When I was a young teenager, one Wednesday night at Evensong, I thought I saw the Holy Ghost passing through our chancel.
(This was in the days when the Holy Ghost still haunted our liturgical language, although she was beginning to show her spirited side.)
I suspect that this experience was not too long after the English lessons in which I had learned that John Donne and others considered that angels may be comprised of compressed air: the subtle differences in density around a candle flame, or the shiver of heat on a horizon might indicate the presence of something from another part of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.
But this, this invisibility that I could swear I saw lifted on the song of the choir and seeping into the Lady Chapel beyond – this was not an angel, I felt in my bones, but the Holy One itself.
At the distance of some decades, I still wonder what happened. I am not altogether ready to write off the experience as teenaged excess of emotion. I believed it at the time: why not now?
The remembrance of my fear, trembling, and faith as I witnessed whatever was going on in the air that night sustains me through this season, whose decorations do not entertain me, I am sorry to say. I am not so far removed from death, decay, and demons that I need the Hallowe’en décor to remind me that they exist. I turn away from the tombstones and their terrible puns.
But the language of the Holy Ghost reminds me that there is holiness at work in the shadows, and blessings in the darkness, solidarity in the Spirit. That compression of air, it was like a holy kiss.
The Revd Rosalind C Hughes was baptized in the Church of England, confirmed in the Church in Wales, and ordained in the Episcopal Church, USA. She is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing. Her blog is over the water @rosalindhughes.com
Featured image: United Free Church interior. 1913. Dunlop, East Ayrshire. Mr.R.S.McLalland, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons