We continue today with guest author Harold Koenig's meditation on Psalm 81 verse 7. Enjoy!
Part 2: A tongue I do not know
I hear a tongue I do not know: I relieved Israel’s shoulder of its burden; they set down the basket.
– after Ps. 81
Why don’t we know? Is the voice unfamiliar? Is the language one we do not understand? This unknown tongue, unknown voice, unknown speaker … who is it that speaks?
Our heads are full of noise. There are a hundred reasons not to pray; there are a thousand voices tugging at us as we pray. Even if we pray alone, we bring a crowd with us.
Consider. We are here in answer to a call. We think it is our decision to pray, our inner voice that proposed the custom and this moment’s prayers. And it was and is, but not ours alone. The Love himself, by being supremely lovable, calls love from us. Though we grudgingly take up our breviary, it is an act of love to pray. And that love did not originate within us.
The voice is unfamiliar and the tongue unknown because even as we yield to the Love, we ourselves natter and chatter with concerns, worries, desires, plans, self-reproach, or self congratulation. “I and my piety have brought me here to pray this office,” we say. And immediately a jangling chorus arises. “Am I REALLY pious? Look at my sins! Am I doing this well? Am I doing my LIFE well?”
Yet still the Spirit whispers in us and through us, “Lord, open my lips,” and “God, come to my assistance,” and our lips open and divine help is subtly, softly, even hastily given.
Maybe the voice is purposefully unfamiliar. It seems to be the Spirit’s choice to prefer, while he prays in sighs and groans to deep for words, the sound of our halting and mumbling voices, as every parent rejoices in his child’s professions of love.
A beam of light through clear air is unseen unless it strikes our eyes. We see not the illuminating beam but illuminated objects as light reflected from them reaches our eyes. So often the Spirit is known not in himself but in his works.
The unfamiliar voice, the unknown tongue speaks in your words of prayer.
Tomorrow: Freed from the burden