Psalm 48: You’re Upheld

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

July 14, 2020


From 2016 

Today in Mercy, on this feast of St. Kateri, we pray for the grace to love others while still wisely discerning their words. May we listen, and allow our spirits to be formed, only by those words that reflect the love of God, respect for all God’s creation, and compassion toward all people. May we consistently eliminate from our life all words of hate, prejudice, indifference, and disrespect for ourselves and others.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which describes God’s greatness, especially as enshrined in the magnificent Holy City. Even enemy kings were so stunned by the city’s splendor that they fled before attacking, trembling in their stirrups.

I like to think about that trembling. When we were the youngest of nuns, about three months out of high school, we learned to say the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. This psalm was part of the Office and contained my favorite line:

Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.

Go ahead. You try saying it! It struck a few of us funny and gave us “church giggles”. Ever had them?

We were young. Everything was so new, and a little funny to us. It would take years of praying before God’s awesome magnificence – revealed in the long unfolding of life – to understand that “Tarshish” kind of soul-shaking.


But those years also have proven true the exultant refrain of today’s Responsorial:

God upholds his city for ever.

My dears, we are God’s beloved City. Let’s look back today at God’s merciful upholding of our lives through our many “Tarshishes” (dare you to say that one 😂)

We praise and thank you, Awesome Mercy!


Poem: Tyre – by Bayard Taylor who was an American poet, literary critic, translator, travel author, and diplomat. Taylor was born on January 11, 1825, in Kenneth Square in Chester County, PA. For my readers from other parts of the world, that’s about 30 minutes from where I live.❤️

A wonderful poem, not necessarily religious. But it is so beautifully crafted and will certainly help you imagine those “ships of Tarshish”.

THE wild and windy morning is lit with lurid fire;
The thundering surf of ocean beats on the rocks of Tyre, -- 
Beats on the fallen columns and round the headland roars, 
And hurls its foamy volume along the hollow shores,
And calls with hungry clamor, that speaks its long desire: 
‘Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?'


Within her cunning harbor, choked with invading sand,
No galleys bring their freightage, the spoils of every land, 
And like a prostrate forest, when autumn gales have blown, 
Her colonnades of granite lie shattered and o'erthrown; 
And from the reef the pharos no longer flings its fire,
To beacon home from Tarshish the lordly ships of Tyre.


Where is thy rod of empire, once mighty on the waves, --
Thou that thyself exalted, till Kings became thy slaves?
Thou that didst speak to nations, and saw thy will obeyed, --
Whose favor made them joyful, whose anger sore afraid, --
Who laid'st thy deep foundations, and thought them strong and sure, 
And boasted midst the waters, Shall I not aye endure?


Where is the wealth of ages that heaped thy princely mart? 
The pomp of purple trappings; the gems of Syrian art;
The silken goats of Kedar; Sabæa's spicy store;
The tributes of the islands thy squadrons homeward bore, 
When in thy gates triumphant they entered from the sea 
With sound of horn and sackbut, of harp and psaltery?


Howl, howl, ye ships of Tarshish! the glory is laid waste: 
There is no habitation; the mansions are defaced.
No mariners of Sidon unfurl your mighty sails;
No workmen fell the fir-trees that grow in Shenir's vales 
And Bashan's oaks that boasted a thousand years of sun, 
Or hew the masts of cedar on frosty Lebanon.


Rise, thou forgotten harlot! take up thy harp and sing: 
Call the rebellious islands to own their ancient king:
Bare to the spray thy bosom, and with thy hair unbound, 
Sit on the piles of ruins, thou throneless and discrowned!


There mix thy voice of wailing with the thunders of the sea, 
And sing thy songs of sorrow, that thou remembered be!
Though silent and forgotten, yet Nature still laments
The pomp and power departed, the lost magnificence:
The hills were proud to see thee, and they are sadder now; 
The sea was proud to bear thee, and wears a troubled brow, 
And evermore the surges chant forth their vain desire: 
‘Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?'

Music: I Will Carry You – Sean Clive

Psalm 50 Redux: Sacrifice of Praise

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 13, 2020

I have no past reflection on today’s readings since in 2016 they came on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and in 2018 on the Feast of St. Benedict – both of whom I chose to highlight on those days. So here is a reflection from the Creighton University archives:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 50. Today’s passage is what I call the “empty words” section where God leaves no doubt about what does and does not please him.

Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you?


We all know people who talk a good game about religion but they’re mean, selfish, and miserable to be around (present company excluded of course 🙄) And we all know people who actually distort religion to promote themselves while debasing and marginalizing others.

In Psalm 50, God says, “Cut it out!”. God doesn’t want burnt offerings or empty words. God wants “a sacrifice of praise”. So what exactly might that mean?


Walter Brueggemann, in talking about the similar Psalm 51, describes a sacrifice of praise like this:

It must be an intimate, yielding act of trustful submission of “spirit and heart,” not “sacrifice and burnt offerings”. The speaker (psalmist), now situated in glad praise, can imagine an intimacy and communion in which contact between God and self is available and in which the distinction between the two parties is clear and acknowledged—God in splendor, the self in “brokenness”.


When we pray from a humble understanding such as Bruggemann describes, our souls open to God’s love for us and for all Creation. We move from being the center of an insecure, self-absorbed universe to seeing ourselves in inextricable communion with all Life whose Center and Source is Love itself.

The one that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
and to the one who goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.


Poetry: one of mine today.

Praise
is the place
where I am lost
in You,
the exchange 
that
has only 
You speaking
without sound, with nothing
but my awed
silence.

Music: Alvin Slaughter – Sacrifice of Praise

Lord I lift a song of worship
For Your glory and Your grace
Let my heart reveal all my words fail to say
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
(Repeat)
On the mountains, in the valley
As I wait in my secret place
I will trust,trust in the name of the Lord
Now receive this sacrifice of praise
Now receive this sacrifice of praise
You're my shield You're my shelter
From the storm and from the rain
Cover me beneath the shadow of Your wings
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah to Your name
For all You've done
You are and evermore will be
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Of praise
Of praise----

Psalm 85: The Kiss

Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 4, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a testament to hope for the future. Couldn’t we all use a dose of the right now?

Glancing through Twitter last night, I came across a tweet asking for prayers because the writer had “begun to lose hope in the future”. I thought of and prayed for that person this morning when I read Psalm 85, a song of unmitigated hope and trust.


Despite the destruction of the Temple and their exile into Babylonian captivity, the Israelites remained convinced that God had promised them a future of blessedness.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.

Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Trusting in God’s fidelity, they are freed to imagine and wait for that future’s slow and mysterious fulfillment. Note the future tense of the verbs in these verses:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Early 16th C. depiction of the Four Daughters of God: Mercy, Truth, Justice, and Peace (Angel in the middle)

The Israelites trusted God’s desire and will for their good. They so strongly believed in a blessed future that they were able to access it even in the midst of a disappointing present.

By faith, we too enter the timelessness of God’s love, finding – even in life’s challenges – the path to joy and peace. The “shalls” in the above verse are achieved through our belief in, and action for them. This is the power of the covenant between God and us.


Our faithful lives invite: 

  • God’s kiss of justice and peace
  • God’s springing forth in truth
  • God’s gaze of justice and mercy over Creation

God and we walk beside one another on the way to a sacred future where the journey is also the destination.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.


May we be given
the grace to believe
that we already live
within the wholeness of God.
May our life be
a hopeful and joyful witness
to that wholeness.


Poetry: Grace – Wendell Berry

Even though written as an autumn poem, these verses fit today’s reflection. Wendell Berry’s thoughts grace evoke a sense of hope and patience.

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

Music:  Mercy Like Rain, written by Rory Cooney, sung here by Alma deRojas

Let me taste your mercy like rain on my face;
here in my life, show me your peace.
Let us see with our own eyes your day breaking bright.
Come, O Morning; come, O Light!
 
What God has spoken I will declare:
Peace to the people of God everywhere.
God's saving presence is close at hand:
glory as near as our land!
 
Here faithful love and truth will embrace;
here peace and justice will come face to face.
God's truth shall water the earth like a spring,
while  justice will bend down and sing.
 
God will keep the promise indeed;
our land will yield the food that we need.
Justice shall walk before you that day,
clearing a path, preparing your way.
 
Let me taste your mercy like rain on my face;
here in my life,  show me your peace.
Let us see with our own eyes your day breaking bright.
Come, O Morning; come, O Light!

Psalm 19: God’s Perfect Law

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 2, 2020


Previous Prayer on Today’s Readings
June 30, 2016: Today, in Mercy, we pray in praise of God’s laws which hold the sun and moon in place, and make night and day turn softly into each other. We pray to love God’s law in our own hearts, respecting life in all its stages and expressions. May we see our own life as a marvelous manifestation of God’s divine balance, and may we so honor its risings and settings.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19. The entire psalm opens with a familiar hymn to the Beauty of God’s Creation. and closes with a meditation on the beauty of God’s Law. Today’s verses focus on the psalm’s second half, lauding God’s flawless law. 

In both cadence and meaning, Psalm 19 is a song of balance. It dances back and forth between the immutable elegance of God’s Law and the perfection it offers to those who pursue it.

The concept of “law” might not immediately engender spiritual enthusiasm in our hearts. In our modern culture, the word “law” has become removed from the biblical sense of “justice”. 

In modern parlance, “law” is a set proclamations we may or may not agree with. The validity of this “law” depends on the morality of those who make it.

But law and justice in scripture are meant to be reflections of God’s perfection . They are the means to attaining right-balance in our lives, and in all Creation, according the God’s desire for us.

In fact, living a true biblical dimension of law and justice may require us, at times, to live outside a cultural sense of these words.  This happens when we protest “unjust laws” – a phrase whose seeming contradiction shows us just how difficult living justly might be.



How do we stay sharply and accurately aware of those contradictions so that we may discern a life of true Godly justice and right-balance in a culture that has become confused and calloused?

Psalm 19 is a good guide. Trusting its advice, we will find the virtues that lead to joy and peace.

Any “law” which does not lead to these blessings needs to be examined in the light of this beautiful psalm.


Poetry: God’s Grandeur– In Gerard Manley Hopkins’s exquisite poem, we see the magnificence of nature juxtaposed with human fragility.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Music: More Precious Than Gold – Acappella


They are more precious than gold 
Sweeter than the honey 
They are more precious than gold 
And the honey comb 

The laws of the Lord are perfect 
Reviving the soul, reviving the soul 
Reviving the soul 

They are more precious than gold 
Sweeter than the honey 
They are more precious than gold 
And the honey comb 

They make wise the simple 
They give joy to the heart 
Light to the eyes 
Enduring forever 
Righteous altogether 
They bring great reward 

The laws of the Lord are perfect 
Reviving the soul, reviving the soul 
Reviving the soul 

May the words of my mouth 
And the meditation of my heart 
Be pleasing in your sight 
O Lord my rock 
My rock and my redeemer 
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer 

The laws of the Lord are perfect 
Reviving the soul, reviving the soul 
Reviving the soul 
They are more precious than gold Sweeter than the honey 
They are more precious than gold 
And the honey comb

Psalm 5: You Are God’s Flute

Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2020

A Brief Prayer on Today’s Gospel from 2016
Today, in Mercy, we pray for all those tossed on a stormy sea, like Christ’s disciples. For all who are alone, in darkness or full of fear. There is no storm through which God cannot come to us. May we always trust that God is taking us to a new grace beyond the storm.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 5, the first one of several to mention “the Name of God” as a theme.  The psalm, a morning prayer to be “accompanied by a flute”, is a mix of lament and exaltation – like many of our own morning prayers, no doubt.

At dawn I bring my plea expectantly before you.
For you, O God, delight not in wickedness;

the evil one does not remain with you;
the arrogant may not stand in your sight.


Now, first off in the morning, we’re probably not going to talk to God about wickedness, evil, and arrogance unless we went to bed pretty upset the night before. The psalmist apparently has “slept on” his troubles without complete resolution.

We had a dear, wise Directress of Postulants who, on many an evening, patiently listened to our various vocational waverings. We were young. Just like the disciples in Matthew’s boat, we really weren’t as sure of our calls as we would like to have been. Sister Inez’s repeated advice soothed a lot of our growing pains, “Just give it to God and get a good night’s sleep. Things will be clearer in the morning.” And they always were.


As the psalmist prays this morning prayer, things clear as well. After a brief diatribe, the prayer realizes:

But I, through the abundance of your mercy,
will enter into your house.
I will bow down toward your holy sanctuary

in awe of your greatness.


Psalm 5 beautifully complements today’s Gospel. Jesus is in the storm-tossed boat peacefully “sleeping on it”. The disciples, on the other hand, cannot just “give” their terror over to God. When they wake Jesus, terrified, he gently reprimands them, “O ye of little faith”.

Jesus wants them and us, to realizes what the psalmist realizes in verse 12:

All who trust in God will be glad
and forever shout for joy.
God protects them 
and their lives are a melody
to God’s beloved Name


Poetry: A Hole in a Flute ~ Hafiz

I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ's breath moves through; 
listen to this music.

I am the concert 
from the mouth of every creature 
singing with the myriad chorus.

I am a hole in a flute 
that the Christ's breath moves through; 
listen to this music.

Music: The Edge of Night by a group called “Siyotanka” which is actually the Lakota name for this type of flute.

Psalm 34: Praying with Angels

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

June 29, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this special feast, we pray with Psalm 34.  

David sings. Sheep listens.

This psalm has the most delightful introduction:

Of David, when he feigned madness before the King, who drove him out and he went away.

The Psalm refers to a time when young David was fleeing from Saul who was jealous of David’s impending takeover as king. David seeks harbor with King Achish, but later realizes that was a mistake. Fearing the King, David pretends for be insane in order to be dismissed as harmless.


Serious as the situation is, picturing it makes me smile. Have you ever wanted to get away from someone who had hijacked you into a one-sided conversation? You might pretend you had an appointment, or medical necessity, or anything just to get away.


Liberation of Saint Peter from Prison by Pieter de Hooch

Peter, in our first reading, doesn’t need pretense to escape the wrathful imprisonment of King Herod. All he needs is the angel which God has sent him.

Thus, Psalm 34 is a most appropriate choice for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It is the first psalm in which an angel is mentioned and here, as in Acts, she is a rescuer.

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear the LORD, and delivers them.

Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the one who takes refuge in God.


I’ll be honest, I neglect my angels. I believe in them. I trust them. But basically I forget about them unless I’m scared out of my mind about something. In those situations, I call out loudly to them to make sure their “encampment” around me is still intact!

I think it would be a lot better to get to know our angels, and let them get to know us. Inviting them to accompany us in prayer might be a good way to start. And, of course, remember that prayer so many of our parents taught us. We never grow too “mature” to whisper it at night. Maybe even Peter said something like it in that dark prison long ago.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this night be at my side
to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.
Amen


St. Peter And The Angel
 - Denise Levertov

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained--

unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening--
out!
     And along a long street's
majestic emptiness under the moon:

one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed...

And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel's feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy. 

Music:  Gloria in Excelcis Deo – J.S. Bach
(I thought one of the angels’ greatest hits, first recorded over the hills of Bethlehem, might be appropriate today)

Psalm 139: God of Our Secrets

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

June 24; 2020

Psalm 139 (stained glass window by Ted Felen)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on the great feast of John the Baptist, we pray with Psalm 139, the prayer of awed gratitude.

June 24th is a pivotal date in my life. It became so in 1966 on the day I was first professed as a Sister of Mercy. Our then Mother General, who chose our Profession date, had deep devotion to John, and often spoke to us wide-eyed novices about his holiness.


In one such lecture, she solemnly pronounced the core of his sanctity – how he considered himself in relation to his cousin Jesus:

He must increase and I must decrease. 

Mother Bernard told us that this was the key to the spiritual life: let God grow in you as self recedes.


It was a beautiful lesson but a hard one to swallow. We were a gaggle of 20-somethings fired up to find our adulthoods. We were all about growing – making our statement in the world! 

Learning to discover, rely on, and magnify the hidden omnipresence of God within would – at least for some of us – takes a lifetime, just as it probably should.


Psalm 139 is a prayer that can lead us to God’s powerful secrets in our hearts, ready to be unfolded as the years pass. These treasures include:

  • that we are made of earth and stars and must find vigor in harmony with them
  • that we are woven of both the dances and the dyings of our mothers, fathers, and ancestors – each a mysterious blessing
  • that as we live our lives, it is God living within us
  • that God knows, loves, and redeems everything about us

June 24, 1966 came clothed in noontime sun and trumpet blasts all those years ago – shouting youth, hope, and a good deal of ambition.

The date’s passing iterations have gently mellowed the song God sings to me. Now it goes something like this:


Autumn Colors – Zamfir

Today, the date’s rising carries the sustained melody of a gentle pan flute. Within its breathy music, I cherish the gift of years, how intimately accompanied and tenderly cared for I have been … even from my mother’s womb until now.

May each of us today – in whatever season and sound of the journey – pray with our hidden, ever-present God who cherishes our being.


Called to Become
From Edwina Gateley, There Was No Path So I Trod One (1996, 2013)

You are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one is called to become
Who you are called to be.
It does not matter
How short or tall
Or thick-set or slow
You may be.
It does not matter
Whether you sparkle with life
Or are as silent as a still pool.
Whether you sing your song aloud
Or weep alone in darkness.
It does not matter
Whether you feel loved and admired
Or unloved and alone
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one's shadow
Should cloud your becoming.
No one's light
Should dispel your spark.
For the Lord delights in you.
Jealously looks upon you
And encourages with gentle joy
Every movement of the Spirit
Within you.
Unique and loved you stand.
Beautiful or stunted in your growth
But never without hope and life.
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
This becoming may be
Gentle or harsh.
Subtle or violent.
But it never ceases.
Never pauses or hesitates.
Only is—
Creative force—
Calling you
Calling you to become
A perfect creation.

Music: If I Take the Wings of Morning – John Rutter

Psalm 16: A Night Prayer

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Click here for readings

psalm16 path2

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Psalm 16. Verses 1-10 strike me as a perfect “nighttime” prayer.

In his musical Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Weber lyricizes about the “beauty of the night”.  

It’s a soulful song, and in itself could be used for prayer, especially when we pray in times of spiritual darkness or unknowing. In many ways, it reminds me of John of the Cross’s poem, “The Dark Night”. (Verses below for our poetry today).


All of us have times when our prayer seems to echo back to us without a response from God. Our faith may be tested and our trust stretched very thin. God seems so distant that we wonder what happened to cloud the relationship! We linger in a spiritual darkness that is dry and disconcerting.

Dali John of Cross
Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali (1951) – Kenmore Art Gallery, Glasgow

These times in the spiritual life were experienced and described by writers like John of the Cross and the author of “The Cloud of Unknowing”. They are times when our experiences and prayer invite us to a new and deeper understanding of God. They ask us to let go of our intellectual certainties and abandon ourselves to God without demands.


Recently, while describing how disappointed he was in God, a friend told me that he had “lost” his faith long ago. Well, obviously, he hadn’t because he still held expectations of the “God” who was disappointing him. I told him that I had lost my faith a few times too, and that every time I got it back, it was new and deeper than the one I had lost. My “septuagenarian God” is very different from the one I came to follow when I was eighteen!


Our minds and souls are so small next to God’s Infinity. But slowly, through a life of prayerful fidelity and loving service, God stretches our capacity to know and return a Love which is beyond reason.

But the stretching times can be dark – times when Psalm 16 is a comforting prayer.

I like to pray with this transliteration by Steven Mitchell – A Book of Psalms

Unnamable God,
I feel you with me at every moment.
You are my food, my drink,
my sunlight, and the air I breathe.
You are the ground I have built on
and the beauty that rejoices my heart. 

I give thanks to you at all times
for lifting me from my confusion,
for teaching me in the dark
and showing me the path of life. 

I have come to the center of the universe;
I rest in your perfect love.
In your presence there is fullness of joy
and blessedness forever and ever.

Music: Path of Life – The Dameans

Poetry: The Dark Night – Stanzas Of The Soul

( Some people find John of the Cross surprising, if not strange or shocking, in his imagery. He was a grace-filled mystic and poet whose images of God expanded beyond the boundaries we might be accustomed to. And that very extravagance is John’s beauty — he invites us to a place we might not otherwise think to go.)

1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
— ah, the sheer grace! —
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
— ah, the sheer grace! —
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
— him I knew so well —
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Psalm 121: A Climbing Song

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 8, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 121, another of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent.

(Placing the hymn early today. You might want to play it as you read the psalm.)
Waldorf Davies: Psalm 121 St. John’s College Choir Cambridge

 


climber

Picture the ancient pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem. They carry in their hearts all the joys and burdens of their lives, just like everyone else in the world.

Psalm 121 eyes
What blesses them particularly is that they have turned their eyes toward God as they journey, singing both their griefs and their delights in hope and thanksgiving.


The psalm moves from a plea for help in the beginning: 

I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?

To, at the close, a triumphant confidence in that help in perpetuity:

The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.


May we, too, fix our eyes on God,
vigilantly seeking God’s truth
at the core of our experiences.

May our faithful, lifelong dialogue with God
lead us, like the psalmist,
to the same blessed assurance.


Just for a little added joy, here is the glorious hymn Blessed Assurance
– sung by CeCe Winans honoring Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors.


Poem: Prayer by David Gioia

(In this poem, we glimpse one particular pilgrim and the prayer he is carrying. The poet addresses God in lovely ways, ( I really loved “Jeweller of the spiderweb”). Finally he prays for protection for a beloved. I think we’ve all prayed that kind of prayer.)

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.
Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.
Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper traveling the wires.
Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,
in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore
and the harsh falcon its flightless young.

Psalm 71: From My Youth ’til Now

Saturday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 6, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 71.

Psalm 71_16

This is the psalm of someone who has loved God all their lives. Theirs is a proven love, a long faithfulness.

O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.


As we look back over our own lives in humility and gratitude, we might speak a similar prayer.

Some of us have been blessed with an early faith that has illuminated every page of our life story. Some of us have come by it a little harder, or a little later, or with frequent clouds around our light.

But we are still here praying, aren’t we – still reaching, like the psalmist, for God’s steadying hand.

My mouth shall be filled with your praise,
with your glory day by day.
Cast me not off in my old age;
as my strength fails, forsake me not.


The psalmist’s enduring relationship with God is rooted in this understanding: that every moment of our lives reveals the face of a just and merciful God. Our part is to believe and trust enough to discover that Face and reveal it to others.

But I will always hope
and praise you ever more and more.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.


king harpThe psalmist promises to witness to God’s faithfulness by singing with the lyre. In his letter today, Paul charges Timothy to do the same thing (sans lyre):

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient …


In our Gospel, Jesus says that the proclamation of our faith must be sincere, generous, and humble, never used to politicize and advance our stature over others, or as a tool for our personal aggrandizement:

scribeBeware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext,
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.

 


Oh, so many modern applications come to mind regarding this advice! But, for today, let’s just examine our own hearts.

Music: Psalm 71 – Jason Silver


Poetry: For Light
 by John O’Donohue

Light cannot see inside things.
That is what the dark is for:
Minding the interior,
Nurturing the draw of growth
Through places where death
In its own way turns into life.

In the glare of neon times,
Let our eyes not be worn
By surfaces that shine
With hunger made attractive.

That our thoughts may be true light,
Finding their way into words
Which have the weight of shadow
To hold the layers of truth.

That we never place our trust
In minds claimed by empty light,
Where one-sided certainties
Are driven by false desire.

When we look into the heart,
May our eyes have the kindness
And reverence of candlelight.

That the searching of our minds
Be equal to the oblique
Crevices and corners where
The mystery continues to dwell,
Glimmering in fugitive light.

When we are confined inside
The dark house of suffering
That moonlight might find a window.

When we become false and lost
That the severe noon-light
Would cast our shadow clear.

When we love, that dawn-light
Would lighten our feet
Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight
Would illuminate treasure
In the fields of memory.

And when we come to search for God,
Let us first be robed in night,
Put on the mind of morning
To feel the rush of light
Spread slowly inside
The color and stillness
Of a found word.