Monday, November 24, 2008

Hope for What We Really Need

When we are desperate - that is, somehow feeling HOPEless (Latin spe = hope) - we are most likely in need of something. With the great greed so rampant and so flaunted these days, it is hard to imagine that there are people who are lacking material resources, but there are some, and not only in the areas which most of us know as "poor". Material needs, or lacks, can make life difficult for us in this world - but it is the immaterial needs or lacks which can life difficult for us in the next. Oddly, it is the so-called "wealthy" people who seem to lack the most. But even those of us who do not live under the staggering burden of being millionaires have these sorts of wants. It is worse when we are not even aware of them... Sooner or later, we may come to realize our poverty, and then we cry in desperation. We need help, support, assistance!

Yes - we need what my mother calls "invisible means of support". We need the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not a magician or a fairy godmother to give us wishes in order to supply simple physical or earthly sorts of need. No, He supplies something far more amazing, and far more valuable. He supplies our real needs which no human - indeed no group of humans - could ever be wealthy enough to supply.

In the next verse of Veni Sancte Spiritus we find listed six very particular requests to our dear Comforter, the Giver of Gifts, Himself, the Gift of God. Each appears, in the most startling way, as a command which we speak (sing) to God - but remember we are desperate, and He who hears the cry of the poor knows we are begging:
Lava quo est sordidum,
Riga quod est aridum,
Sana quod est saucium,
Flecte quod est rigidum,
Fove quod est frigidum,
Rege quod est devium.

Cleanse what is base,
Bedew what is parched,
Heal what is wounded,
Bend what is rigid,
Warm what is chilled,
Guide what is astray. [Britt's translation]
In Fr. Britt's The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal he gives additional details on the mystic sense of each of these verbs, which will clue us in, that we do not think of the Holy Spirit as a janitor, irrigator, medic, or so forth:

Lava: wash, by Baptism and Penance
Riga: bedew with Thy grace
Sana: heal what is wounded by sin
Flecte: bend the stubborn will
Fove: warm our cold hearts
Rege: guide sinners

It would be fun to poke into some of the Latin roots here, and see the richness of these mere verbal gifts - but not just now. All I wish to consider is the first entry for the verb foveo, which speaks of a bird warming her eggs - she does this because of the new life which they contain. (Ever notice that the Federal Government asserts that life begins at conception - in the case of the eggs of some endangered species? Curious.)

For all our representation of Him as the dove, the Holy Spirit is not a mother bird, for all that He designed all the birds, and knows all about them, not only by plan but individually. It may sound like the lyrics of a rock song, but He doesn't care for the birds as He cares for us! After all, He knows all too well what Jesus told His followers: "Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows." [Lk 12:7] He knows precisely the number of hairs, and every imaginable detail of our physical life - then how much more will He tend to our needs - which are beyond any power of earth to grant!


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