Psalm 88: Outlook Gloomy

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church

September 30, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 88. It’s supposed to be a gloomy, rainy day around here where I live, and Psalm 88 isn’t going to help! It is the desperate prayer of one who hears no answer from God:

But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
with my morning prayer I wait upon you.
Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face?


Sorrowful Man – Vincent Van Gogh

According to Martin Marty, a professor of church history at the University of Chicago,
Psalm 88 is “a wintry landscape of unrelieved bleakness.”
Psalm 88 ends by saying:
You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; 
the darkness is my closest friend.
Indeed, in Hebrew the last word of the psalm is “darkness”.
~ from Wikipedia


Also from Wikipedia:

J.M.Neale and R.F. Littledale, writing in the 19th century, find that Psalm 88 “stands alone in all the Psalter for the unrelieved gloom, the hopeless sorrow of its tone. Even the very saddest of the others, and the Lamentations themselves, admit some variations of key, some strains of hopefulness; here only all is darkness to the close.”


Gratefully, I have seldom been in the place of this psalm … but that doesn’t mean never. Many of you, I imagine, could say the same.

So what do we do when life, by our choices or despite them, finds us irrevocably caught in spiritual darkness? What happens to us when we think God isn’t listening to our prayer, or maybe that there was never any God in the first place?

St. John of the Cross says this:

Live in faith and hope,
though it be in darkness,
for in this darkness God protects the soul.
Cast your care upon God
for you are His and He will not forget you.
Do not think that He is leaving you alone,
for that would be to wrong Him.

John’s further writings show us that this darkness, rather than alienate John from God, was the source of unparalleled union with God.

May we be blessed in the same way.🙏


One dark night, 
Kindled in love with yearnings—oh, happy chance!— 
I went forth without being observed, 
My house being now at rest.
In darkness and secure, 
By the secret ladder, disguised—oh, happy chance!—
In darkness and in concealment, 
My house being now at rest.
In the happy night, 
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught, 
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.
This light guided me 
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me— 
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me, 
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, 
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
~ John of the Cross

Poetry: Sorrow – Renee Yann, RSM

You must be alone
    with sorrow
    before you can leave it,
    or it will crush you
    like a dark, heavy rock.

    You must drive into
    the hollow of its face,
    under the ledges
    it projects against you.
    Feel its cold granite
    pressed to your grain.

    In time,
    it will allow your turning
    to rest your back
    within its curve.

    Only then,
    you will be free to leave it,
    walking lightly once again
    on yielding earth.

    When you return, it will be freely,
    on a pilgrimage,
    to touch the name you carved once
    in your heart’s anguish.

Music: Holy Darkness – John Michael Talbot

4 thoughts on “Psalm 88: Outlook Gloomy

  1. I savor each reflection and don’t write to let you know how much they mean to me.

    Your personal reflections always add a special touch. Today, I thank you for your poem.

    Thank you for sharing your gifts so lavishly.

    Mary

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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