Saturday, December 2, 2017
Sunday, November 12, 2017
It's quite a story. Do go and read it.
And here's more information on his show: Tolton--from Slave to Priest
Thursday, November 2, 2017
After returning from All Soul's mass, I noticed a comment from a reader on the previous post. Josemaria posted a link to the above video and added, "who does this lady remind you of?"
Well, yeah. Same first name. And for those of you who haven't seen or heard me, I'll add: similar hairstyle, similar eyeglasses, and similar voice. I also did a little internet searching to learn that Dr. Spezzano and I are pretty close in age.
Spooky, but good kind of spooky. Thanks, holy souls! I have a feeling that learning about Dr. Spezzano today of all days was arranged by them. I'll be chuckling as I pray the rest of the Office for the Dead for all of them today.
The above is a great lecture. It's an hour long, but worth it. You will learn a lot.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Some of our Protestant friends celebrate Reformation Day today, and even make this event into a modified Halloween party, with candy and pumpkins and whatnot. This Catholic author finds that ironic, and explains why in an amusing essay.
But in the interests of ecumenism I want to give credit where credit is due. Martin Luther always maintained what the Catholic Church and Church Fathers have always taught about the importance for praying the Psalms. Here are his words explaining that with great eloquence.
Monday, October 23, 2017
Monday, October 16, 2017
I am a great fan of Cardinal Sarah. Lately I've been using his book The Power of Silence for reading during Eucharistic adoration, and find that is helps me stay focused and aware of why I'm there. I also reflected on Cardinal Sarah's insights while attending an Extraordinary form mass last week. (I've always been a bit hyperactive and so, while appreciating the EF mass in principle I sometimes find it difficult to get through in practice.) So I'm taking what Cardinal Sarah says seriously, and thought we could discuss it here.
His remarks about breviary apps were a tiny part of a much longer speech given recently to the Roman Forum on Summorum Pontificum. The whole speech is worth reading, but for our purposes we want to read at least this paragraph, where he says that, when we embark on liturgical prayer:
Secondly, I must—somehow—manage to put aside, even if this must be temporary, the world and its constant demands. I cannot participate fully and fruitfully in the Sacred Liturgy if my focus is elsewhere. We all benefit from the advances of modern technology, but the many (maybe too many?) technological devices upon which we rely can enslave us in a constant stream of communication and demands for instant responses. We must leave this behind if we are to celebrate the liturgy properly. Perhaps it is very practical and convenient to pray the breviary with my own mobile phone or tablet or another electronic device, but it is not worthy: it desacralizes prayer. These apparatuses are not instruments consecrated and reserved to God, but we use them for God and also for profane things! Electronic devices must be turned off, or better still they can be left behind at home when we come to worship God. I have spoken previously of the unacceptability of taking photographs at the Sacred Liturgy, and of the particular scandal that this gives when it is done by clergy vested for liturgical service. We cannot focus on God if we are busy with something else. We cannot hear God speaking to us if we are already occupied communicating with someone else, or behaving as a photographer.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Thursday, August 31, 2017
I came across Cardinal Schuster several years ago while writing a booklet to go with an Ignatius Press release of an Italian film about Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, Father of Mercy. Not to get too sidetracked from my subject, but Blessed Carlo was an Italian military chaplain who, after the war, founded homes for the many war orphans and in particular those maimed by landmines. Cardinal Schuster was a mentor of his.
Then, this month, I bought an audiobook of Beneath a Scarlet Sky, a novel centered on the life of a teenage boy who, under the direction of a priest, helped many Jews cross the alps into Switzerland during the war. Cardinal Schuster and other Catholic clergy figured prominently in this book, since he spearheaded an underground railroad to save Jews from death in concentration camps.
So yesterday, as I finished the novel, I found a post on Facebook telling me that it was Cardinal Schuster's memorial on local calendars where he is venerated. (This would be Italy for certain, and also that of the Benedictine order, since he was originally a Benedictine monk.)
Don't ask me why an Italian had a German sounding name. I guess his father had German blood.
Anyhow, the facebook post that alerted me to the memorial also quoted these lovely words from Blessed Schuster about the breviary, which he in turn had found on the New Liturgical Movement website:
I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude. (Blessed Card. Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, 1929-54)
Friday, August 11, 2017
Ron Zeilinger of Dismas Ministry (see my previous post) told me today that after he recently gave a prisoner a four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours, he received a note which said,
"Thank you for sending the Liturgy of the Hours. It is like a river of pure water."
My f irst thoughts about that were:
1. Do I receive my daily liturgical prayer with the same clarity, the same joy, the same gratitude as that prison inmate? (Answer: no, not always, and I'd better do something about that.)
2. I'm going donate more breviaries to Dismas Ministry.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Recently I heard from Dismas director Ron Zeilinger, thanking us for past support and again reminding us that they are happy to receive donations of used (or new) breviaries. These could be single volume OR four-volume sets.
Alternatively, you could send them a cash donation, which you could either designate as being for the purchase of breviaries, or just as a general donation, since Dismas Ministry has a number of wonderful programs and services for inmates.
Please be generous in supporting this great spiritual work of mercy.
Update: although you can find this information at the Dismas website, here are the relevant addresses:
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Problem is, Pauline USA let these go out of print some time ago. So our choices are to search ebay and other secondhand book sites for used copies, or to endure the expense and possibly risky business of ordering a Pauline Africa breviary from Kenya. As noted in many other places on this blog, the Kenyan breviary has many advantages, including the revised Grail psalter, recently canonized saint propers, and additional Sunday antiphons for the Gospel canticles.
Another Pauline edition was brought to my attention by readers Leonard Villanueva and John Manlapig. It's a 1993 edition, with gold edges. The price of 750 pesos comes out to just under $15 in US currency. This is not an updated edition (like the one from Kenya). It's the same text we have here in the USA, althought I"m guessing there are a few more recent saints in the proper of saints.
I have no idea if it's possible to order one by mail or what the postage would be if it was. But if you have friends or relatives in the Phillipines who come to the USA to visit, you could always have them bring you one.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
If you use an American breviary, you won't find the optional memorial of St. Sharbel Makhul in your proper of saints. But it's tomorrow, July 24th.
This Maronite rite saint from Lebanon, who died in 1882, has gained quite a following in recent years, probably due to his reputation as a miracle worker. There are a number of dramatic cures attributed to his intercession, including that of a blind woman in Arizona who venerated the saint's touring relics in 2016.
If you want to include St. Sharbel in your Office tommorrow, you would use the regular psalter for Monday week IV. If you wish, after the psalmody you could go to the Common of Pastors and use that from the reading onwards, but staying with the entire Monday psalter is fine, too. Then, use this concluding prayer, which you can find at ibreviary.com
O God, who called the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhlūf
to the solitary combat of the desert
and imbued him with all manner of devotion,
grant us, we pray,
that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion,
we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Now, those of you who use the Office of Readings are wondering if there is a second reading for St. Sharbel. ibreviary does not have one. Universalis.com does have one for him, a reading from St. Ignatius to the Magnesians. Now this is curious, because my 2009 Pauline African breviary has a different reading, "from the letters of Amonius, hermit". I can't find it online, so I cannot copy and paste it here. And my dedication to this cause does not extend to being willing to type out 800+ words here on the blog. Plus that may violate copyright.
I understand that St. Sharbel even has devotees (and has answered prayers for) Muslims. So we might do well tomorrow to ask his intercession for the conversion of many more of them.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Here's the conclusion of a meditation on Psalm 81, verse 7. Many thanks to Harold Koenig for sharing these thoughts with us. It's been a wonderful example of how daily liturgical prayer, although offered primarily on behalf of, and in union with, the Church universal, will also bring personal gifts from God to the one who prays it.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Part 2: A tongue I do not know
Tomorrow: Freed from the burden
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Tomorrow (Friday) is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That means Evening Prayer I tonight (Thursday) would be that of the Sacred Heart. (No more Sts.Thomas More&John Fisher)
For the same reason, the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist does not get an Evening Prayer I, because solemnities of the Lord trump solemnities of saints.
Thank you, Mike.
However, the Baptist's Nativity does get an Evening Prayer II, even on a Saturday evening, because solemnities trump Sundays in ordinary time.
I love all the liturgical folklore regarding this feast. For example, it is noted that from the day of the Baptist's birth, just after the summer solstice, the days start getting gradually shorter each day until that of winter. Then, from around the time of Christmas, they begin getting longer once more. Remember how John the Baptist says of Jesus, "He must increase, I must decrease."? I've always loved that.
Today is St. Thomas More and John Fisher. The second reading, from St. Thomas letter from prison, is one of the highlights of the the Office of Readings, I think. It bears more frequent reading than once a year. It's both bracing and comforting at the same time.
Thomas More tends to overshadow St. John Fisher, since there is no Oscar winning film about his life. And today, on their shared memorial, we only hear from Thomas. However, St. John Fisher speaks to us twice in the Office of Readings during the rest of the year. His commentaries on Psalms 101 and 120 are excerpted on Friday of week 3 in ordinary time, and Monday in the 5th week of lent, respectively. You might want to peruse those today if you have a 4 volume breviary.
Friday, June 16, 2017
Or if you are not an OOR regular, and don't feel you have the time, then just do the second readings. These are among the handful of readings we get through the year that specifically address the importance, the greatness, the beauty, and the excellence of praying the Psalms.
When you do your morning and evening prayer, day in, day out, year after year, there is a temptation to stop paying attention. To feel that it is getting old. No longer fresh and meaningful that way it used to be when you first began doing the Liturgy of the Hours. You begin to wonder if it's time to quit and look for some new daily prayer routine whose very novelty will make you pay more attention.
Perish those thoughts!
Read, carefully, the second readings from the Explanation of the Psalms by St. Ambrose, which appear in our breviaries both today and tomorrow. Then, go forth with resolve to stick with your daily psalter, asking the Lord to open your heart to everything He is trying to teach you there.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
The ninth week.
How do I know that?
Because looking back at my church calendar I see that the last week of ordinary time we had (just before Lent started) was the 8th. Therefore, we pick up OT again with the 9th week.
The psalter will be week I. I know this because 9 is one more than 8. All weeks that are multiples of 4 will use week IV of the psalter. Multiples of 4, plus 1, will always use week I of the psalter. Multiples of 4, plus 2, will always use week II of the psalter, and so on. Memorize this rule and save yourself the bother of having to look things up.
The next two weeks after this one (10th and 11th weeks) will simlarly not have ordinary Sundays because they are the feasts of the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi, respectively. But each following Monday will resume with the regular order of the psalter: week II after Trinity Sunday and week III after Corpus Christi. We finally get an actual Sunday or Ordinary time on June25th.
Does this make everything clear?
Pentecost Blessings to you all.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
By First upload to en.wikipedia on 5 Sep 2003 by en:User:Ihcoyc as Whorebab.jpg, Public Domain, Link
Much as I love the Easter season, there is one thing I don't mind when it ends: leaving behind the daily readings from the book of Revelation, a.k.a. the Apocalypse.
Because it's absolutely crazy. All those weird, fever dream visions, with no real way of knowing what the degree of symbolism vs. physical reality might be, and whether these are things that have already happened or are still to come in the future. (Or some of each.)
I believe it was St. Jerome (but I could be wrong--maybe another Church Father) who did not want Revelation to be included in the canon of Sacred Scripture because it was so open to misunderstanding. While I accept what the Church decided, I sympathize with his objections.
And before you tell me to read Scott Hahn on the heavenly liturgy--yes, I like that part. But all those beasts and heads and horns and locusts that look like tiny horses with human heads, etc. All that seems just disturbing and not really helpful in any way.
I will say there is a general takeaway for Christians to be ready for, and undismayed by, the seeming triumph of evil, persecution, and martyrdom. It will all come out beautifully in the end. Okay, I get that.
In the interest of getting past my irritation with certain features of Revelation, I just bought the Kindle edition of Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying its Lessons today. Written by Michael Barber of Catholic Answers, I know it will be realiable. And after only two chapters, I'm already glad I bought it.
As an aside, when we had the reading earlier this week describing all the precious gemstones adorning the temple of the New Jerusalem (Chrysolite, beryl, sardonyx,chrysoprase, etc.) I looked them all up on Google Images and had a pleasant time with that. Showing that I will do anything to help me feel a bit more friendly towards this mysterious book.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Smart readers are still asking miscellaneous LOTH questions in the comments from the previous post, and I've been answering. But somehow I've coasted by without a word about Holy Week, Easter, or its glorious Octave.
So in case you're wondering, there's been no huge catastrophe preventing me. Just lots of middle-sized work and family events that keep my mind elsewhere most of the time. A good bit of travel plus physical and mental energy related to administering my late brother's estate. Lots of paid writing gigs, so I must keep those employers happy by meeting deadlines. Tomorrow I head out to Santa Paul, CA for my daughter's college graduation. Next week, my newest grandson will be christened.
Beyond that, it's harder now than it used to be to come up with topics for blog posts. Over the last six years I've said pretty close to everything I have to say about the Liturgy of the Hours. Maybe this blog needs a co-author with new ideas and greater zeal, since clearly I"m running out of steam. (Interested parties may contact me about that--include 3 sample posts.) Anyway, I'm trying to get back in the swing of blogging, so here goes.
We can usually find (or impose) a pattern in the psalmody of each liturgical hour. This morning, the psalmody of Morning prayer had a great flow. We start out with Psalm 108, which is at once full of joyful praise and confident militancy. As I've said before, don't get bogged down by seeing this as merely the boasting of a warlike King David. The King whose voice we should hear is that of Jesus, Who, for the glory of His Father, set forth to trample the hordes of Satan (those Edomites and Moabites and Philistines in the psalm symbolize them). Alternately. pray this psalm as your personal resolve to (with joyous confidence in God's power, not yours) conquer the temptations and personal faults that will assail you today.
Next, the canticle from Isaiah looks with hope towards a time when the victory in that battle is complete. Here we can think about the Church, which is at once the forever beautiful spotless and beautiful bride of Christ, yet at the same time, due to constant assualt from without and within, can seem "desolate" and "forsaken." Today I'm thinking about all the church closings in Connecticut, here recently where I live in the Erie diocese, and so many other places. We have to hold on to hope, and this canticle puts us in that hopeful place, doesn't it?
Last, Psalm 146 exhorts us to praise and thank God for what He has and will accomplish, regardless of what is happening in the political realm. I can't tell you how often that verse 3, "Put no trust in princes" springs into mind every time a new headline about this or that politician and his/her actions/promises/threats pops up. No trust in them, but always "sing praise to my God while I live."
Okay, questions and comments are welcome in the usual place. I'll be travelling the next few days so be patient waiting for the responses.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
So here is a list of some basic terms. Bookmark it for future reference.
Note: This list is pretty comprehensive for those who use the Liturgy of the Hours as promulagated after the Second Vatican Council. If you are using an older breviary, or an Anglican ordinary, then there will be additional terms to learn, and some of these below will not apply.
Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours: official prayer of the Catholic Church, constituting, along with the Mass, the Church's liturgy. A repeating cycle of psalms, biblical readings, and other prayers, coordinated to the liturgical season and/or the feasts of the Church. The word "office" comes from a Latin word meaning "service" or "ceremony".
Breviary: the book in which one finds the Divine Office. A commonly used American edition is titled "Christian Prayer." The full breviary contains four volumes. One volume breviaries contain the full morning, evening, and night prayer for the year, but not the full Office of Readings. Some one volume breviaries also contain the full office of Day time prayer.
Antiphon - the verse said before and after each psalm and canticle.
Canticle - a psalm-like passage from a part of the Bible other than the book of Psalms.
Invitatory - The psalm that is recited before the first liturgical hour that you say each day. Usually Psalm 95
Benedictus - Latin for the Canticle of Zachariah
Magnificat - Latin for the Canticle of Mary
Nunc Dimittis - Latin for the Canticle of Simeon
Morning Prayer/Lauds - one of the two main hours or "hinges" of the liturgical day, morning prayer may be said any time from when you wake up until mid -morning.
Evening Prayer/Vespers - the other main hour or "hinge" of the liturgical day, evening prayer may be said between 4 and 7PM.
Night Prayer/Compline - to be said later than evening prayer, usually close to bedtime.
Daytime Prayer - a liturgical hour with 3 subdivisions: Mid-morning (terce); midday (sext); midafternoon (none). It is recommended that generally, lay people and parish priests choose one of these as their daytime hour of prayer. Monastics (or anyone who is a real Divine Office fanatic) may still use all three.
Office of Readings- also known as Matins, this was the hour that monastics traditionally rose during the night to pray. It may be prayed at any time of day, although generally it is done preceding morning prayer, or after evening prayer on the previous day. The Office of Readings consists of psalms followed by two longer readings; one from the Bible and one from the writings of the fathers/doctors/saints of the Church.
Vigils: an extra set of psalms and readings used on Saturday nights in conjunction with Sunday's Office of Readings. You know how the Easter Vigil liturgy has lots of extra readings and psalms? Vigils is analogous to that. A way to make each Sunday a "little Easter".
Ordinary - rather inadequate instructions on how to pray the office, buried about one-third of the way through the breviary. That's one reason this blog exists: to answer questions that remain once you've looked at the Ordinary.
Proper of Seasons-the first third of the breviary. It gives all the readings and prayers substituted for what's in the 4 week Psalter during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.
Proper of Saints - gives the dates, and prayers for saint's feasts and memorials, plus directions on which of the Commons to use if you want to do the day's hours in honor of the saint, rather than just going with the psalter.
Commons - these are all purpose or generic offices for celebrating a feast of Our Lady or of a saint, with headings such as Apostles, Martyrs, virgins, holy men, pastors, doctors of the church, etc.
As always, comments are welcome. Those of you who are veterans may suggest any terms that I might have left out.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Yes, yes, I know about the St. Joseph's yearly guide you can buy. But most of us want to understand the principle of the thing so that we can figure this out for ourselves, rather than blindly following someone else's instructions of "psalter, page XXX, proper of seasons, page YYY, common of male martyrs with red hair and freckles, page ZZZ." And let me tell you, that St. Joseph's guide occasionally gets it wrong, too. And sometimes the online breviaries goof up as well. Not often, but every once in a while.
Anyway, next Monday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. A big deal. Does that mean we do Evening Prayer I of St Joseph this Sunday night? *
Suppose the Assumption comes on a Saturday. Do we have Evening Prayer II of the Assumption that evening, or Evening Prayer II of whatever August Sunday in ordinary time that happens to be?**
The answers, my friend, are NOT blowin' in the wind. (If you get that reference you are well over 50 years old.) The answers are to be found in the Table of Liturgical Days According to Order of Precedence.
Those of us lucky enough to have a four-volume breviary will find this in the beginning of volume I, just after the General Instruction. But it's a pain to have to go find your volume I (Advent/Christmas) book in the middle of lent when you are using Volume III. And if you only have a single volume breviary,you don't have this wonderfully clarifying resource at your fingertips.
So instead, go to this link, courtesy of Benedictines who understand our problems. Print it, if you can, and tuck it into your breviary for future reference.
Friday, March 3, 2017
Poor saints with commemorations during Lent! Well, it's not as if they care in the least about when or how their day is observed down here. I suppose, in keeping with the virtue of humility, these lenten saints are pretty pleased with the way things have turned out.
But it is important for us Americans to take note of our own. Especially St. Katherine Drexel, a role model in so many ways. Her work with Native Americans and African Americans was a great act of reparation for the injustices done to these people by white men. Her detachment from material wealth--of which she had TONS--is something we should all strive for in some degree.
And as a Pennsylvanian, I am doubly proud of this amazing woman.
If you wish to remember St. Katherine in your liturgical prayer today, be sure to use her concluding prayer which you will find on ibreviary.com, universalis.com, and divineoffice.org. It should also be here on the usccb.org website.
Want to learn more about this saint? Here is an ebook for your middle-school aged kids, a reprint from the early 1960s.
For adults, I'd recommend this title, which was very helpful to me when I recently did some research on the saint's life.
Okay, we are three days into lent. Was it nice and confusing trying to figure out which week to use in the psalter for these days after Ash Wednesday? I don't think any printed breviary actually spells this out. (It's week IV) But it all becomes clearer with the first Sunday of Advent, where we start at week I, go through the four weeks in a row, start over with week I on the Fifth Sunday, and so forth.
Are you doing anything special with the Liturgy of the Hours for Lent? Say, adding an extra hour, or just making the effort to be more faithful? Waking up earlier in order to have time to do the Office of Readings in less of a rush? I'm trying to sing the traditional breviary hymns (out loud) for every hour from Father Weber's Hymnal for the Hours.
As usual, questions, comments, and any assorted relevant remarks are welcome in the comments.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
But you don't need my mediocre meditations when you have the words of St. Benedict with commentary from authentic Irish Benedictine monks.
So enjoy this piece and bring it's teaching to mind as you pray the Liturgy of the Hours today.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
My mother passed away on January 20th, at the age of 92 and after years of suffering with Alzheimers.
This weekend, we'll bury my brother, David, who entered Eternity last Saturday afternoon, after a brief struggle with an extremely fast-acting brain tumor.
Both Mom and David were strong believers. Mom was one of the few Catholic parents during the 60s and 70s who perceived the sorry lack in post-Vatican II catechetics, and saw to it that we studied more traditional catechisms and scripture at home, and made us understand that sometimes, in those confused times, Sister X. and even Father Y might teach or preach something that was not quite in line with Catholic teaching. She also started a firm custom of the family rosary nearly every evening, starting when I was about 8 years of age. That habit stayed with my two siblings and I. Furthermore, she (and my Dad) created a family atmosphere where spiritual things (such as saint's lives, reports of possibly modern apparitions,miracles and whatnot) were seen as interesting, worth discussing and reading about.
Like all of us, Mom was not perfect. But she got it right in the things that mattered most. I couldn't be more grateful.
David, my big brother, overcame the youthful handicap of being that introverted, un-athletic, nerdy kid who had tended to be rejected by all but a few peers. (A family pattern: my sister and I were his female counterparts.) His passion for history lead to a career as a county archivist, where he distinguished himself as an expert in local history, and author or editor of several books about the Civil War and about slavery in the northern colonies/states. He was always an ardent Catholic, and members of his parish study group tell me that his insights and comments would "light up" every meeting. What I admire most about David was his selfless care of our Mom during her years in the nursing home, visiting almost every single day, coming up with creative ideas to stimulate her diminishing mind, and far surpassing the patience of the staff in getting her to eat a good dinner each day. My sister and I, raising big families in far off locations, were grateful and relieved that David was able to take on Mom's care as his vocation. We are sorry that after she passed, David was not able to go on to years of pursuing his own interests free of concerns for her care. But God's will be done! We can presume that even the most pleasant earthly pursuits pale in comparison to what awaits, and all that makes us happiest on earth will find it's super-counterpart in Eternity.
Thanks in advance for your prayers and kind thoughts; if you want to do something special for Mom and David, substitute part or all of the Office for the Dead on any upcoming day where there is no obligatory memorial (E.g. today, tomorrow, or any day next week except Wednesday) and offer it for them.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
I'd suggest that it's too early to tell. Sometimes the Holy Word sneaks by our consciousness and is planted more deeply. Some phrase or story may return unbidden.
When I was in college, dissolute, confused, and depressed. I began to pray Compline from some Episcopalian book. I was, let's say, unmoved. But by grace, I stuck with it. And little by little, it soaked in. "The devil walketh about ... seeking whom he may devour!" That was fun to think of.
Then we were assigned to write an analysis of a poem of our choice. I was at a loss, until Psalm 77 bloomed in my mind. It speaks to a depressed heart!
Hath God forgotten to be gracious? * and will he shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure?
And I said, It is mine own infirmity; * but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most Highest.
This is the blues! You sing out your worst feelings until an answer comes! The answer: Remember the mercy, even a terrifying and mysterious mercy!
The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee, and were afraid; * the depths also were troubled.
The clouds poured out water, the air thundered, * and thine arrows went abroad.
The voice of thy thunder was heard round about: * the lightnings shone upon the ground; the earth was moved, and shook withal.
Thy way is in the sea, and thy paths in the great waters, * and thy footsteps are not known.
You're at the point where you feel like saying. "That's okay God. This is too scary!" Then the Psalmist speaks gentleness!
Thou leddest thy people like sheep, * by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The cosmic terror, he in whose presence nature trembles and begins to fall apart, is a gentle as a shepherd! He cloaks his proper frightfulness in mildness and patience, even for dissolute and depressed college students!
I may have not been right for Compline, but Compline was right for me!
Sunday, January 15, 2017
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: