“Pentecost & Contemplation”
May 31, 2022, 3:00 PM

There came a sound like the rush of a violent wind… (and the disciples) were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…  And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them (the disciples) speaking in the native language of each (member of the crowd).  Amazed and astonished, (the crowd) asked, “How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” Acts 2:2-8 

I have often found this one to be one of the most puzzling passages in the New Testament.  On that day in Jerusalem, how could the disciples speak a language that could be understood by every person of diversity in the crowd?  If only I could have learned seminary Hebrew, Greek or Latin in one swift rush of the wind, much less a multitude of other languages. 

Our minds often think in terms of structural comparisons and contrasts, especially between languages.  However, the Holy Spirit goes deeper than any human understanding of language.  She lives in the emotions of the heart, which every person and every major religion understands.  It is the language of being intimately present with God and others.   

The Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Day may have shown each person that they were equal before God.  Participants were for a moment equals among brothers and sisters.  Smiles replaced scowls, hugs replaced slugs, eyes connected longingly with the eyes of others who had all too often only received short glances.  Food was shared with those who were hungry.  Guarded hearts were dismantled, and tears of release were shed until the ground was soaked with joy.  Best of all, the air – the air was filled fresh with a new language.  It was a language without words.

So, what is this language?  It is the language of the Holy Spirit of unconditional love and acceptance.  It is the ability to experience all things as they really exist in Christ. 

A few years prior to the birth of St. Francis, a cloistered Carthusian monk living in southeast France wrote a book entitled the “Ladder of Monks.”1 His name was Guigo II.  Unwittingly, he recapped the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in terms of this new language of Pentecost through the receptivity of contemplation. 

The Monk’s ladder had only four rungs: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation.  Despite its few rungs, the ladder’s length is spiritually boundless.  Its base rests solidly on the ground while its top enters the “cloud of unknowing.”    

In next week’s Franciscan Fractal, we will explore the experiences of the four rungs of the ladder and expose a path for those who wish to pursue further the language and actions of Pentecost. 


Blessings, Prayers and Peace,

Fr. John Meulendyk