midst of suffering. Moltmann’s theology is hopeful and practical. Here are some of his thoughts on the Spirit:

We continually experience the Holy Spirit as both a divine counterpart to whom we call, and a divine presence in which we call—as the space we live in. There is nothing extraordinary about this. As children we experienced our mothers as both too—as a presence surrounding us and a counterpart calling us. The response to the plea for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit’s coming and remaining, its outpouring and its indwelling. . . .

The astonishing thing is that here the Holy Spirit is seen not just as a divine Person but as a divine element too. The Spirit is “sent” and “comes” like a tempest; it spreads itself out over all living things, like the waters of a flood, pervading everything. If the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit and the special presence of God, then when God’s Spirit is poured out, “all flesh” will be deified. All mortal flesh will be filled with the eternal life of God, for what comes from God is divine and eternal like God. . . .

In “the outpouring of God’s Spirit,” God opens [God’s self] and becomes what the mystic and poet Mechthild of Magdeburg calls “the outpouring and flowing Godhead.” In the source, the river and the lake, the quality of water is the same, but its flow is graduated. The transition from the Spirit itself to the Spirit’s many different energies . . . is as fluid as an emanation. The divine becomes the all-embracing presence in which what is human—indeed everything that lives—can develop fruitfully and live eternally.

[1] Mechthild of Magdeburg, “Effortlessly, / Love flows from God into man,” Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, ed. Jane Hirshfield (Harper Perennial: 1995), 93. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life (Fortress Press: 1997), 11.