Renewal of the Holy Spirit: The Blessing of Covid?
With what we have been through these last few months I never thought I would write the above title – but as before the clues were in Blake’s drawings. We now move some way forward to Job’s sacrifice. The plate illustrates the passage from The Book of Job 42: 8 when the Lord addresses the ‘comforters’:
‘Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up yourselves a burnt offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.’
Job’s posture is now one of open acceptance to the will of the Lord and the open book below gives us the injunction from the sermon on the Mount:
‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you and pray for those that despiseth you and persecute you’
Throughout the series of prints of Job’s trial the heavenly forces have been represented figuratively: first Satan with his dancing, grinning gait and then the old bearded figure of God the Father ‘speaking from the whirlwind’. In this print no heavenly (or hellish) apparitions appear. Round the edges are our old friends the angels but now the movement is from earth to heaven as a great plume of smoke arises in Job’s heart and moves up to meet the great Sun of Creation. This is the first sun we have seen since the beginning of the series when Satan appeared as the sun set. His wife and the comforters adopt a suitably penitent pose at Job’s feet. Wheat begins to grow as new life emerges from its sleep.
In the last plate we encountered the Trinitarian problem at the heart of Blake’s message – the absence of Jesus Christ can be troubling for many Christians. Yet here, to my eyes anyway, just as in the previous plate Christ was implied so the third ‘member’ of the Christian trinity is implied here – the Holy Spirit. According to Christian theology the ‘comforter’ comes to help convey our prayers to the Creator. After His dramatic appearance in the whirlwind the Creator has now returned to his inscrutable presence at the ground of all creation (‘unless I go He cannot come’). From Job’s breast, now renewed and upright, the Holy Spirit arises and, as Job decorates the margins of the plate, exhorts us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
We began our covid vigil at the beginning of Lent and for many of us the lockdown now begins to an end as we approach Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the spirit of Blake’s plate let us pray for the renewing force of the Holy Spirit to help us rebuild our lives, cities, relationships and world as the ‘curse’ of covid reveals its ‘blessings’
Peter Tyler, Pentecost 2020