I was first introduced to a native of South Africa in California arboretums. The flower is known as Leucospermum in the scientific world. It is part of the Proteaceae plant family. For me, this blossom, commonly known as a Pincushion Protea, shouted “Pentecost” because it truly embodies the joy of “spirit gone wild.”
The Proteaceae plant family includes both trees and shrubs and has over 100 species. Since the plants in the genus do not self pollinate, they depend on rodents, birds, and insects for pollination. Exceptions to this are just ten wind-pollinated proteas in southern Africa. Proteas have a broad assortment of blossom shapes and colors, although most of them look like explosive fireworks.
The seeds produced by the Pincushion Protea are gathered up by ants and buried in the soil. Only after a fire has killed the plants that grow above them and returned their nutrients to the soil do the seeds germinate to produce more of these spectacular blooms. The majority of proteas flower in spring and summer, with a few species flowering in autumn.
In honor of the beauty and innate message of the protea I share with you the revisioned story of Pentecost I prepared for this past Sunday’s liturgy. For me, this reading serves as a complement to this week’s images:
Mary Magdalena had the last of her intense visions of Jesus 40 days after her first vision of Jesus at the tomb where his body was laid. In that vision Mary was speaking with Jesus the same way they did day by day as they walked through Judea and Galilee to heal the sick and give hope and empowerment to the marginalized.
In this last vision, it was made very clear to Mary Magdalene that her time of leadership was at hand. She was told to rise up, filled with Spirit, to carry on the work for justice and compassion in the spreading of the sacred will. One more time Jesus spoke with her saying, “Wait in Jerusalem. The spirit that we have shared among us will become like a mighty wind and you will receive empowerment.”
So Mary and the other companions of Jesus waited in Jerusalem. On the feast of Pentecost, they were all gathered together in an upper room.
Suddenly RUACH, a great wind, blew among them and she hovered over each of them as a tongue-shaped flame. Also, their own tongues were set on fire, dancing and speaking spirit.
They were speaking in new ways and new languages so that everyone gathered there for the festival from all parts of the earth could understand what they were saying: “Spirit flames in our very cells to move us from fears and anxieties to new worlds of possibilities.’”
Perhaps, in the midst of our present times of fears and anxieties, with the Pincushion Protea, we need to embody the joy of “spirit gone wild.”