I found the Holy Spirit when I was not seeking him — and in the most unlikely of places. In college I found myself attending an Episcopal chapel for two reasons. First, my car was not reliable enough to take me far from campus. Second, a woman whom I would later marry attended the 8 a.m. service.
In that music-less service I heard the liturgy, and over time it did its work. The God of the Bible shouted at me in the confession of sins. I found myself face to face with my brokenness week after week. I found myself stirred as I awaited the bread and the wine. Then, if the weekly Eucharist was the Holy Spirit coming in fits and starts, my first Holy Week was a torrent. When they stripped the altars on Maundy Thursday and we stumbled out of the church in the darkness, I was shaken. By the time we got to the solemn collects of Good Friday, I was a wreck. I felt as if for the first time I had truly entered into the passion of Christ and lingered there.
I discovered something in my first year with the church’s liturgy that has remained true since. The liturgy is stable, but it is not safe. You never know which part of the church year, which part of the liturgy, which reading, which celebration of a saint will step out of history and grab you by the heart. The Spirit broods over our work. I also found that the Daily Office helped me listen to the Spirit. So many ideas and concerns assault me as I sit down to pray. I have found that the set prayers of the Daily Office settle my spirit, so that I can finally sit quietly and listen to God. My most powerful experiences of the Spirit have come during that waiting.