From Be Thou My Breastplate, by Paul Wallis
May the coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head. (Fursa’s Breastplate)
I have often heard people say that they would believe and walk with Christ if only he would prove himself by some lightning flash or tingling feeling, or if he would overwhelm them with an indisputable display of godlike power. The Messiah himself speaks to this insistence in his Gospel. Firstly, the Savior declares that it is “wicked and perverse” to ask for such a sign, and that for some not even the public display of the Messiah’s resurrection would prove sufficient to win their reluctant attention. But secondly, and in complete contrast, Jesus calls out to anyone who is truly thirsty, and speaks these words of amazing promise: “Come to me and drink. Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water.”
Jesus announces that this experience is there for the asking – if only the hearer is thirsty and sincere in their asking. In Fursa’s prayer, I am to ask daily for the promised Holy Spirit to remain on my head. Evidently, by the time Fursa had this daily prayer inscribed upon his memory, he had drunk of the Holy Spirit long and deeply enough to know that this was the spirit of whom he wished to drink daily for the rest of his life. Daily, then, I will ask it in the words he has bequeathed us. In this way, I will welcome the never-ending change in my living, thinking, and feeling that the Spirit brings.
Of course, in one sense I have no need to ask the Holy Spirit to come when I have already received him. But a Breastplate Prayer is about clothing myself daily in the armor with which God has equipped me. As the Apostle Paul says, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.”
As I pray with Fursa for God’s mystical action on my head, I am also reminded that my contact with God is so much more than a matter of words. God is my heavenly father and so I may talk with him as a child to a parent. This is what our savior taught. However, when the Spirit of God descends upon my head like a dove, no words are called for. I must simply offer him my head as his resting place.
The Scriptures say that the Spirit of God is also like anointing oil, which one simply allows to soak into the pores of the skin. According to the Old Testament prophet, our God is like a mother hen, gathering her brood under her wing. Therefore, I must allow God to chivvy me and encircle me in order to protect me. God’s Spirit is like the wind that fuels and guides great ships on the sea. Likewise, I must therefore allow his Spirit to direct and empower me. The Spirit of Truth is a counselor, and so I must also learn to listen. Jesus said that the Spirit is like a river flowing through me and giving life. I must therefore learn both to drink and to impart.
In these various ways, our God invites us to relate to him, for every image calls for a different response. The image Fursa has chosen implies a moment of calm stillness and collection: silently being touched on the crown of the head. What might that touch convey? Love? Affirmation? Ownership? Blessing? Anointing? For Christ it was all those things, for the Father said, “Behold my son with whom I am well pleased.”
This touch implies that there is something to be received. As you pray, then, stand before your heavenly father, quiet and expectant, and enjoy the moment of stillness as you echo Fursa’s words: “May the coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head.”