"The arts are perhaps the most universal language we have. They are able to reach across cultural boundaries and have a unique ability to bring together those that have been scattered."
The love between God the Father and God the Son is so strong that it forms a third person, the Holy Spirit. As the Son is the one who reveals to us the Father, Jesus is our entrance into this love.
The Holy Spirit is the most mysterious person of the Holy Trinity. It reveals Itself to us in many forms. At Pentecost It is wind and fire but It can also come to us by stirring our hearts with a quiet inner voice. In whatever form we encounter It, the Spirit always leads us to a deeper understanding of Christ, His word, His suffering, and His life.
John tells us, like the wind, the Holy Spirit blows where It will, we can perceive It but we do not know from where It comes or to where It goes. The Spirit is the fire and storm that burns our hearts and sets our souls alight with love for God. It impels us to speak, to spread the Truth as we have received it and in turn ignite the hearts of those who hear us.
Through us the Holy Spirit works to bring all of humanity back to God. What was dispersed at the Tower of Babel is brought back together at Pentecost. Each person heard the apostles speak to him or her in a language they knew by heart.
The Image That Brought People Together
The story of the miraculous image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” is fairly well known. But less well known are the circumstances in Mexico leading up to the image.
Before Columbus arrived in America, Mexico was a naturally beautiful but morally darkened world. The ruling Aztecs made great leaps in engineering, but their civilization rested on a pagan religion that demanded continual, and violent, human sacrifices.
In 1521 Mexico was conquered by the Spanish, bringing an end to the pagan worship practices and gratuitous slaughter.
This was a remarkable time when two entirely different cultures lived and worked side by side. But it was not a peaceful time. The devil does not give up so easily and a conquered people as proud as the Aztecs did not easily submit to european rule.
The Spanish had a difficult time bringing the Christian faith to the natives, due to a few prominent European colonists who gave a bad personal example and ruthlessly exploited the conquered population. The Bishop of Mexico City even wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, advising him that unless God directly intervened, there would be no way to convert the Mexican people.
Historians believe that by 1531 a revolt among the former Aztecs was a very real possibility. Had this happened it would have set off a chain of violence ending in mass genocide for both Spanish and Aztecs.
Just then the Virgin Mary appeared to a little indian named Juan Diego, and her message and her image touched both the Europeans and the natives so tenderly that a mass conversion followed.
The image itself combines a number of symbols from both Aztec and Spanish culture that drew the two peoples together.
The Holy Spirit truly works to bring man together. Today, both Aztec and Spanish have blended to form one Mexican nation. The shrine that houses the miraculous image attracts 18-20 million pilgrims every year, making it the most visited Catholic shrine in the world.
The Holy Spirit continues to work to bring us together. God may from time to time give us subtle miracles such as the miraculous image of “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” or He may send us more spectacular events such as the wind and fire of Pentecost. But mostly The Spirit works quietly among each one of us. The Holy Spirit works uniquely through each individual so that all who listen hear the message in a language they know by heart.
A Spirit of Unity
The arts are perhaps the most universal language we have. They are able to reach across cultural boundaries and have a unique ability to bring together those that have been scattered. As each person has unique gifts, so the expression of those gifts is equally unique. Every artist expresses the Truth in a way that no one else can, whether it is a song, a poem, a painting or any of the divers ways in which artists employ their gifts. For every artist, and every work of art, there is someone who desperately needs to hear that Truth expressed in that unique way. More than one person, for example, has experienced a conversion of faith when confronted with the combined beauty of art, architecture and music, that contributes to the liturgy of the sacrifice of Holy Mass.
In our own journey of faith, we take many twists and turns. We navigate through dangers and sometimes have to backtrack from dead-ends. It may seem at times that we have wasted time if we had only taken this or that path sooner. But God wastes nothing. And wherever we are in our journey, we have a singular voice, the sum of our experiences, filtered through our talents, that must be heard.
Each of us have the ability to convey God's message to someone else in a way that no one else can. It may be that our purpose here on Earth is to save one soul, bringing that one person to eternal life. It is worth all the sacrifices we may have to make, to save that one soul.
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.organd can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com