Hineni, Hineni

 


Today is Good Friday, the day that Christians all over the world commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus--a day of holy solemnity for those of us who would consider ourselves his followers.  

I have reflected more than once this week on Jesus' lament on the Cross when he experiences the loss of God in the worst moment of his despair and pain.  

"My God, My God! Why have your forsaken me?"

There's a hollow kind of comfort that I feel when I read that passage.  

I find comfort that when Jesus cries out in desperation over God's silence in the face of tragedy and grief, he joins the voices of all who have made that same cry---even my own.  

But it is a hollow comfort because there isn't any immediate answer.  This is why we too often want to skip to the end of the story, rather than sit with the seemingly paradoxical moment where God feels the loss of God. 

I decided to spend some time listening to Leonard Cohen's last album You Want It Darker, a magnum opus that he recorded at age 82, filled with songs that wrestle with life, faith, mortality, and lost loves. 

It's kind of the perfect album to listen to on a Good Friday, particularly the title song.  I was struck by the lyrics of "You Want It Darker," this week more than I  expected.  Here's the stanza that I couldn't stop thinking about: 

Magnified, sanctified
Be the holy name
Feel the fire, crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the help that never came
You want it darker
Hineni, hineni
I'm ready, My Lord

I almost wept when I listened to this song for the first time.  It so perfectly captures the moment when our faith is tested by what often feels like God's absence in our very worst moments. 

The doubt and pain in Cohen's lament are palpable. But then he offers up the beginning of a Hebrew prayer at the end of the stanza that is enough to bring you to your knees.  Hineni, hineni... 

This prayer is often sung by Jewish cantors for Rosh Hashana, and actually goes something like this:   Hineni he’ani mima’as...  Here I am, impoverished in deeds and merit. But nevertheless, I have come before You, God...  

Hineni, hineni... the beginning of a prayer for the ability to pray.

But within the context of Cohen's song, this prayer takes on new meaning.  Cohen seems to be speaking out into the Universe and saying:  
"I am here. I don't know if you are there, or if you can hear me... but I am here... I am ready."  

I feel like we need this prayer more than ever right now... It has been a long season of Lent and an even longer journey through the wilderness of this past year.  And for many of us, this kind of prayer is all that we've got. 

And it is enough for now. 

Hineni, hineni... We are here.  We are ready.  We hold on to the hope that You are listening... We hold on to the hope that even the worst thing... isn't the last thing. Amen, amen. 

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 

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