Sunday, January 15, 2017

Of Rabbits and Rocks in Psalm 104

Although I haven't brought this up for quite a while, I'm always intrigued  by all things "Nature" in the Psalms. If you click on the "Nature Notes from the Psalms" label you will see what I mean.  From eagles to ravens, from oxen to deer, from snowflakes to hoarfrost to seas and stars, I  pounce on every little bit reference to flora, fauna, weather, geography and astronomny with delight.

This morning as I did the Office of Readings, for the upmteenth time, verse 18 of Psalm 104 got stuck in my craw. Goats in the lofty mountains? Fine. But rabbits finding refuge in the rocks?

Not any rabbits I know. Here in the USA, rabbits hide in tall grass, low shrubbery, and windfalls in fields and on the edges of forests. I'm sure that occasionally a rock with a jutting ledge or depression beneath it comes in handy, but certainly rocks are not the habitual, er, habitat of rabbits here. British and Eurpoean rabbits are the ones that dig holes in the ground, creating colonies known as warrens. So I don't think rocks play a big part for them, either.

Other bible translations have used the word "conies" in this verse, a multi-purpose English word that can mean rabbit but also other large rodents such as marmots and pikas. (Pikas are the cutest little things. Look them up sometime.) But it seems that the rock-loving creature in this psalm is probably the Syrian Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax. The Hebrew word in the psalm transliterates as Shaphan. Here's a picture of some young ones in their rocky habitat:
source: wikimedia commons
Hyraxes measure between 12 and 28 inches long, and weigh anywhere from 5 to 11 pounds. Although they look like rodents, scientists who classify animals believe they have more in common with elephants and manatees.

I'm afraid there's not much in this post to help people grow in holiness or in their understanding of the Liturgy of the Hours. But if, like me, you delight in the beauty and diversity of God's creation, then maybe I've made your day. And maybe the sight of these little creatures, obviously secure under that sheltering rock, will help us reflect on the Lord as our rock, refuge, fortress, and hiding place in times of distress. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Why Must God Be Praised?

Essential to understanding and appreciation of the Liturgy (both holy Mass and Divine Office) is knowing the whys and wherefores of praise, aka adoration or giving glory to God. We've discussed that at various times on this blog and there's a section devoted to it in my book.  But it's always good to revisit this topic. Here's a fresh voice from one of my Facebook friends. Harold O. Koenig is a former deputy sheriff, third order Dominican, freelance sheep-shearer, and, in a former, non-catholic life, an Episcopalian priest.  Note that the following was just an informal Facebook post. I'm thinking I'd like to ask him to do some longer and polished-er stuff for this blog in the future. 

They ask us, "Why do you praise God?"
They scoff, "How insecure must a deity be who always demands such praise?"
I answer thus: The sunset does not need you to praise it. YOU need to praise it.
My color vision is defective. Some sunsets leave me unmoved. The sunset does not lose thereby. I am the loser.
When someone calls me to admire a sunset, he wants to share a wonder. He invites me to praise the Good. The Good does not profit by my praise, nor suffer loss if I do not praise. I profit. Or I am deprived.
Therefore, when we speak of prayer and praise as a matter of justice, we ought not to take too ... financial a point of view. We ask of Lay Dominicans that they pray the office not to lay a burden on them but to offer them the gift of doing what is just, of doing something even better than praising the sunset.
Suppose we made a rule that every day you must look west at sunset and see what you can see.I imagine that on rainy or cold days you might wonder what was the point. You might grumble as you rose from your chair and put on your coat.
But what do YOU think would happen over time? I suspect your joy and appreciation would increase.
Who is it that benefits when you do justice? You do.