“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” How much Love is hidden in this laconic, “modest” statement in Genesis 1:2! “And suddenly a sound came like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And all began to speak in other tongues, other doctrines, other teachings, of the Holy Spirit.” (Great Vespers of Pentecost). How lofty is the Holy Spirit’s descent in fiery tongues at the foundation of the Church! How different Pentecost is to Creation, and yet, it is the same vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the Giver of Life.
“Beside them will the birds of the heaven lodge, from the midst of the rocks will they give voice.” (Psalm 103:12) Oh, and what a voice! Our balcony is perched on the 5th floor of a neighbourhood full of plane trees. I am lulled to sleep to the trill of nightingales when all other birds shush; I wake up to the chirping of swallows, warblers, swifts, sobre tits, collared doves, chickadees, tit-mice and crows … even if in a city. Branches reach out to our balcony handrail and literally hug our oleanders, jasmine and honeysuckle. I have always loved birds, any bird really, but I have always had a special fondness for sparrows.
“There will the sparrows make their nests; the house of the heron is chief among them. ” (Psalm 103:17) Recently, while in lockdown, I made up my mind to seek “company” in our neighbourhood. I placed a feeding dish on the floor of our balcony and put seed, grains and rice on its ledge. I also put another dish by its side, full of water, as Greek spring tends to get too hot and dry. A large pot of fully-grown oleander was strategically placed by their side. And I waited …
“All things wait on Thee, to give them their food in due season; when Thou givest it them, they will gather it.” (Psalm 103:27). To my disappointment, the first week or so nothing happened. Absolutely nothing, as if my plates were invisible even to branches that outreached towards them, touched them. But then, soon enough, a first visitor arrived, only to bring another one and another … To my excitement, my visitors were mostly sparrows, as this corner is a bit narrow for any bigger bird really to squeeze in. How moving was it to see the response of the sparrows to my care and how fast did they bring others to the feast! Just like the All-Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to bring others to the Feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, was it not “the Holy Spirit [himself which] descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him”? (Luke 3:22).
“When Thou openest Thy hand, all things shall be filled with goodness”(Psalm 103: 28) Soon, I would work on my laptop but could not resist, now and then, to peep out, across our living room french doors: my tiny feathered friends outside were joyfully eating, jumping from one oleander branch to another, playing and bathing. How much did they enjoy the sunshine, how carefree were they and what a musical noise did they always make! In no less than another week, those tiny creatures, which were too tiny even for the palm of my hand, began to depend on me for their food, and I felt responsible for them. I noticed that whenever absorbed in my papers, I forgot to replenish their food, they would still arrive and sit in the middle of their empty plate and stare at me in disappointment.
“Thou wilt send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created; and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 103:30) My heart melts with joy just to watch them no doubt sing praises to our Lord. If I, sinful as I am, have such love and com-passion for those tiny creatures, how much more does our Lord care for them? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Amazing! And what a joy and comfort to hear from our Lord’s infallible lips that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
“Likewise the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26). I have always felt the Holy Spirit a bit elusive and enigmatic as the third person of the Holy Trinity. So essential, so powerful, and yet so mysterious! St. Seraphim of Sarov revealed to Motovilov that the true aim of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done because of Christ, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit.
“Did ye receive the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 19:2) What a question that of Paul to the Ephesian
disciples to answer! Isn’t it really asked of every one of us? Is it enough to answer: I have received the mystery or sacrament of the Spirit after my Baptism, when I was anointed with the Holy Chrism? Or does all this go deeper? Lev Gillet thinks that the real question we have to answer is whether and how this seed of the Spirit has been afterwards developed within the soul.
“Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, … O treasury of every good thing and Bestower of life” Such a vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the Giver of Life, even for … sparrows. The Holy Spirit is a breath a wind, may this breath direct us where He wills. “Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One. Αmen”