Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Church Complaining

You've heard the phrases "The Church Militant" , "The Church Triumphant" "The Church Suffering". These terms refer, respectively, to us here on earth, the saints in heaven, and the souls in purgatory. That isn't to say that those of us in the militant branch don't suffer, it's just that our primary role  is Militant. That is, active: working out our salvation,and  spreading the gospel according to our state in life. But suffer we do, and we certainly let God know about it. Much of the time in the Liturgy, we express ourselves quite vocally as members of the Church Complaining.

This is a good thing. One of the many reasons that the Church recommends the Divine Office is that the psalms show us the right way to complain to God.

Today (Tuesday morning, week II in the psalter) both Psalm 43 and the canticle from Isaiah 38 give us a voice in which to express our misery while ever retaining a spirit of hope and trust in God. Since this week my personal problems do not feel like the end of the world, I'm praying these psalms more as a representative of the Church as a whole, attacked, as it is, by so many enemies from without and, sadly, within:
Defend me, O God, and plead my cause against a godless nation...from deceitful and cunning men, rescue me, O God.
Since you, O God, are my stronghold, why have you rejected me? Why do I go mourning, oppressed by the foe?
...and I will come to the altar of God, the God of my joy...why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God, I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

Didn't that end on a nice, positive note? But we are human, and it's hard to keep that cheerful, trusing mood up. Plunging back into misery is easier, so it's  back for a good wallow in Isaiah 38:
Day and night you give me over to torment; I cry out until dawn. LIke a lion he breaks all my bones...like a swallow I utter shrill cries; I moan like a dove. My eyes grow weak, gazing heavenward: O Lord, I am in straits; be my surety!

Just realized I have no idea what "surety" means. New Oxford American says: a person who takes responsibility for another's performance of an undertaking, e.g. appearing in court or paying a debt.

A very good word for what Christ is/does for us. And so, another cool Old Testament prophecy, right?

The canticle ends with confidence:
Fathers declare to their sons, O God, your faithfulness. The Lord is our savior; we shall sing to stringed instruments in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.

Today's psalmody concludes with Psalm 65, which is pure praise with lots of gorgeous creation imagery. Teaching us that yes, we can and should complain (just don't stop trusting all the while), but that at all times, our problems are little hills of beans compared to the glory of God. The glory that awaits us.