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Thursday, October 13, 2016
Come down, O Love Divine; seek out this soul of mine,
and visit it with your own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near; within my heart appear,
and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming.
And let your glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far out-pass the power of human telling.
For none can guess God’s grace, till Love creates a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
Bianco da Siena’s “Come Down, O Love Divine,” trans. Richard Frederick Littledale (tune: Resignation)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
Whenever I lead a Bible study, the first questions I always ask are, “What sticks out to you? Is there a word or a phrase that captures your attention?” I asked myself those questions this morning as I read these verses from the hymn. (By the way, I cannot read any of these hymn verses without singing them to their hymn tune. Do you do that too?!) In response to my own question, the thing that caught my attention the most dramatically this morning was God’s other name. Did you catch it? God’s other name in this hymn is Love, with a capital “L.” The author calls God “Love Divine” and implores Love to come as fire and as grace.
We also hear allusions to John 14, where Jesus promises that the Advocate (or Comforter) will come and be with humanity as Jesus returns back into the triune reality of God. I also hear other Gospel of John references as the author speaks in the last verse about the Holy Spirit making a dwelling in us once “Love creates a place.” I translate dwelling as home, which is so close to what John often speaks of as “abiding.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks consistently about abiding in the Father and his followers abiding in him. He is talking about where we make our home. So here, in this hymn text, we are praying and singing for Love to create a place in us where the Holy Spirit can make a home. It is a powerful prayer and an evocative image to picture Love constantly creating in us space for God’s Spirit to be at home, to dwell, to abide.
And so I wonder, what happens in you as you call God by God’s other name of Love? Does calling God Love shift the way you pray? Does it affect your imagination about the way God works in this world? Does it help open up even more space in your spirit for God’s Spirit to dwell? What does calling God by God’s other name, Love, do to you?
O Love Divine, we are so grateful for your dwelling in us. We are so grateful that out of your grace and goodness, you have chosen to be at home in us and have called us to make our home in you. On this day, grant that we might see you as Love. And may that vision impact how we live, how we interact with others, and how we see ourselves. Amen.
Written by Shannon J. Kersher, Pastor
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