April 26, 2021
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 42, the only psalm that opens with a simile, and it is a memorable one:
As the deer longs for streams of water,Psalm 42:2
so my soul longs for you, O God.
One pictures the psalmist crossing a desert-like expanse, longing for water. A deer wanders across the distance, also showing the effects of a deep, physical thirst. The psalmist is moved by the sight to consider a deeper thirst, that profound longing for God’s consolation and grace.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Not included in today’s Responsorial Psalm is this stark verse which gives us insight into the depth of the psalmist’s longing. This soul is not just thirsty, but rather desperate to imbibe Grace, yearning to slake a nearly disabling aridity.
My tears have been my bread day and night,Psalm 42: 4A
as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”
Psalm 42 is a powerful poem with a deep psychological message about relationship with God, particularly when that relationship suffers shadows.
Luis Alonso Schökel, SJ, professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, offers insight into this depth that may enlighten our own prayer:
(In Psalm 42) the manner of God’s presence is awareness of his absence. Absence which is not noticed nor deeply felt is a simple absence which causes no grief. But absence which is felt is a means of being present in the consciousness, bringing anxiety and grief.
Paradoxically, the taunts of the enemies sharpen the sensation of God’s absence and thus,in the form of nostalgia, increase the sense of God’s presence.
The presence of God in the psalm is pervasive, God’s relationship with the psalmist personal and intimate. This means to say that God communicates most intensely by creating an awareness of his absence (as in the book of Job, throughout the entire construction of the poem on two levels, and explicitly in ch. 23). If communion with God is the meaning of worship, it is difficult to deny that the psalmist worships “in spirit and in truth”…
…With its wealth of structure, its dynamics, its lyrical and dramatic intensity, this psalm exceeds mere classification. In the theme of the eclipse of God and in the lucid consciousness which expresses this theme, the psalm is of especial relevance to our time.from The Poetic Structure of Psalm 42-43
Music: Quemadmodum (As the hart desireth the waterbrooks…) – John Taverner
1 In finem. Intellectus filiis Core.
2 Quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus.
3 Sitivit anima mea ad Deum fortem, vivum; quando veniam et apparebo ante faciem Dei?
4 Fuerunt mihi lacrimae meae panis die ac nocte, dum dicitur mihi quotidie: Ubi est Deus tuus?
5 Haec recordatus sum, et effudi in me animam meam, quoniam transibo in locum tabernaculi admirabilis, usque ad domum Dei, in voce exsultationis et confessionis sonus epulantis.
6 Quare tristis es, anima mea? et quare conturbas me? Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi, salutare vultus mei,
7 et Deus meus. Ad meipsum anima mea conturbata est: propterea memor ero tui de terra Jordanis et Hermoniim a monte modico.
8 Abyssus abyssum invocat, in voce cataractarum tuarum; omnia excelsa tua, et fluctus tui super me transierunt.
9 In die mandavit Dominus misericordiam suam, et nocte canticum ejus; apud me oratio Deo vitae meae.
10 Dicam Deo: Susceptor meus es; quare oblitus es mei? et quare contristatus incedo, dum affligit me inimicus?
11 Dum confringuntur ossa mea, exprobraverunt mihi per singulos dies: Ubi est Deus tuus?
12 Quare tristis es, anima mea? et quare conturbas me? Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi, salutare vultus mei, et Deus meus.
1 Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks: so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
2 My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
3 My tears have been my meat day and night: while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?
4 Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself: for I went with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;
5 In the voice of praise and thanksgiving: among such as keep holy-day.
6 Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul: and why art thou so disquieted within me?
7 Put thy trust in God: for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance.
8 My God, my soul is vexed within me: therefore will I remember thee concerning the land of Jordan, and the little hill of Hermon.
9 One deep calleth another, because of the noise of the water-pipes: all thy waves and storms are gone over me.
10 The Lord hath granted his loving-kindness in the day-time: and in the night-season did I sing of him, and made my prayer unto the God of my life.
11 I will say unto the God of my strength, Why hast thou forgotten me: why go I thus heavily, while the enemy oppresseth me?
12 My bones are smitten asunder as with a sword: while mine enemies that trouble me cast me in the teeth;
13 Namely, while they say daily unto me: Where is now thy God?
14 Why art thou so vexed, O my soul: and why art thou so disquieted within me?
15 O put thy trust in God: for I will yet thank him, which is the help of my countenance, and my God.