Where Have You Hidden
I went out calling you, and you were gone.
Spiritual Canticle – St. John of the Cross
One time, when I was first becoming a Sister, another wise and holy Sister asked me how I would describe the God I pray to. Actually, she was asking me to share my manner of praying. I was very surprised by this. While I do not remember my answer, I will never forget the question.
If one searches the Hebrew Scriptures, one finds that the people back then experienced God in different ways. Theirs was a God who comes, a God who leads, and a God who comforts and heals. But theirs was also a God who was hidden. As we approach the season of Pentecost, which ushers in the summer of Ordinary Time, we find ourselves asking the Spirit to come. There is a certain urgency in our plea, a deep yearning. Even the liturgy echoes this strong feeling in its Veni Sancte Spiritu , “Come, Holy Spirit, come!” The script carries with it an exclamation point.
The hymn goes on to relate all the different ways we long to have the Spirit come. We ask the Spirit to be sweet rest in our labors, a coolness in the heat and solace in our woe. We also ask the Spirit to heal our wounds, to renew our strength, and to guide our steps when we lose our way.
With little effort, we feel in our depths all the instances described above, since these are a part of our daily experience. Can we say, then that whenever we experience rest in our labors, coolness in the heat, solace in woe and feel our strength renewed, this indeed is the Spirit coming upon us? Writers, such as Karl Rahner, would say yes. They tell us that the experience of God is not just one experience among other experiences. The experience of God lies hidden within every human experience, even the sad and difficult ones. This is what is meant by the Radical Presence of God. Strangely, the one experience that should be the most apparent is in fact the most hidden.
The poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writes that earth is crammed with heaven and that every common bush is afire with God. Still, our daily experiences seem to be so very common. Are they really filled with heaven? I rather enjoy reading the account in Exodus where Moses nonchalantly decides to “go over and see this remarkable sight.”(Ex3:3) Even he had to be told to take off his shoes. He was standing on holy ground and did not know it.
Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.