O Godhead Hid!
What a grim and lonely feeling this morning as we walk into our church to find all our images and statues hidden. Hidden beneath these gloomy purple drapes, taken away from our reverential gaze for a while, removing from us, it seems, the last vestiges of consolation left in our lives, as we enter this the most solemn and austere of the Church’s seasons which begins today, the climax of our Lenten penances, the holy Season of Passiontide.
Why do we hide our crucifix and our images today? The brief answer is to be found in the last few sentences of today’s holy Gospel, when the Jews took up stones to cast at our Lord: “but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.” Jesus hid himself. And as he hid himself from his people in those days before his Passion, so too today he hides himself and all his saints with him behind all these purple veils. God is hidden from his people.
If we look around our chapel this morning, we may be tempted to think that the opposite is also true, that his people are hiding themselves from God. But it would not be true. If we are few in number today, it’s for a good reason. It is not because we are abandoning God in these difficult times. No more than God is abandoning his children when he hides himself and goes “out of the temple.” No more than God will forsake us when we too must go “out of the temple” and give up for a while our weekly visits to church. Sometimes, it is more important to give up our “togetherness” for a greater need. We have seen this for ourselves in these past few weeks, as we all try to distance ourselves from each other, rather than coming together in impressive displays of unity and mutual support. It’s not the first time we’ve been called on to love each other from a distance. Similar things have happened many times in the past, as, for example, when, in time of war, husbands and fathers of families have had to leave their wives and children to go off to do battle with the enemy. Sometimes, to protect those we love, we must leave them for a while.
And in these times of lockdown and quarantine, isolation and solitude, what happens to us when we stay home and hide ourselves from our neighbor? Do we waste our idle hours with vain distractions? Do we lie around all day, fearful and depressed? Or do we use this time alone as an opportunity, a time to recognize that we are alone now with God? Our friends, colleagues, sometimes even our own family members are separated from us. Our dear friends in heaven, the saints, our consolation and help in this life of suffering, are likewise hidden from us behind these purple veils. We must now stand alone and face God alone. We must lay bare our souls to our Creator, and humbly acknowledge our nothingness, confessing our sins, thanking him for taking those sins upon himself, and carrying our cross for us. We must acknowledge the fragility of our human condition, praying that he will heed our blessed Lady’s prayers for us now and at the hour of our death. Take these opportunities this week. Stand alone before God. Go to Confession if you can. Repent your sins. Vow to lead a more godly life. Start now, because next Sunday, we’ll be taking it to the next step. We must remember the sufferings of our blessed Lord, and how we were separated not only from each other, not just from the saints, but even from God himself. And why? Because we have sinned against him. It is a separation that could have been eternal, if it had not been for the extreme love shown by our Saviour suffering and dying. This alone was able to restore us to God’s favor and open heaven’s gate.
God watches over each and every one of us from heaven and gives us still, even at this late hour, the graces we need to save our soul. That is all we need. God may be hidden from us in these dark days, but he IS just as much as he has ever been. God may be hidden under these purple drapes as we live through the turmoil and fear of a great pandemic, but God is still with us. It is up to each of us to find him. “O Godhead hid! Devoutly I adore thee.” Make your peace with God, and then make your Communion with him. If you do this, God may still be hidden, but he will be hidden within you, filling you with the invisible graces that will inspire you to wondrous feats of holiness, sealing you with the unseen love that will make your yoke easy and your burden light.