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. 


  1. Even though I have been praying the LOTH for a number of years (on and off) I still get confused whenever we get sent to the "Common of ..." Tues. was a Mem. of St. Barnabas (but you know that) and we have Off. of Readings - Hymn, etc. There are psalms in the Commons, but the guide sends us back to the regular psalms of the day. Why not stay in the psalms in the Commons? or is the whole issue settled by the default (I think I read this in your wonderful book)to the regular weekly psalms? Will the default change when we get to Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter?

    1. Since the revision of the breviary that occurred with Vatican II, the Church has a preference for maintaining the continuity of the 4-week psalter as much as possible, stick with it on memorials. If we felt obliged to observe every single memorial as a true "feast" we would be doing the psalms of Sunday week I an awful lot, wouldn't we? During Advent, Lent, etc., the four week psalter is still maintained, although the antiphons become season-specific as these seasons advance, as well as throughout the Easter season.
      This being said, if you have a particular devotion to any given saint, it probably constitutes a good "pastoral reason" to use the Commons to celebrate a memorial as if it were a feast. Religious orders celebrate many of their saints' memorials as feasts. For example, Franciscans do today--St.Anthony--as a feast rather than a memorial.
      And yes--you can always review pp 88-92 of my book when you're not sure what to do or why to do it!

  2. As for the "distracting part" of the Psalm. In Polish we have it translated as "God said it once and I heard it twice" and I've been told that this (kind of) repetition was meant to remind the reader that the stuff that'd follow is really important :)

    1. Ha! That makes a lot of sense out of this verse. Thanks.