Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Peace in the Midst of Trouble +Q&A

Pay attention to Psalm 62 at Evening Prayer tonight. The contrast between the strophes is startling. We take this kind of thing for granted in the psalms, so it's good to remind ourselves now and then how amazing--and instructive--it is.

The psalm opens with this lovely bit of inspiration:

In God alone is my soul at rest; *
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold, *
my fortress: I stand firm.

Doesn't that sound nice? Peaceful? If you only read this far you'd think the psalmist had it made in the shade. (huh! I don't think I've said or written "made in the shade" for several decades. Wonder what dusty cranny of my brain that popped out of.) But look what he says next:

How long will you all attack one man *
to break him down,
as though he were a tottering wall, *
or a tumbling fence?

Their plan is only to destroy; *
they take pleasure in lies.
With their mouth they utter blessing *
but in their heart they curse.

Clearly David did not find life to be all sweetness and light when he wrote this. It sounds like he is the victim of a particularly effective campaign of slander, gossip, and disinformtion by a crowd of two-faced individuals. Yet, after complaining about this problem, he goes back to that confident refrain:

In God alone be at rest, my soul; *
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold, *
my fortress: I stand firm.

and develops it further:
In God is my safety and glory, *
the rock of my strength.
Take refuge in God, all you people. *
Trust him at all times.
Pour out your hearts before him *
for God is our refuge.

next, he consoles himself by looking at his enemies from an eternal perspective:
Common folk are only a breath, *
great men an illusion.
Placed in the scales, they rise; *
they weigh less than a breath.

and then he reminds himself to avoid seeking solace from his troubles by relying on his own power and position:
Do not put your trust in oppression *
nor vain hopes on plunder.
Do not set your heart on riches *
even when they increase.

Finally this:
For God has said only one thing: *
only two do I know:
that to God alone belongs power *
and to you, Lord, love;
and that you repay each man *
according to his deeds.

For years I would get distracted by this last bit, wondering which item was the thing that God said, and which were the two the David knew. But since that distracted me from the main point of the psalm, I now dismiss that particular puzzle.

Anyway, Psalm 62 is a fantastic example of how we should pray. Trust.complain. Repeat.

Weekly Q&A time. Anything you don't understand about the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office is very likely to be answered right here. Just help yourself to a comment box.