Take Not Your Holy Spirit From Me

I remember the words well.  I remember that I was sitting in a pew preparing to make my confession when I heard them sung by the cantor.

 “Take not your Holy Spirit from me”.

I remember considering that loss.  Considering my life without the Holy Spirit.

The words that had been sung came straight from Psalm 51, also known as The Miserere. Having been so affected by them, I listen intently when any instruction about Psalm 51 comes my way.  I’d like to share my thoughts and those I learned recently from Author and Cistercian Monk, Michael Casey. 

Psalm 51, Casey writes “is the most eloquent expression of repentance in the Book of Psalms”. (1)

Though the psalmist (in this case David) takes full ownership for and is repentant of his sin, he also recognizes a lifetime of resisting God, knowing that if it were not this sin, it would likely be another: “my sin is always before me.” (verse 5b)  “There is a sober sense of being alienated from God by contrary choices. There is no overdramatization; just the dull ache of recognizing that one has turned away from God”. (2)

And this was me in the pew that day.  Can you relate?

Take not your Holy Spirit from me.

And yet, David writes of the “merciful love” and “abundant compassion” (v3) of God and this changes “the thrust of the Psalm.  Instead of being simply a confession of sin, it becomes a passionate plea not only for forgiveness but for restoration”. (3)

David’s plea (and ours) becomes “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit”. (v12)

Through David, Psalm 51 helps us to see the “wobbliness of our own wills.  That we “are not totally committed to doing the right thing on every occasion”. (4) It also helps us to remember that restoration and “future fidelity” are possible through the unending mercy of God’s love, which is new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23)  

I’ll leave you with Casey’s eloquently written closing thoughts on Psalm 51.

“This psalm has been over the centuries one of the mainstays of Christian devotion, and we could do worse than making ourselves familiar with it, even to the point of knowing it by heart.  We will discover for ourselves, in using this psalm, a realistic way of growing in the consciousness that we are sinners in need of God’s healing, and that this healing is permanently available to us.  Instead of itemizing our sins and putting a value on each particular offense, we move towards the sense that all our misdeeds, large and small alike, are wrong primarily because they undermine our life-giving relationship with God.

Sin makes us deader than we need to be.” (5)

With Love,


  1. Michael Casey, Fully Human, Fully Divine:  An Interactive Christology (Liguori, MO:  Liguori Publications, 2004), 240
  2. Fully Human, Fully Divine, Pg 237
  3. Fully Human, Fully Divine, Pg 237
  4. Fully Human, Fully Divine, Pg 237
  5. Fully Human, Fully Divine, Pg 241