New Tracts for the Times, No. 6.
The Red Festival.
By Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch.
Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing, 1934.
DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF TRUTH have their special times for appropriation by men. May we not say that Pentecost is the great festival of today? For the Holy Spirit neglected by us in our thought of God takes this special time to remind us that He does not neglect us.
What characterizes this period of history? In the first place the shrinkage of the world. Radio, the telegraph, mass production, banks, exchange of news, books, art, and ideas all bring us close together. No nationalism can destroy this welding process. This world shrinkage has in it the fundamental excitement that comes from a growing understanding, one of another. Brotherhood is forced upon us. There is the growing knowledge that we are all of one blood, all the children of God. This knowledge comes to us as a revelation. It is borne in on us, as we say. To us, as Christians, we cannot doubt this knowledge comes from the Spirit of God, who acts as the unifier of our experience, giving it meaning. For there is no meaning in facts by themselves. They have to be organized to be significant. All organization speaks of an Organizer. Just as art is the organization of materials, so the Spirit organizes history.
Another characteristic of this period is the antithesis of this world shrinkage. It is nationalism. The evils of nationalism are easily apparent, the selfish desire to exist at the expense of others, the reliance [1/2] on force, and the persecution of enemies. But there is a living element in nationalism one cannot discount, and that is the bringing about of common purposes. The industrialist can no longer go it alone without considering the fate of the agriculturist. The farmer is obligated to understand the city man. Labor and capital cannot disregard the consumer. The whole question of a balanced economy comes to light. The prosperity of no one group can be accepted if it destroys another.
There may indeed be—in fact there is to be sure at first—a hodgepodge of conflicting interests, of hypocrisy, of chiseling, of travesty. But at bottom there is growing the conviction that we are all in the same boat, and in order to be saved we must pull together.
The Christian cannot doubt but that the Spirit of God is at work in nations, ploughing deep into the subsoil and bringing to light fresh energies and new attitudes.
Another mark of our time is intellectual courtesy—a listening attitude is growing. With the toppling down of old beliefs, prejudices, and standards each man can do no other than listen to the point of view of someone else. The stiff lines of social usage, the solidified convictions of generations have cracked, and out of all the wreckage is beginning to bloom a listening and respectful attitude on the part of men ready to see what is good and what is useful for new times. This fact is not negative by the equally obvious fact that new convictions are arising as intolerant as the old. The distrust of religion may be as strong as a narrowly held religious [2/3] belief. And communism is as dogmatic as democracy or capitalism. But taking into account all the passions and violences of modern thought and action, it still seems fair to say that, on the whole there is a more active and worldwide discussion of our fate, spiritual and temporal, than has ever taken place before. There is a breeze blowing all over the world. As Christians, we believe that Breeze to be the Holy Spirit, breaking up the hardness, the sloth, the sensuality, the indifference of man to man that has made the planet what it is today.
For the most marked characteristic of our time is the concern of man for man. Whatever may be the weaknesses of communism (and no economic system of fallible humanity will work 100%) no observer of Russia can fail to see that its greatness rests on the practical application of a faith in the possibilities of the downmost man. That faith is stupendous. It is without cynicism, without sophistication. The civilized modern man may smile at such faith. He is certain to deplore the lack of special rewards that ought, as he thinks, to come to the most able. He thinks it naif to suppose any economic system can command allegiance unless it can secure personal liberty of speech and action. But at the same time, he cannot fail to see that a great common purpose and program has done away with those psychoses of fear, of world weariness, and lack of love of life, which infest the youth of many other countries. Every man is to have his chance in Russia to share the social product. Everyone is heir to the family fortune which, though it may be small today, is probably destined under modern skill to be plentiful [3/4] tomorrow. Can we as Christians fail to see that this faith in humanity is an integral part of our religion, no matter how loudly communion may talk against religion, as we understand it?
Indeed, it is not possible to instance any country of the world where old forms of life are not breaking up and where new attitudes and forces and hopes are not evident. We are in a world that is alive as never before. All is called in question. Ages of faith in the past could affect only a limited number. For transportation was difficult and the means of communication few and laborious. Today the voices of the Pope, of Hitler, of Mussolini, of Franklin Roosevelt, of Stalin, of Ramsay MacDonald are heard around the world. Today every community and every newspaper, every theatre, every forum, gives at least partial glimpses of opposing or contrasting plans and programs for mankind.
It is not clear what sort of a planet we shall have. The Holy Spirit who fosters brotherhood and joint effort, security, peace, and love, who is heard today more loudly and more widely than ever before, may be shut out by violence and refused by the social sin of acquisitiveness and the power of men over men. Or it may be that the consciousness of God’s participation in human affairs and His desire to dwell in humanity as He dwelt in Jesus may be welcome by men of goodwill who in new forms and ways will build a new society and with it a new, if ever the same, Church.
For Pentecost did not determine the forms in which the religion of Jesus should appear from age [4/5] to age. He broke bread and at His Table His followers meet and recognize one another as His disciples. That sacred rite makes every human family’s meal a matter of concern. For what about those families for whom today there is no bread? The Bread of Heaven must have its counterpart on earth.
For the Church there is always the Holy Table, the fellowship of the faithful, and repentance for sin. But at Pentecost there was no Gothic architecture, no fine vestments, national council, prayer books, or Bible. There was just the Holy Spirit and the faithful who listened to Him.
History has disclosed His presence in the Church and Society. For we are taught that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Wherever these have existed the Spirit has been at work.
It is, then, the fresh revelations of the Spirit in our life that we would do well to note. Reverence is needed as we get glimpses of these revelations. Instead of fear of the new in the sense of anxiety and distrust, we must approach these new revelations of the Spirit with a reverent welcome.
Wherever wages are so low that men cannot feed their children, one must recognize the Spirit of God in those who call these facts to our attention. It will not do to fail to listen to these facts. For so we are not listening to the Living God. Wherever little children have to assume the work which belongs to older people, there the Spirit has not been listened to. Wherever any branch of the human race may not [5/6] claim fellowship in the affairs of men; there Pentecost has failed to register.
Sensitiveness to socil sin is more widely felt in these days when, as we may well believe, the Holy Spirit is recognized as closer to mankind than ever in the past.
The awakening of the social conscience is in proportion to the growth of understanding, which is far deeper than toleration. We are not asked by the Spirit to tolerate one another, but rather to understand one another; and when we understand we love, just as where we truly love we come to understand. Group life tends to produce understanding, an dour modern world is made up of groups. Labor is organized, the professions are organized. Functional activities of all sorts have developed. Common action provokes common thought. Groups become richer as they incorporate various attitudes of their members.
Understanding develops in group experience of all sorts, but sometimes ends with its own boundaries. As Christians, we are asked to extend this understanding beyond all our special group experiences, beyond our membership in families, in neighborhoods, in unions, in professional societies, in national life, to an understanding of all men as the children of God. And we are asked to make the Church co-extensive with all men, for the Church is just that: the followers of Jesus and sharers in the life of His spirit. No individual or group is then alien to the workings of the Spirit. All must be redeemed, the family, the nation, and the processes of production [6/7] and distribution. Nothing human can be kept free of God and His Spirit.
The Church exist to carry on the Spirit’s work. But we cannot confine that work to the Church. We run across the Spirit whenever we have eyes to see, and ears with which to hear. An artist’s portraiture, a symphony of Beethoven, a group of children in a nursery school, a crowd of workmen in a city square may all reveal the living Spirit of God calling upon the children of men to live, not as those who perish, but as sharers of Eternal Life.
We cannot keep the Spirit of God from entering the world and penetrating its every relationship. But we can refuse to recognize and welcome new modes of His entry into the world. We can be blind to brotherhood that comes in an alien guise. We can turn our backs on His appearance in the lives of those who, perhaps without knowledge of whom it is they serve, are bringing in changes in society that open the way for His coming. We can prevent His filling our own hearts with Pentecostal zeal for a new world. Or we can recognize the fruits of the Spirit listed in the Epistle to the Galatians wherever we find them, and so find new signs about us in strange places, perhaps in the byways and hedges.
The Spirit bloweth where it listeth. We must watch here He appears and adore Him there in every cradle and on every cross.
VENI, CREATOR SPIRITUS
COME, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above,
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.
Anoint and cheer our soiled face
With the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
Where thou art guide, no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One;
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song:
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
V. O send forth thy Spirit and they shall be made:
R. And thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Alleluia.
COLLECT FOR WHITSUNDAY
O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.