Monday, March 4, 2013

Today's Liturgy is for the Birds

I love birds. When we lived in Southern California years ago we raised cockatiels, lovebirds, and finches in outdoor aviaries. Right now there's a crowd of feathered friends at the front porch feeders--chickadees, tree sparrows, gold finches, cardinals. I'm envious of  fellow blogger Sarah Reinhard, who just posted on Google+ that she'd seen her first robin on her farm in Ohio. (Although with six inches of snow here in Northwest PA, it would be cruel of me to wish the robins back at this point.)

My bird lover's heart was lifted today by several avian references in Morning Prayer and Office of Readings. Psalm 50 in the Office of Readings (Monday week III) has the Lord reminding us, "I know all the birds on the mountains." He's making more concrete the idea that "In Him everything continues in being." ( Col 1:17)

I like to think about God knowing that bright-eyed tufted titmouse and the friendly little chickadee out there on the porch railing.

In today's psalter for Morning Prayer is one of my favorite bird-psalms, #84. This one really fills me with spring-longings. The psalmist notices, and in a way envies, the swallows and sparrows that live and  build their nests on the walls and atop the pillars of the temple courts: "she lays her young by your altars, my king and my God." 

(This points out the difference between a poet and a practical person, who would notice those swallows and only think of the mess on the ground beneath, and rather than write a psalm about it, would grab the nearest stick and try to knock that nest down.)

Moving on, the reading of Morning prayer has God telling his people: "You have seen for yourselves how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself." Tolkien Geek that I am, I start thinking about Gwaihir the Windlord and the other giant eagles in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, who would come to the rescue and bear their charges away from the most dire and dangerous situations, saving their lives.


Next, the responsory verse: "God Himself will set me free, from the hunter's snare." Now, there are snares for all sorts of animals, but here I like to picture a bird being set free and flying away. I can pray this thinking of my own rescue from sin and death thru the Cross, in which case I see myself as a little sparrow or maybe a dove. (a pretty but really stupid bird,let me tell you.)

  Or I can read this verse thinking about the voice of Jesus. The Father rescued Him from those who entrapped Him--by His glorious resurrection. In which case,I think of Him as a mighty eagle. There's a lot to think of here, because rescue did not come for Our Lord until, it might seem, it was way too late for any rescue to occur. Something to think about when we imagine that God has not answered our prayers.
Looking ahead, I see that the bird/snare image is repeated tonight in Evening Prayer, Psalm 124: "Our life, like a bird, has escaped from the snare of the fowler. Indeed, the snare has been broken and we have escaped." 

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