On a visit to Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland, I was able to spend a bit of time enjoying the peace that I found in the Abbey on the island. At one point, I was left in the Abbey virtually by myself as if it had been swept clear of everyone else.
As I was sitting, I closed my eyes and listened to the silence, there being only the sound of the gale that was buffeting the windows. Then suddenly, it was as if I was being lifted up into the air, up towards the ceiling and I was enveloped with a wonderful warmth the like of which I had never experienced before.
At last, I opened my eyes and found myself sitting on my chair – but the deep and wonderful warmth never left me and as I sat outside the Abbey in a sheltered corner, no matter how hard the wind blew and the rain fell, I never felt a thing, just feeling cosy and warm, as I ate my ham-roll lunch which I shared with a seagull who seemed to dance for his dinner as the wind blew him about. But although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was to be the start of a great awakening for me. I had felt the breath of the Holy Spirit for the first time.
As we see and experience the breath of spring with the appearance of all the spring flowers in the gardens, parks and the hedgerows, isn't this also an indication to us that God is showing to us through his creation that life will always come after death, that though life dies in its late autumn days, in the spring, everything comes alive and displays itself in all its glory.
And didn't our Lord Jesus Christ show us when he arose on the first Easter Day that we, although we might die, will arise again in an immortal body that is incorruptible.
Then, at the end of Eastertide, we read of Jesus' ascension after he had appeared to a large number of followers – how remarkable that sight must have been, to see Him rising up in the air and disappearing into a cloud. And then, those watching are told by two angels that Jesus would return in like manner – what a thing to look forward to.
And at Pentecost or Whitsun while the disciples were gathered together in the upper room hiding from those who might arrest them, the Holy Spirit descends upon them with tongues of fire and like a rushing mighty wind which was obviously loud enough to attract the attention of those outside in the street.
It was thus at that time that the Holy Spirit was sent so that the early church might be awakened, so that its workers might be given the gifts to fearlessly go out into the then known world to spread the gospel.
And since that time, this same Holy Spirit has never been taken from the church, for He will remain with us until Jesus returns. Many have said, 'But where is the Holy Spirit? He is rarely seen at work in the church now.' The problem has been that in many places the Holy Spirit has been stifled and grieved by people who say that it is not possible for supernatural acts to take place anymore. As a result, He has only been able to work in the background, inspiring individuals who looked for Him so that the church may be kept alive.
And can we experience the Holy Spirit in our lives now? Of course we can, but we must open ourselves to Him. We must lay aside our daily lives, even for half an hour so that we may pray and above all, to meditate on Him, to clear our minds and keep silent, so that we may hear Him as the still small voice within ourselves what God is saying to us through His Holy Spirit.
Then there will be times throughout our lives when we need some extra guidance especially when choosing a particular path in life. There will also be times when, unbidden, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit will give us strength. He will console us and help us through some difficult times in our lives – He will warm us within – He will assure us that all will be well.
But, above all, we should never forget what St. Paul told the church in Corinth – 'Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you and whom you have from God?' (1 Cor 6.19.) We are told in Psalm 46:. Indeed, even today, be still and feel the breath of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, on you, and within you, and be spiritually uplifted by Him, who will never forsake us.