Where is God hidden?
John says that “The good contemplative must seek God with love’ (C 1.6). But where does one find God. In the Spiritual Canticle John gives several indications.
We find God in the revelation of the Son. “The Son is the only delight of the Father, who rests nowhere else nor is present in any other than in his beloved Son” (C. 1.5).We are all like the lover of the poem who seeks God but finds God always seems distant when we want to be close. God is hidden but we can find God as long as we understand that even when we find God it will still be in hiddenness.
In addition to the Son’s revelations, the primary experience in which the Trinity is discoverable is in the depths of our own hearts. “It should be known that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden by his essence and his presence in the innermost being of the soul” (C. 1.6). God is within everyone by divine essence. God is never absent from us, for in each of us there is a center which is naturally divine.
God is even hidden in the divine gifts of presence, whether by essence, grace, or spiritual affection. Even these are hidden, for “God does not reveal himself as he is, since the conditions of this life will not allow such a manifestation” (C. 11.3). God’s hiding place is within us not outside us; “you yourself are his dwelling and his secret inner room and hiding place” (C. 1.7). So, we should not go searching for God elsewhere, outside of ourselves, but find God within. Nearness to God inflames greater love, reveals the Beloved, but reminds one he is more hidden than revealed (see C. 13.1). Even when the soul gets close she is told she is not ready for union and receives glimpses and intense longings, but is still told to go back (C. 13.2). No matter our own efforts, God remains hidden, and we need to appreciate the need for purification, emptiness, and receptivity.
God is sometimes hidden in the communications we receive and in the concepts we have. We must cultivate an absolute conviction of divine transcendence and let God be who God wishes to be for us. While the full revelation of God only comes in the next life, God is within our hearts but hidden. To find God we must leave aside every other interest, thus uncovering both God and our true selves. Often this means we must be aware that spiritual communications can be more our own images than God’s. We must go beyond the normal objects of the faculties—intellectual knowledge, memories, and limited desires (C. 1. 12-13).
We find God still hidden in faith and we continue to seek God in faith, love, and unknowing, leaving aside all former knowledge, understanding, activities of faculties, and satisfactions (C. 1. 10-11). Often we can see better in darkness. “Only by means of faith, in divine light exceeding all understanding, does God manifest Himself to the soul” (A.2. 9.1).
God is hidden even in the touches of love given to the soul; they communicate, reveal, and wound, but they hide, too. “The soul experiencing this love exclaims: ‘Why do you leave it so,’ that is, empty, hungry, alone, sorely wounded and sick with love” (C. 9.6). In verse ten she goes on to insist, “Extinguish these miseries, since no one else can stamp them out.” In the resulting love-sickness God both reveals and remains hidden. “The reason for this is that the love of God is the soul’s health, and the soul does not have full health until love is complete” (C. 11.11).
Sometimes God is hidden because we continue to look at our own false images of God. We must remove these false gods in the dark night. Clinging to our own knowledge, memories, and loves blocks a genuine revelation of God. Even religion’s certainty does not lead us to truth, and a healthy insecurity and doubt concerning contemporary religion’s many declarations can open us to the unseen world that can lead us to God. Our knowledge impedes God’s self-revelation.
We can also see that the depressing misery of our world can hide our appreciation of God, but God’s future, our hope, overwhelms and overcomes the misery and even gives meaning to what seems increasingly meaningless. Part of our contemporary misery is that we have become skilled at concealing truth, hiding from our own consciences, and blocking God’s communication.