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This Sunday is Pentecost. As I looked into the history and meaning of this day, I found that the word Pentecost comes from the Greek name for Shavuot, the feast commemorating the giving of the Law of Sinai, celebrated in Judaism. As is common with many Christians feast days, it was later “borrowed” to mark the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and other followers of Jesus.

The concept of the Holy Spirit is interesting to me. It comes up in a number of religions; Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Baha’i, to name a few. There are slightly different interpretations of what this spirit is, but the common link is that the Holy Spirit is a conduit of God’s wisdom. That is powerful and scary all at the same time.   Powerful because the possibility of receiving Divine wisdom is extraordinary. Scary because we are human, and separating our own views, ideas and words from something greater than us, is challenging.

The words of this hymn reflect the kind of humility required to find that wisdom. The need to receive the breath of wisdom in order to access the depth of its knowledge.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,

till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.

These words were written by Edwin Hatch in 1878. He was a well educated man who taught the Classics and early Church History at Oxford. Yet these are fairly simple words. He seemed to understand the profound need for us to be humble and disciplined as we seek unity with God. It seems to me, that humility is rare in most of our religious circles these days. There is much posturing to be right; to speak as if our own ideas, interpretations and traditions are, in fact, the wisdom of God. And, as a result much division, much conflict and much pain.

As I continued to look into this idea of wisdom, the word Sophia kept coming up. This is probably a less known concept than the basic Pentecost story, but it was familiar to me. Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom and in some traditions, represents the feminine aspect of God. It is said that it is Sophia, or Hagia Sophia (holy wisdom) that circulates through, and binds together the community. This is appealing to me. I like the idea that the Holy Spirit – Wisdom – is the thing that can unify us. Challenging, yes, because finding and receiving this spirit requires, perhaps, more humility than most of us can claim. But, on the Feast of Pentecost that is often called the birth of the Church, what a great way to consider this gift. May the Spirit of Wisdom unite you with whomever your community is. May it guide you and provide a space of peace.