On our way to the Feast of the Pentecost Spirit-Gift, here are brief reflections on the third and fourth verses of the Feast's Sequence: Veni Sancte Spiritus.
Thou of Comforters the best,
Thou the soul's delightful guest,
Sweet refreshment here below.
Ours is a comfort seeking culture. We've even got a popular whiskey named: Southern Comfort. And everyday there are catalogs for folks over fifty, selling every kind of product to add to our physical contentment and well-being.
But in its origin (from the Latin: confortare) comfort means to make something stronger, to encourage, support and strengthen greatly. The Christian doesn't need a voice from heaven saying, "There, there..." but an inner word that offers strength in fatigue, support where we're feeling failed, lacking or insufficient and encouragement when we're simply played out and unprepared for what's next.
And would you ever say of your life with God that it is delightful and sweet? We tend to use those words to describe only what's earthly or carnal: desserts, wine, physical beauty, music, a high, a movie perhaps.
~ ~ ~,
In our labor rest most sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat,
Solace in the midst of woe.
I had a priest classmate who when I visited him in his first assignment, told me he refused to pray the prayer Hail Holy Queen, because he didn't like the world being called a valley of tears. I thought his rejection of the prayer to be odd in that his parish was one of the poorest in the diocese, and surely he had by now witnessed great suffering in the lives of his parishioners..
Truth be told, a lot of life is woe and a lot of people need some solace. And solace comes from the French word consolateur which is an architectural term referring to a carved figure that supports a shelf or cornice. God's solace-bearing Spirit then is the one who holds us up when life might otherwise beat us down.
Many people can attest to this especially addicts, the parents of special needs children, the folks who can't get a break, those who do the hard work of escorting loved ones to death, people who suffer un-relenting guilt or anxiety, those who suffer painful loss.