By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published June 24, 2010
I once drove near the North Carolina site where Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew the first aircraft on December 17, 1903. They prepared three years for that history-making flight. A dream that had fascinated humanity for centuries became true when the craft lifted off the ground and flew through the air. From ancient times, the possibility of flight had captivated the hopes of many. If other and seemingly lesser creatures could take to the sky, it was deemed a possibility that a human could make wings and ride the winds.
Orville and Wilbur stood, and then flew, from the giants in practice and theory who had gone before them. They rose where a mythical figure such as Icarus tried and failed, as he flew too close to the sun and the wax holding together the eagle feathers on his cape-like wings melted, plunging him to the sea.
In this age of moon landings and jets that move through the atmosphere faster than the speed of sound, it is hard to imagine the centuries-long wait that elapsed before the Wright brothers lifted off the ground.
It makes me wonder if there are other dreams we have that may one day come true but are not yet within our grasp to realize. Some dreams are born within us, as a kind of promise, and our task is to harness our energies as best we can in the hope of making them real.
One of those hopes is for peace.
It is written that the Spirit came to the disciples in the form of wind, and that it came with a roar. I would imagine that the experience terrified them at first and then their hearts were eased—and enflamed—when the wind bestowed its gifts into their hearts. And it was Jesus who breathed his Spirit into them and spoke words of peace. The words were heard, taken to heart, and practiced. But wars still came and violence has taken many a life up to the present day.
There are those who still dream of peace and go about making it as real as possible in their lives. On one level, it may seem that their attempts to learn from the wind of God and to ride it have been futile. But at another and more real level, they have taken a gale force wind from the future, and it has borne them aloft. Men and women who chose to embrace and live lives of peace do so from the Spirit of God.
I would guess that the Wright brothers’ flight opened the way for the fantastic advancements in air travel that we experience in our age.
With fits and starts, successes and failures, the history of flight is one of returning again and again to the air, to learn how fast and how far we can travel via the currents of the wind.
Perhaps the gift of the Spirit is no different. A strange wind roars into history and is indeed the very Maker of history. We rise and fall with it and struggle to meet its demands, follow its contours and fashion our lives according to its patterns. It is a life of peace to which it calls us, and it will not cease roaring through time and the corridors of history until it brings peace to all. And then we will know what it means to fly like angels.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery online store at www.abbeystore.com.