I recently spent three wonderful days in the company of a few dozen Christian brothers (and one sister) – and the Holy Spirit.
I’ve written several times about Cursillo – a retreat weekend hosted twice a year by the Anglican Diocese of Calgary, at Entheos Lodge near Bragg Creek. (Cursillo-related Disciplehood posts include Moment, Why? Voice, Mountain Top, Water, Earth and Sky and Well Done, Your Expectancy.)
Well, I attended my fourth Cursillo weekend April 26-29 – this time as music director – and it was awesome, once again.
I was one of several rookie directors this time. The folks in charge of the Calgary Cursillo Movement intentionally recruited a number of first-time Core Team members, to bring in some new blood and help prevent burnout among the veterans. The wise move paid off in a big way – the Holy Spirit’s presence at Entheos was unmistakable – maybe even moreso than usual for a Cursillo weekend, as if God was determined to make sure we newbies didn’t drop the ball.
Thank you, Lord!
There was one moment, though, where I wondered if we let ourselves get a bit carried away in our zeal to recognize His presence among us. Were we just sensing what we wanted to sense?
At the end of a Morning Prayer service in the lodge’s chapel, the spiritual director dismissed us, but no one moved. After a fairly long, unscripted and unplanned silence – I’d say around two minutes – the priest gave a heartfelt, reverent prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit for so profoundly revealing His presence with us. Then, we left the chapel and went on with our day.
Later on in the weekend, it was declared a Cursillo First that the Spirit came and held us in place in this way. It was declared, conclusively, that the reason nobody moved for ‘about five minutes’ was because we were all aware of the suddenly palpable presence of the Almighty with us, and we were transfixed.
The next day, it was described as a 10-minute period. Like a story about the one that got away, the fish kept getting bigger (a Jesus Fish story, in this case).
Trouble is, during the ‘Holy Moment,’ I didn’t feel anything except sleepiness and hunger. I was simply waiting for one of the leaders to get up and leave the chapel, and I didn’t want to be rude and pre-empt or interrupt what they had planned. I had the impression that the same was true for others in the room – perhaps including all of the leaders, who were each waiting for the others to break the silence.
Is it possible that, in fact, none of us were acutely aware that God had come near, but since none of us moved, someone assumed/decided that it was reverence for His presence, not simple human politeness, that held us transfixed for those two/five/10 minutes? And is it possible that, once this idea was first brought forward, nobody wanted to be the whistleblower who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes?
Initially I had no good answer for that rhetorical question. But before long, God showed me the error of my ways. My new, inspired answer to that question is as follows: Maybe, but so what?
For one thing, I tend to look at the Bible as Truth, not fact. Did God really create the universe in six days and fashion Adam from dirt? Was Goliath was really 9’9″ tall? Was Jesus was actually born in a Bethlehem stable as a result of an immaculate conception? Dunno. And it really doesn’t matter to me. But they’re important details in the story of the Bible, and God is in this story, so whether or not these details were fact at the time, they’re grandfathered, in a sense, to become Truth, after the fact.
Likewise, even if my cynical perception of that moment is 100% factual, but the belief that it was a particularly heavenly 10 minutes helps bring some people a bit closer to God, then it becomes a heavenly 10 minutes in Hindsight. Holiness, like happiness, is sometimes something you remember, not something you experience (to misquote Oscar Levant).
And, of course, let’s not discount the possibility that the Holy Spirit had, in fact, come near during that Holy Moment – and I was simply too tired or hungry to realize it. I was moved to tears several other times that weekend, so I certainly got ‘my share’ of the Spirit during those 72 hours, but that one slipped past me. Definitely possible.
But as I wrestle with this question and jump through these mental hoops, another interpretation materializes and overshadows all of the others. Here goes:
Cursillo is a holy organization. Entheos is a holy place. In that chapel, and throughout all of that weekend, two or more were gathered in Jesus’ name.
Of course He was there. How could He not have been?
Peace be with you.