Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
clothed in majesty and glory,
wrapped in light as in a robe!
You stretch out the heavens like a tent.
Above the rains you build your dwelling.
You make the clouds your chariot,
and walk on the wings of the wind;
you make the winds your messengers
and flashing fire your servants.
Storms. God’s own fireworks.
He made the darkness his covering,
the dark waters of the clouds, his tent.
A brightness shone out before him
with hailstones and flashes of fire.
The Lord thundered in the heavens;
the Most High let his voice be heard.
He shot his arrows, scattered the foe,
flashed his lightnings, and put them to flight.
Beautiful words from Psalm 18, one of the psalms from Morning Prayer this morning. But even more marvelous are the verses that follow:
From on high he reached down and seized me;
he drew me forth from the mighty waters.
He snatched me from my powerful foe,
from my enemies whose strength I could not match.
They assailed me in the day of my misfortune,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me forth into freedom,
he saved me because he loved me.
In the midst of your storm, God is coming to you. He is coming to you to save you. Because He loves you. Be not afraid of the storm.
I don’t put my trust in the weather; I put my trust in God. All times are in His hands. We have had weeks of dryness, but even these speak to us of Him. This morning in Morning Prayer, we prayed these lines from Psalm 63: “My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.” May that be true of us; may we pine for Him, long for Him, like a dry, weary land without water.
Yet I took heart as we prayed the Canticle from Daniel this morning: “Cold and chill, bless the Lord. Dew and rain, bless the Lord.” All times are in His hands.
This morning I opened my Liturgy of the Hours to the Office of Readings for today (Tuesday, Week II, Ordinary Time). The first psalm to be prayed is Psalm 44. In the American Liturgy of the Hours, before each psalm there are two subheadings. The first is a summary of the psalm. The second is a Scripture verse or a saying of the Fathers that situates the psalm in the context of its New Testament fulfillment in Christ. “… the Fathers of the Church saw the whole psalter as a prophecy of Christ and the Church and explained it in this sense…” (Bl. John Paul II). I try to make it a habit of pausing before I pray each psalm to reflect on the two subheadings, especially so I can pray them remembering how they are fulfilled in Christ.
The first subheading for Psalm 44 is “The misfortune of God’s people”. An apt summary. The psalm describes national disaster and a search for God in the midst of it. “Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep? Why do you hide your face from us and forget our oppression and our misery?”
From that first subheading to the second, I have drawn an arrow in my book. The reason is to draw my attention to the wonderful news that we have in Christ. The second subheading is this from Romans 8.37: “We triumph over all these things through him who loved us.” What a wonderful word!
Another little gem of a comment on Psalm 38:9 by Amy Carmichael:
Lord, all my longing is known to Thee, my sighing is not hidden from Thee.
“Only a simple word. This afternoon, words would not come when I tried to pray, and this troubled me; and then it was as if He, Who is never far away, said, What does it matter about words, when all your desire is before Me? Perhaps you, too, find that words will not come when you wish they would. So I pass on my comfort.
“In St. Augustine’s words: ‘To Him Who is everywhere, men come, not by travelling but by loving.’”
I’m still delving deep into Amy Carmichael’s commentaries on the psalms. I can’t help but share the precious tidbits I keep finding. Here are her comments on that transition we find in the psalms from weeping to praise, that encouragement to look straight up and praise God with a song (when we least feel like it . . .):
“I have been noticing how in the Psalms every experience of distress turns to a straight look-up, and praise. I had not noticed till recently that the Psalm of the weaned child (Ps 131) ends like that: ‘O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.’ And today I read Ps 69, and there again I found the look-up that ends in praise. Kay translates v. 10, ‘I wept soul-tears’, and that is just what it is like at times, when all we have done to help another soul seems to end in failure. Even so, ‘I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving’ (v. 30).
“Surely this emphasis on praise in the Psalms is because to turn from discouraging things and look up with a song in one’s heart is the only sure way of continuance. We sink down into what David calls mire, slime, deep waters, if we do not quickly look up, and turning our back on the discouraging, set our faces again toward the sunrising.
“Perhaps that is what v. 32 of that Psalm means, ‘You who seek God, let your hearts revive.’
“I found all this very reviving. It led straight to ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’ [Is 40.31], and ‘Let them that love Him be as the sun when he rises in his might’[Jgs 5.31].” (Edges, p.159)
From Benedict XVI’s reflection on Psalm 136:
[W]e can say: The liberation from Egypt, the time in the desert, the entrance into the Promised Land and then the other problems are very distant from us; they are not part of our history. But we must be attentive to the fundamental structure of this prayer [of this psalm]. The fundamental structure is that Israel remembers the Lord’s goodness. In its history, there are so many dark valleys, so many passages through difficulty and death, but Israel remembers that God is good, and they can overcome in the dark valley — in the valley of death — because they remember. Israel remembers the Lord’s goodness and His power; that His mercy endures forever.
And this is also important for us: remembering the Lord’s goodness. Remembering becomes the strength of hope. Remembering tells us: God is; God is good, and His mercy is eternal. And thus, remembering opens the road to the future — even in the darkness of a day, of a moment in time, it is the light and star that guides us. Let us, too, remember the good; let us remember God’s eternal, merciful love. Israel’s history is already part of our memory as well, of how God revealed Himself, of how He created for Himself a people to be His own. Then God became man, one of us: he lived with us, suffered with us, died for us. He remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament and in the Word. It is a history, a remembrance of God’s goodness that assures us of His goodness: His love is eternal.
You can read his entire meditation here.
A week ago I gave a talk at Witnesses to Hope, and part of what I spoke about was the importance of thanking the Lord in all circumstances. This past weekend one of the women who had attended that night, passed on to me a prayer that she found in the September issue of The Word Among Us. Part of it goes like this:
Father, I choose today to go through my day blessing you, whether my circumstances are comfortable to me or not. I will bless you, even if the car won’t start or the kids’ commotion won’t stop. I will bless you in rain and in drought, in hot or cold, in feast or famine. I will bless you because you have rescued me from sin. I lift up your holy name and exalt your goodness because you are holy and righteous.
I will bless you, Father, when gas prices rise, and when my income fails. I will proclaim that you are good and you hold all things in the palm of your hand. When insects swarm, when crops fail, when stock markets falter, even when your favor seems to flee my life, still I will bless you. You are mysterious in your ways, yet compassionate in your wisdom. I will trust you, Lord, and bless you, God most high.
You can read (pray) the entire prayer here.
As I have mentioned before, Pope Benedict is doing a marvelous series on the psalms during his Wednesday audiences. Here is part of his address yesterday on Psalm 126:
Dear brothers and sisters, in our prayer we should look more often at how, in the events of our own lives, the Lord has protected, guided and helped us, and we should praise Him for all He has done and does for us. We should be more attentive to the good things the Lord gives to us. We are always attentive to problems and to difficulties, and we are almost unwilling to perceive that there are beautiful things that come from the Lord. This attention, which becomes gratitude, is very important for us; it creates in us a memory for the good and it helps us also in times of darkness. God accomplishes great things, and whoever experiences this — attentive to the Lord’s goodness with an attentiveness of heart — is filled with joy.
You can read the entire thing here.