As we move towards Pentecost, we are going to look at three hymns that may help us to a clearer understanding of this momentous gift of God, his Spirit.
I start with perhaps my favourite Pentecost Hymn “Come down O love Divine”. The text originated as an Italian poem, "Discendi amor santo" by the medieval mystic poet Bianco da Siena (1350-1399). The poem appeared in the 1851 collection Laudi Spirituali del Bianco da Siena of Telesforo Bini, and in 1861, the Anglo-Irish clergyman and writer Richard Frederick Littledale translated it into English.
We start with the first verse;
Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
For me, the two concepts featured in this verse are the gift of Love Divine and the coming of the promised Comforter.
Charles Wesley often used the term Love Divine, perhaps most famously found in the hymn of that name. The notion of Love Divine is that it speaks of the deep and rich love that God has for humans, the God of love who deigns to share His life of love with anyone willing to receive.
But notice both Wesley and da Siena speaks of Love Divine rather that Divine love. For me the later speaks of a characteristic of the Divine, where as Love Divine speaks to me of love personified.
Secondly this personal Love Divine is spoken of as the Comforter. Elsewhere the term is translated a Advocate, Counsellor, Friend, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby. In fact we read how Jesus in John 14:15-18 promised ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. is aware that the imminent loss of his physical presence will be a big blow for his disciples. He reassures them “‘I will not leave you orphaned”.
Jesus was so aware that the loss of his physical presence will be made up to them by the sending of the Holy Spirit, who will be with them permanently.”
In our changing and increasingly secularised society, one can easily feel a sense of loss and abandonment, but the Holy Spirit continues to guide and inspire us into new and creative forms of communicating the Good News in ways that are relevant to today’s world.
The fact is that we do not need to rely on our own resources but turn to God who promises to help us, ready to send the Holy Spirit. To be open to the spirit, we must quieten first our body, then our heart. In this time of quiet God teaches us to see our world differently; we don’t act in it alone but am accompanied by God’s ever-present Spirit.
God my Comforter, I praise and thank You from the depth of my heart for all the goodness which You have promised me. I praise You for having guarded me as the apple of Your eye. I firmly believe that in Your presence there is fullness of joy. Your presence manifests Your glory. On this day, help me to praise You whole-heartedly for I know that this is God’s will concerning me to receive the fullness of joy. Give me the grace to rejoice always in You.
In Your matchless name I pray.