May: A month of festivals
Wednesday 4th May 2016
The Rt Revd Martin Seeley looks ahead to the some of the reasons for us to celebrate during May.
Faith, like love, takes practice. Growing deeper in our relationship with God needs our regular diligence and attention, when we feel like it and when we don’t. Centuries of collective Christian wisdom have revealed and developed for us daily and weekly patterns of practice to follow. These are all held in an annual pattern – the Christian Year – that draws us into the deep truths of the Christian Gospel, to re-live, to re-experience, to become part of year after year.
This year, with Easter early, the month of May brings us three of these great encounters – Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity. None of them is easy to put into words, but each conveys immense Christian truth about God’s being and presence with us through Jesus Christ, which we encounter in these festivals through particular stories and distinctive worship.
By Easter we have re-lived – practiced – God, through Jesus, with us in our humanity, taking on our deepest sin and worst evil. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know God has overcome death and evil, and is with us calling us into new life.
Ascension (5 May) comes as the culmination – St Augustine called this “the Queen of Feasts”. Some of us remember the time when we even had Ascension Day off school! At Ascension God with “us” becomes God with “everyone”. What we see as local, and particularly in Jesus of Nazareth, we reveal as universal in Jesus, the Christ, with the Father.
At Pentecost (15 May) we are drawn into the ascended Jesus by the universal gift of God’s Holy Spirit setting us free to show and share God’s love with others. We are given the Spirit we see in Jesus to become like him and join in his work in the world.
And then the Trinity (22 May) asks, if this is what we know of God, how do we speak about God now? God is the giver and gift, sender and sent, one unchangeable and yet the essence of dynamic love. Here is the mystery at the heart of all that there is.
These are just precarious words, though. Far better to re-live, to practice these feasts – immerse ourselves in the stories, and in our worship to touch afresh the power of the presence of God whom we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A blessed Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity!
Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich