I took myself out to the countryside to have a soak in some extravagant early summer green. It was not flames I sought this Pentecost Sunday in the park on the side of Dragon’s Mouth hill. Rather, it was the song of the bush warbler echoing in the amphitheatre formed in the cleavage between our dragon’s claws (or should that be ‘claw-vage’?) Birdsong cascaded around me from the tree tops that bordered the little field where I sat alone on a bench until I was drenched, through and through. Listening, I peeled bark from a damp piece of wood at my feet and brought it to my nose. It was sakura and its faded yet invincible fragrance whispered spring. A gentle buzzy chorus rose in the background of this tapestry of sound, a breeze wove in and out.
Pentecost is one of the maddest and most fantastic of our tales, thrilling to imagine, mind bending and satisfyingly (if only this weren’t such an unpleasantly percussive mouthful to say) eucatastrophic. Wouldn’t you also go out into the woods today to see if things were – if even for a moment – sufficiently upside down or right side up that you, too, could converse with the birds and the beasts?* And even if that didn’t happen the way you imagined, still there is joy – if only your own joy – and it ripples . . . butterfly wings, weather systems, you know the story. Our joy feeds the world. That perilous opening of hearts holds such promise. It could be that something similar happens with the Apostles on this day; the flames tearing away at illusion, running to meet the Other in a shock of recognition. What would you do if the walls between us came tumbling down? Is this not what everyone hears on Pentecost, in the ground of their being? That, simply, God is Love.
This holy day, surely, is one on which to entertain the possibilities of Interreligious Being. This is a field of endeavour to which Asian theologies can bring many well-grounded and life-giving gifts. And so, in honour of the Missioners’ Holy Day of Pentecost and with prayers for Fr Michael Amaladoss [more here], I offer a few resources on Asian Christianity that I have recently come across and found beautiful [on Antony de Mello], inviting [Simon Chan’s “Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up” ], stirring [The Jesus Sutras; a blog write up of which can be found here to ginger your curiosity. It’s in 10 parts and I’m looking forward to reading it in full!], and informative [The 2012 Encounter programme from Oz (podcast and/or transcript available) on The Asian Jesus. Fr Michael’s book, incidentally, bears the same title]. Read, listen, enjoy!
* Philip Pullman has a great piece over at The New Statesman on make-believe, entitled “Imaginary Friends“. I’ve been thinking on this topic for a little while since reading Tolkein’s essay On Fairy Stories, specifically the question of how we come to believe and how we separate fiction from (consensus :)) reality. And I fondly remember this song from my childhood though I never saw the movie.