The Spirit of the Day, the Day of the Spirit
After a week in this heart-home, my husband and I just left Regensburg, Germany.
This place, people, oh this place.
Also known as “Ratisbona,” this ancient town, situated on the northern most point of the Danube, essentially preserved from destruction through two world wars, holds within its boundaries tender, breathtaking, complicated histories, certainly personally (both of my children were born there, my doctoral work was done there, and the accident which changed everything occurred there), and on cultural, political, and social terms as well.
Marcus Aurelius, for example, meandered up that way in 179, the furthest north his Empire reached, the remnants of which are still visible today.
And, for anyone affected by the Reformation (which would be…everyone…now that I think about it), the final shot, the last gasp, the Dust-Shaking-Off-The-Sandals Moment that held any hope of a rapprochement between the Catholic Church and the Reformers happened here in 1541.
It was then that a “Famous Religious Debate” between Johannes Eck and Philipp Melanchthon occurred.
(Trouble is I was sure I already had a picture of this mural [which reads, “In this house Dr. Philipp Melanchthon and Dr. Johannes Eck led their famous religious debate in 1541”], so I didn’t bother to take one this time around, but apparently I do not have such a photo, and so you’ll just have to adjust your glasses, squint, and trust me that it happened here.)
I also slept here, but for some reason *harrumph*, no one has made a plaque yet about that event.
But Regensburg also contains more troubling history, not least of all as it relates to its Jewish citizenry.
You can find much of this part of its past here and, for those who speak German, here, and for those of you on Facebook, a post I made about the Stolpersteine, literally the “stumbling blocks,” bronze plaques scattered throughout streets of German towns which mark the sites of the abductions of Jews, their names, their birthdates, and the cities in which they were murdered.
In fact, this very week, the 100,000th—read that number again—Stolperstein will be laid in Nürnberg. You can follow news of that event here.
It depicts, as the carried sign (a sign Jews themselves were forced to lift up) states—I can’t write this without exhaling—a “Parade of the Jews,” right here in Regensburg.
The forced march took place during the pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, a despicable day on which Jews were pulled from their homes, homes which were then wrecked or burned.
The women and girls were taken to police headquarters, and the men and boys were “marched” through the streets of the “Altstadt,” the center of the city, and then loaded onto trains.
Many of course, were not seen again.
The women and girls, once released, returned to nothing and to no one.
You can find that traumatic history detailed here, where you will see this very photo with clickable embedded information.
Please do so.
But in the rendition above, zoom in and see the smiling soldiers, the bare legs of a Jewish man taken by surprise, the onlookers draping themselves from windows and the well-dressed pedestrians staring, jeering, doing nothing from the sidewalk.
The street captured in this photo is the Maximillianstraße, now mainly a pedestrian street, a gateway from the train station, the same one from which these men and boys were forcibly sent to concentration camps, which leads to the beautiful, beloved, cherished, vibrant Old City.
I’ve traversed it countless times without knowing of, seeing, or hearing the many and various spirits present in the photo above.
David and I did some research about this very scene, and discovered that it took place exactly here:
In a shot that we saw at an exhibit on Maximilianstraße, one taken a few moments after the one above, we were able to isolate the building to this present day discount clothing store.
The irony, of course, is that the people, those women and men gawking out of their apartment windows and standing along the street in that decades-old haunting, haunted photo, did nothing more to stop the evil traipsing before them than are these inanimate mannequins doing anything about anything, anything at all.
This Sunday, Christians celebrate Pentecost.
It’s the day when the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, shows up in all Her glory.
Wind, fire, tongues are Her calling cards, as is the confusion, the cacophony, and the chaos She leaves in Her wake.
As I’ve written about so many times before, with necessary nods to the late Walter Bouman, the word ‘Spirit’ is utterly meaningless without an adjective before it.
Christmas, Community, School, Teen: each of these define what sort of spirit we mean to reference, and if you try hanging ornaments on your tree with Teen Spirit, well, you’ll understand my point.
But on Pentecost, though, Christians ostensibly pay especial attention to the Holy Spirit.
This Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, the one of whom Paul writes in Galatians 5 as being all about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This Spirit is about bringing life into being where there is death, hope where there is despair, change where there is stasis, and justice where there is none.
She is unruly and yet rules with power wielded through Her tether to the Trinity and through those tethered to the same.
What we have, however, people, in this photo above?
This is no shot of the Holy Spirit in action.
What we have above is a captured moment of an evil spirit.
A flash of a mob spirit.
Painfully true is this: just as the Holy Spirit is not still, neither is that of a mob spirit, or one driven by an evil spirit.
Both spirits, these days, are very much afoot.
These days, mob spirits, evil spirits, are everywhere, attacking the rights of LGBTQIA+ people and women; going after books and US history; thriving on maligning immigrants and the poor and those who are not white; upending democratic norms and embracing autocratic ones; attacking our nation’s capital.
Of course, targeting Jews is a mob M.O. mainstay.
Given that, and given the stakes, we dare not, on this Pentecost Sunday, miss that in addition to these kinds of spirits, the Holy Spirit has announced Her presence.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.
She is here, She is active, She is en-couraging, and She is upending everything.
For those who care and have the courage to notice, Acts 2 is being re-en-Acted in real time.
And while the Holy Spirit is many things, being patient at apathy, tolerant of hate, or down with Christians who miss the radical nature of the living God who is here not just to proclaim peace but to enact justice…these are not Her strong suits.
See, injustices, hate, malice, and evil are being paraded right in front of us as blatantly as the Jews of Regensburg were paraded in front of those lingering on the sidelines.
The spirit of the day is not holy.
Mob spirits have been let loose.
Fortunately for us, the Holy Spirit has as well.
All seek to stir you and sweep you into the streets to do their bidding.
Come Holy Spirit.