Harold Koenig is a former Episcopalian clergyman, now a third order Dominican, a Divine Office enthusiast, and a Facebook friend of mine. He's done guest posts here once or twice before, and now we are blessed with another. Three actually. Today we get part I. It's the fruit of his meditations on a favorite verse of Scripture: Psalm 81 vs. 7, which by happy coincidence appears in the Psalter this morning.
Note:The translation Harold uses is a bit different from what most of our breviaries use, but it's close enough for you to appreciate what he says about it. The Revised Grail Psalms that we'll all be using eventually (when the new breviary translation is published) also use "basket" rather than "load".
I hear a tongue I do not know: I relieved Israel’s shoulder of its burden; they set down the basket.
– after Ps. 81:7
Part I: I hear
All good giving, every perfect gift is from above. The intention to pray is good; the decision to pray now is a gift. We address God because he addressed us first. An infant roots for the breast when its cheek is touched. God has touched us, so we seek him. He is first mover; his voice summons ours
Our prayers are not perfect, because even when we’ve learned how to negotiate our breviaries, there is still the wandering mind, the diversion of thought and attention to anything but the words before us. We do not know how to pray as we ought. Can anyone doubt this? Therefore rejoice, because the Spirit prays in us, in sighs too deep for words.
So, in the quiet act of praying the office, lips moving silently, finger gliding down the page, there is a mystery. We speak because we are spoken to; we utter that we may hear. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as maids are alert to the hand of the mistress, so we attend to the word which evokes our words.
We lose focus. Of course, when we notice, we should bring ourselves back to this work of God. But as our prayers come from him, we cannot justly allow ourselves to be too distraught when we stray. After all, it is God who speaks, and his Word stands forever. It may be so in the world’s eyes and our own that “hearing, we do not hear.” But he means to make himself known to us, and to spend too much effort and anxiety on the poverty of our efforts is just another distraction from our task which is to listen to our beloved who loves us.
Perhaps then we should trust that, though we do not now feel as if we were listening, much less hearing, yet he who made the ear knows what he is about. In the depths, there where the Spirit sighs, there is a seed of hearing being planted. And as Creation itself groans as in childbirth, so that seed will grow and come to term in us, to be brought forth at the proper time.
Next time: a tongue I do not know