This week’s position in the Church Year is unique. It’s after Christ’s ascension yet before the Holy Spirit’s coming. The Godhead is hiding! Obviously not missing, but just hidden.
The introit even mentions both hiding and seeking, going something like this. God wants us to seek His face, and we agree to seek His face. But then we say, “Don’t hide Your face from me!”
It’s almost like a playful game of hide and seek! And that seems to be the tone for this week.
Our desire of the Lord – that which we seek – is to dwell with Christ in the house of the Lord. He has prepared a place for us there, and we long to join Him there and behold His beauty. This is why the Lord says, “Seek My face,” and we response, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
And significantly, we pray, “Don’t hide Your face from me!”
And that leads into the Gospel. The Gospel is all about what will happen to the disciples after Jesus returns to heaven. They would be persecuted. It might seem as if God has removed His face, that He’s hiding from them. Hence the “back and forth” regarding the seeking and hiding of God’s face.
But isn’t this how it goes? Don’t we cry out to the Lord with our voices, and bid Him to “hear” (exaudi)? Especially, don’t we cry out when it seems as if He’s hiding, and the evils of the world are triumphing over us?
The answer the Introit gives is, when the Lord shows His face, His “light and salvation,” we will need not fear. He is the strength of our lives.
Or to put it in the Gospel’s terms, it’s the Holy Spirit’s testimony, bearing testimony of Christ and reminding the disciples of what Jesus said. That is truly our light and salvation. The apostles take part in this testimony as well.
Once again we’re led to the divine service, the liturgy. Where do we find our “light and salvation” so that we need not fear? In the apostolic testimony, and in the Holy Spirit’s, the Comforter’s, testimony, which as we have been contemplating is His testimony of what’s going on in heaven, as Jesus sits at God’s right hand.
That is our strength in the midst of evil and persecution. The rest of the world may be plunging into evil, as it always has been, but the church abides forever, as the earthly testimony of heavenly things. And top among that list of heavenly things is Jesus’ righteous reign over all things. Yes, it’s hidden, which is why we pray “exaudi” (“hear!”) and “Do not hide your face from me” until the day of His return.
But prayer is simply faith in action, and faith is simply the “substance” of things we cannot see, the existential reality of it. It’s real. So real that, in the time of persecution, the one with faith can have joy.