Psalm 90: A Thousand Years

Saturday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 26, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90. My daily readers may have noticed that I skipped to this psalm yesterday by mistake. Some mistakes are good ones, because this profound psalm about “a thousand years” deserves at least two days attention!😉

Today, Psalm 90 is set between two “downer” readings. The unknown author of Ecclesiastes is a phenomenal poet but definitely not a cheerleader. Telling the young man to “put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting…

The writer encourages the young man to enjoy life…

Before the silver cord is snapped
and the golden bowl is broken,
And the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the broken pulley falls into the well,
And the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.

As doleful as these images are, they rang a bell with me as I prayed. The long siege of this pandemic, its frightful toll in human life, the inexplicable resistance to controlling it, surely seem as doleful. Indeed, as Psalm 90 tells us

You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.

But what else,
what more important encouragement of hope,
does Psalm 90 offer us? 

I think this following passage is unbeatable, especially as transliterated by Stephen Mitchell in his book, A Book of Psalms.

Teach us how short our time is; 
let us know it in the depths of our souls. 
Show us that all things are transient, 
as insubstantial as dreams, 
and that after heaven and earth have vanished, 
there is only you.

Fill us in the morning with your wisdom; 
shine through us all our lives. 
Let our hearts soon grow transparent 
in the radiance of your love.

Show us how precious each day is; 
teach us to be fully here. 
And let the work of our hands prosper, 
for our little while.

Poetry: God by Khalil Gibran

In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying,
“Master, I am thy slave. 
Thy hidden will is my law
and I shall obey thee for ever more.”

But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest
passed away.

And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain
and again spoke unto God, saying,
“Creator, I am thy creation. 
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me
and to thee I owe mine all.”

And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings
passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain
and spoke unto God again, saying,
“Father, I am thy child. 
In mercy and love thou hast given me birth,
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”

And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills
he passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying,
“My God, my aim and my fulfillment;
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow. 
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky,
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”

Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there also.

Music: Psalm 90 by Charles Ives, performed by the Stamford Choir 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s