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4 June 2017

Come Down, O Love Divine

Words by Bianco of Siena;
Translation by Richard F. Littledale
Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams

You hear it all of the time. "Change is the only constant." But what about Solomon? Didn't he say, "There is nothing new under the sun." Of course, it is easy to agree with Solomon when you are aware of his reputation as the wisest person in the history of the world. Look through the lectionary scriptures for this week. We see the Spirit among Moses and the elders. We see the Spirit watching over the Psalmist and attending to needs. We see the Spirit in Christ's dealings with His disciples. And, of course, we see the Spirit moving with power in Acts at Pentecost.

Did you notice anything? The Spirit of God was present in every one of those passages. Sometimes we like to think that something has changed. We like to think that God has done something different, He has finally come to us, and that is why we respond to Him. But God has not changed. He remains the same. God has never been absent. He is always present. Indeed, Solomon was right. There is nothing new under the sun.

But is that all that there is to it? No, there's more. Even though the same Spirit was always present, each person experienced the Spirit in his own way. Moses and the elders gathered with him had one experience. Elders who had not gathered had another. People around the elders had another experience that was completely different. The Psalmist observed God's Spirit working around him, and the disciples at Pentecost experienced the Spirit in an extraordinary way. One Spirit, but many experiences.

This week's featured hymn was written by Bianco of Siena (d. 1434). What a different experience it would have been to live in the early 15th century! No cars. No airplanes. No electricity. There wasn't even an internet! Columbus had not sailed to the Americas. In a sense, the world was still flat. Society functioned more parochially.

And yet, even with all of the differences we find the same need for the Spirit to come to us today. Here are Bianco of Siena's words as translated by Richard F. Littledale:

1. 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.
2. O let it freely burn, 
till earthly passions turn 
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming; 
and let thy glorious light 
shine ever on my sight, 
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
3. And so the yearning strong, 
with which the soul will long, 
shall far outpass the power of human telling; 
for none can guess its grace, 
till Love create a place 
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

On this day of Pentecost, look for the Spirit. Listen for the Spirit. Call upon the Spirit. He is the same Spirit that came to Moses and to David and to the disciples, but He still has many new and wonderful experiences for you.

God Bless You!


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