Out of the Depths

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 130, a “Psalm of Ascents” in which the whole community joined in a prayer of intense supplication as they gathered at the Temple.

Although prayed as a community, the psalm is written in an individual voice, helping us to connect our times of personal desperation to the prayer.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD
    LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to my voice in supplication.

Psalm 130: 1-2

Jonah, in the chapter before today’s first reading, gives us a graphic image of what “the depths” feel like.  Not only is Jonah swallowed by the sea, but also by a whale which carries him – imprisoned – to the very bottom of the ocean!

Jonah prayed to the LORD, his God, from the belly of the fish:
Out of my distress I called to the LORD,
Who answered me;
From the womb of Sheol I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.

Jonah 2:2-3

Sheol” is a Hebrew term which could be translated as “place of the dead spirits”. It is different from the grave, which harbors the body. In other words, “Sheol” is a place where our spirits can die before we physically die.


We can experience this kind of spiritual death in so many ways. Some come upon us not by our own choice. Certainly in the illness of depression we feel this darkness. Profound bereavement and debilitating sickness can overwhelm us as well. Praying Psalm 130 may help at such times. But they also call for reaching out to friends, counselors, and professional support to help in our healing.


But the psalm more specifically addresses those times when we get caught in a deadly spiral due to our own sinful and selfish choices – by allowing prejudice, hate, willful ignorance or any of the seven deadly sins to overtake us.

Lord, hear my cry!
May your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, keep account of sins,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness
and so you are revered.

Psalm 130: 2-4

Psalm 130 tells us that God is present to us in both situations- whether our suffering is brought on by our own choices or not. God will walk us through to the Light when we open ourselves to Grace:

Let us wait patiently 
to discern God’s way,
For with God is kindness
    and plenteous redemption;
God will restore us
    from every darkness;
God’s way is mercy.

Psalm 130: 7-8

Let’s pray for that kind of faith in our hearts, and the hearts of those we love, especially for anyone suffering “the depths” right now.


Poetry: De Profundis – Christina Rossetti 

Oh why is heaven built so far, 
Oh why is earth set so remote? 
I cannot reach the nearest star 
That hangs afloat. 
I would not care to reach the moon, 
One round monotonous of change; 
Yet even she repeats her tune 
Beyond my range. 
I never watch the scatter'd fire 
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train, 
But all my heart is one desire, 
And all in vain: 
For I am bound with fleshly bands, 
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope; 
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands, 
And catch at hope. 

Music: Out of the Deep – John Rutter

Psalm 130, ‘Out of the deep have I called unto thee O Lord’ begins darkly with an unaccompanied cello solo in C minor, later giving way to a more positive C major at the words ‘for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption’.

Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.
If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?
For there is mercy with thee: therefore shalt thou be feared.
I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him; and in his word is my trust.
My soul fleeth unto the Lord before the morning watch; I say, before the morning watch.
O Israel, trust in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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