The First Book of Samuel begins with Hannah’s yearning for a child. Her prayer for a son is only seemingly the centre of the story. Her desire for being blessed with life speaks as much of the community’s yearning as of her personal request. ‘O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life…’’
For the local Christian community, as well as for the church universal, there is a great lesson in this. Do we have the desire to be blessed with life? Do we have expectations from God, do we expect a ‘blessed’ change? Do we yearn for God, do we yearn for partnership with our Redeemer? Is there a thirst in us to be connected with God, for conversing with Him through Word and the Sacraments? Do we have a burning desire to engage with the Sacred (also in the sense as the meaning of life)?
In this culture of scattered (and necessarily vanishing) desires, our primary task is to keep the culture of yearning for God alive.
Karl Barth says (the twentieth century theologian of ‘desire’ for God, as it were) that the time between the messianic advent (Christ’s work among the first disciples) and the final apocalypse (God’s ultimate return at the end of the world) cannot remain empty! This ‘middle time’, we might say, is the time for our yearning for God. However, this ‘messianic time’, fuelled by our desire for God, cannot be left empty. Our task is to yearn actively: it is a time for living and acting in a way in which we ‘recreate’ the original richness of Christ’s working among us.
So if we feel a lack, a gap between us and God, it is normal. This is an experience which prompts us to recreate, re-live, and re-enact of the messianic ethos of the early church. We will be blessed with life, like Hannah. Jesus is experienced as present and active again!
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..