Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

This fresco, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, located in the Spanish Chapel attached to the Church of St. Maria Novella, in Florence was loved greatly by Charlotte Mason.

It represented to her a great truth, that "God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius"

In her Biography, The Story of Charlotte Mason it says...

Charlotte built this 'great recognition' deep into the foundations of the students' life and training there. It formed the special teaching of Whitsunday afternoon. A reproduction of the frescoes had its place in a central position for all to live with. The students called it the 'creed picture,' coming slowly to understand how not only every increase in knowledge and power came by the Divine Spirit, but also the way of using the things and opportunities of daily life the way to handle a microscope, the moment to choose for a word of praise or rebuke in school. Charlotte Mason showed that this recognition resolves the discords in each person's life between claims of the intellect, of the aesthetic sense, and of religion: 'There is space for free development in all directions and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognized as a Godward movement. Various activities with unity of aim bring harmony and peace into our lives.'

She wrote in Vol.2 of the Charlotte Mason series, Parents and Children, p. 268 that the Florentine mind of the Middle Ages accepted in simple faith not only that the seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, without any thought at all as to whether the person so inspired named himself by the name of God, or recognised whence his inspiration came.

Then after quoting Isaiah 28:24-29 she says...

In the things of science, in the things of art, in the things of practical everyday life, his God doth instruct him and doth teach him, her God doth instruct her and doth teach her. Let this be the mother's key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the Divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child. Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for this indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils. We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us.

Reading all this brought to mind my good friend Rachelle who spoke of this at our monthly Charlotte Mason meetings over a year ago. As some of us newer homeschooling mothers fretted over our YR0 and YR1 children's education and our own perceived shortcomings, she would gently remind us that it is He who educates. What a comforting truth that is. Her wonderful teenage daughter Carly who at times would sit in at those meetings was a true testament to that wisdom.

CM goes on to write in Vol. 2 that the infinite and almighty Spirit of God appears to work under the limitations of our cooperation as teachers. She says we cooperate by sticking to guiding ideas and simple principles, keeping the teaching true, direct, and humble; without pedantry and without verbiage.

While there seems to me something wrong with the idea that anyone could "limit" the plans of a sovereign God, I can certainly see how a teacher could, with rules upon definitions upon tables, etc., transform a perfectly inspiring idea into dull, tedious work. Or how dumbed down books and dumbed down tones of teaching could transform wonderful interesting history, geography, literature, art, and more into dry, uninspiring work.

According to CM, the teacher is a facilitator of great ideas - not the source. Her point is simple - why dilute great works of art, literature, etc. with everything you know? Why lecture and explain and beat the idea to a living pulp? Present the idea "true, direct, and humble". And with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the infinite Teacher, learning will occur. Individually, intimately.


  1. This just crystallizes in my mind the thoughts and struggles I have been having recently with how to homeschool. Charlotte Mason truly is inspiring. Thanks for putting all these thoughts together so well. It is such an encouragement to me.

  2. Thank You, Thank you, Thank you for this reminder!! Thank you so much Lord for your Holy Spirit.

  3. Great post. I want to be the facilitator of great ideas, and never guilty of making something inspiring into something dull & tedious.

    Love how you put it: Present the idea "true, direct, and humble"

  4. What an excellent post and what a timely reminder. We are about to start a new homeschool year here in Australia and this was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!