December 11, 2011

The word “spirit” is ambiguous in our culture. We talk about a “high spirited horse” as one with energy and dose of attitude. When someone is depressed, we say his or her “spirits” are low. People have used the word “spirits” to refer to strong liquor — whiskey, rum, moonshine.

When people go to a party, they talk about feeling the “spirit” of the occasion, and at Christmas, we hope people catch the “spirit” of the season. Many languages around the world use the same word for “spirit” and “breath”: chi, ki, prana, rauch, pneuma, aloha, inspiration and expiration. Indeed, our breathing patterns reflect our inner states; changing one can alter the other.

Among the definitions in the dictionary, “spirit” refers to the “non-physical part of a person, the seat of emotions, a person’s true self.” The dictionary suggests that “spirit” is what survives death, and hence, people talk about the “spirit world.” What is “spirit?” What is the difference between “spirit” and “soul?” And what is this precious Presence we call the “Holy Spirit?”

The traditional theme for this Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, is “joy.” Many Advent wreaths switch from purple candles to a pink candle. This indicates that the third Sunday of Advent is distinct. It emphasizes something qualitatively different from the other three. This Sunday, we will explore the elusive glow of the pink candle.