The Holy Spirit
In the city of Jerusalem, at a particular moment, as real as this moment, there was given to a group of Jews something literally from Heaven. The secret of an unearthly Power, radiant, so bursting with light that they could only describe it in their own words as the like of ‘cloven tongues of fire’. And at that moment the little concentrated Church of the Saints came into being.
Those men, on whom the Heavenly Thing had fallen, had not the words; they had no preconceived knowledge or opinions; they had to discover everything; and perhaps the principal thing they had to discover was how to keep open to it, to receive it, and how to build up a new person who would be capable of receiving it.
Certainty and simplicity
The real work, the redemption of mankind, the building of the new type of person had now to begin. But they had the Thing that had happened. Sheer from Heaven the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ had come as he had said it would.
‘Tarry ye in Jerusalem,’ he had said, ‘until ye are endowed with power from on high.’ All they had to do then was to obey his words and wait.
A band of very sure men sat in that first great Council of the new Church and issued their findings, and they issued them with an almost unbelievable certainty and simplicity. ‘It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.’ These were not men set fast in their own opinions, they were not importantly conceited men, they were astonished men, reverent and trembling before a close and clear Fact. The dignity and authority behind their words Christendom has never questioned, then or since.
The Fact as victory
The Fact was the beginning of a great chain of conversions and illuminations – Paul, Augustine, Francis, Luther, Ignatius, Wesley and the rest. There is no great mystery, in one way, in the lives of these men. In each case the simple fact is that each man acted on his belief in something seen, regardless of consequences; that each man had a revelation to make and he made it.
The Fact was a power that held in its essence a curious, world-undermining kind of victory. Even when the early Church was perishing bloodily in the merciless wars waged against it by Rome in the years 70–135, they preserved the certain consciousness of the new Fact as victory, and every time they gathered for the Lord’s Supper they answered their blatant conquerors with the defiant cry of ‘ Christ the Crucified is here’.
From the Notebooks of Florence Allshorn, Founder of the St Julian’s Community ND