Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

A Liberating Spirit

Thursday, January 21, 2021


A Liberating Spirit
Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Holy Spirit is a liberating Spirit. Even when we experience lack of freedom in our daily lives, time in prayer can be an experience of full freedom in God’s presence. I sometimes miss the exuberance of the charismatic movement of which I was a part in the 1970s and the freedom we felt to worship God with our whole selves. Theologian James Cone (1938–2018) writes about the deep sense of freedom experienced in the communal worship of the Black church in the United States:

Black worship itself is a liberating event for those who share the experience of the people that bears witness to God’s presence in their midst. Through prayer, testimony, song, and sermon the people transcend the limitations of their immediate history and encounter the divine power, thereby creating a moment of ecstasy and joy wherein they recognize that the pain of oppression is not the last word about black life. It is not unusual for the people to get “carried away” with their feelings, making it difficult for an observer to know what is actually happening. But the meaning of this event, according to the people, is found in their liberating encounter with the divine Spirit. In this encounter, they are set free as children of God. To understand what this means for black people, we need only to remember that they have not known freedom in white America. Therefore, to be told, “You are free, my children” is to create indescribable joy and excitement in the people. They sing because they are free. Black worship is a celebration of freedom. It is a black happening, the time when the people gather together in the name of the One who promised not to leave the little ones alone in trouble. The people shout, moan, and cry as a testimony to the experience of God’s liberating presence in their lives. . . . [1]

Black people can fight for freedom and justice, because the One who is their future is also the ground of their struggle for liberation. It does not matter what oppressors say or do or what they try to make us out to be. We know that we have a freedom not made with human hands. . . . For black people’s singing, praying, and preaching are not grounded in any human potentiality but in the actuality of God’s freedom to be with the oppressed as disclosed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is their freedom. [2]

The early church surely knew the liberating effect of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the apostle Paul’s teachings had so much impact because he restored human dignity in another time of widespread oppression, slavery, and injustice. Into the corrupt and corrupting Roman Empire, Paul shouts, “One and the same Spirit was given to us all to drink!” (1 Corinthians 12:13). He utterly levels the playing field: “You, all of you, are sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). In Paul’s estimation, the old world was forever gone and a new world was born in which everyone is free.

[1] James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed, rev. ed. (Orbis Books: 1997), 132–133.

[2] Cone, 129.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis: 2018), 91.

Story from Our Community:
I grew up in a quiet little idyllic Midwestern town. In my mid-40s I began to experience disorder through burnout in ministry, only I didn’t know what it was. I was afraid I was losing my faith completely. After first coming in contact with Fr. Richard through “Falling Upward” I eventually ended up finding the “Another Name for Everything” podcast as well as these daily meditations. Each of these interactions is such a tremendous aid in my own continually unfolding pilgrimage. Richard often gives words to the unspeakable wrestlings of disorder and a vision of a reality re-ordered that keep resonating in me. —Don R.

Image credit: Monastery Window (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.

A window is an invitation. A break in the impervious stone of a wall. A way in or out. Covered in foliage, light, and shadow, this window speaks to the complex nature of reality, unveiled.

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.