In The Shade of God's Hand
The “Come” of Pentecost is almost like the “Come” of Christmas. With deep yearning, we beg the Spirit to come. From now on, with the close of Easter, we will be in the season of the Spirit, that Spirit who is “God on our side”.
In the liturgy, we not only beg the Spirit to come, we spell out all the ways we so need the Spirit. There is an ache inside of us.
We ask the Spirit to fill us with light that we might see and enjoy the goodness of life, even in the midst of difficulties. We ask to be comforted in our sorrows, to experience “coolness in the heat”, and to be given “rest most sweet” at the end of a long hard day. It is as if we believe that somehow God knows what all of this feels like. In this, we may not be far from the truth.
During our Pentecost retreat, I found myself returning to Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven . Unlike our pleas for the Spirit to come, the poet flees the Beloved down the nights and days and labyrinthine ways of his own mind and heart. In his search, he longs to find and experience what he so desires. Later, in the midst of tears, he chides God for needing to char the wood in order to write with it. Who of us have not experienced this?
However, near the end of the poem, there is a breakthrough. God speaks to this searching soul. “All that I took from you, I took not for your harms, but only that you might seek it in my arms. All which your child’s mistake fancies as lost, I have stored for you at home. Rise, clasp my hand and come.
The poet then realizes that the gloom he experienced was only the shade of God’s hand outstretched caressingly.
We forget that, with gentleness and tenderness, the Spirit also purifies us in order that God may come closer. In prayer, we might want to ask ourselves what it is that we feel has been taken from us, (and that we fancy as lost), only to find it safe and at home in the arms of God.
Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D