“This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy…. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has make it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit.” Cyril of Jerusalem (died 386)
While we usually see water as an element that is separate from us and that we use, as in the pouring or submersion at baptism, Saint Cyril speaks of water leaping and welling up within.
I thought of the way the Holy Spirit comes into my life as I was reading a new book by Peter Kreeft entitled “I Burn for Your Peace.” His translation and commentary bring alive the “Confessions of Saint Augustine.”
I could not help but recall how Augustine felt the presence of God within, moving him to acknowledge the restlessness of his heart and the pull of God. Augustine tried to slake his thirst and calm his restlessness in many ways, from philosophy to the ways of the flesh through a life of “wine, women and song.”
It was only when he paused that the God who pursued him came rushing in. Read Psalm 139, and you will find what he found: a God who was searching for him. The “Confessions” relate the joy that Augustine eventually found in his realization of God’s presence within him and God’s knowledge of him.
This journey was immortalized in the great poem of the 19th century by Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven,” in which God is the hound pursuing and the author is running away: “I fled him down the nights and down the days.”
Then I remembered the story of the 16th century saint, Ignatius of Loyola. If I recall correctly, he was laid up nursing a battle wound and passed the time reading romantic novels (16th century daytime TV!).
Then one day he was given the “Life of Christ” and the “Lives of the Saints” and, having nothing better to do, began to read. A remarkable discovery came to him. The romantic novels titillated, but the next day he felt empty and unfulfilled.
The two new books – on Christ and on the saints – provided lasting joy and a desire for more. Unlike the disordered excitement of the novels, this reading tapped something deep within his soul. It was like a fountain.
This is what Cyril of Jerusalem describes with his image of the water leaping within.
There is a wonderful two-word Latin expression that I still remember from the Latin Mass. At the beginning of the Preface, the priest exhorts, “Sursum corda!” “Lift up your hearts” – literally, “hearts lifted.” Prayer, according to Saint Teresa of Avila, is the “surging of the heart.”
In Rome’s baroque Chiesa de Santa Maria della Vittoria, the side chapel contains the magnificently stunning Bernini sculpture, “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.”
Somehow the great Bernini gives form and shape to that surge of the heart or, as Cyril of Jerusalem exclaims, the leaping waters within.
Each Sunday some of us come to the Holy Eucharist looking for the Holy Spirit to be poured into us effortlessly. Instead, Saint Augustine in the “Confessions” describes being stretched in order to be able to take in the God’s greatness; much like a telescope stretches the sky to allow us to take in the magnificent galaxies of stars. “The house of my soul is too small to receive Thee: let it be enlarged by Thee. It is in ruins: do Thou repair it.” (“Confessions” 1.5.6)
May this Pentecost bring a stretching of your soul and the rekindling of the Holy Spirit in your hearts – leaping water, a surging heart.