NEW YORK -- Of all the lessons Michelangelo painted upon the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, none so lastingly infects the memory as the figure of the angel who rides over Adam and Eve and points the way out of Eden with his fiery sword. For here is the face of one who does not like his work but does it just the same.

And it was just such a face, cankered with the bitter taste of victory, that the photographers recorded when special prosecutor Charles J. (''Joe'') Hynes came out of a Queens courtroom a while after the Howard Beach jury had delivered the manslaughter convictions he had labored to win with a head so cunning, a fiber so stern and a heart so sick.

He talked about the last few weeks recently in a voice from which every sense of triumph had been expelled by the recollection of sights that he could not bear to watch.

''{Queens Assistant District Attorney} Brad Wolk was on the stand testifying about Jon Lester's statements to him and the police. I looked over at Lester's mother and she was just falling apart. I turned my head to get away from that, and what did I see but Michael Griffith's mother crying. That is what hate does. It makes victims of us all.

''I saw Scott Kern's father kiss his son after the verdict, and I turned away from that, too. This was a man who sat in the witness chair and, I was sure, lied for his son. But how could I cross-examine somebody who had done for his child just what I would have done for mine?''

Joe Hynes had been trying his own kind. When he was young, his neighborhood passed through one of those changes that we describe politely but nonetheless damningly as ''turning.'' All the whites left, and, we may assume, the Hynes family went with them. Be we ever so kindly, there are few of us who will stand alone when all save us are fleeing.

Whatever Joe Hynes may have heard around the dinner table as a boy could not have been different enough from what I grew used to although, I pray, never quite inured to hearing, and those echoes appeared to have settled upon him with the despair of the recognition of how little had changed and the suspicion that little ever will.

In September, he and a group of his assistants had gone out with Cedric Sandiford to North Park Pizza to review once more the terminal minutes of Dec. 20, 1986.

''While we were there,'' said Hynes, ''a small black kid came out of the supermarket across the street pushing a shopping cart, and eight or nine white guys started yelling at him and the kid ran away. And the shopping cart just sat there with a six-pack of soda, his schoolbooks and pencils and his radio.''

He is aware that those who hate are insufficiently lesser victims than those they hate, but he will press for the harshest sentences for Jon Lester, Scott Kern and Jason Ladone.

''They saw this body fly 15 feet up in the air. Robert Riley said 'enough.' So did Michael Pirone. But these three turned around and went running back to beat Cedric Sandiford.''

The hardest of all forgivenesses is the forgiveness of our own kind. There was talk that Joe Hynes was at last in a position to run for mayor or something. There was the same talk after his nursing home prosecutions, and nothing came of that. And, in all likelihood, nothing much will come of this.

His taste in objects of punishment has been too unselective and too careless of risks. He at once alarms our governors and commends himself to them as a necessity just where he is, because he can be depended upon sorrowfully to lift the fiery sword when other prosecutors fear to brandish it.

His visitor sententiously observed that this case seems almost to have broken his heart as it ought to have the city's. Joe Hynes was silent, and Richard Magnum, an assistant special prosecutor, gave the reply on his behalf.

''You need,'' he said, ''to have a heart to break.''