Friday, July 14, 2017

A voice I do not know (guest post)

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


  1. Iv noticed this Year that the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel falls on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary time, so I was wondering if one has a devotion to Our Lady does one have to adhere to the hymn or the alternative hymn for the Sunday or can one use a hymn to the Blessed Virgin in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel but obviously use the Psalter of the sunday and the appropriate Benedictus/Magnificat antiphons with the concluding prayer? Thanks

  2. Mitchell, sorry I did not get back to you sooner, but yet, a Marian hymn would have been a fine way to acknowledge OL of Mt. Carmel without disturbing the precedence of Sunday. Another option, which I'm sure many Carmelites use, is to carry the Mt. Carmel memorial over to today (Monday 17th), and use the common of the Blessed Virgin with the propers for Mt. Carmel.

  3. Ah I see thank you Daria. Iv also been told that if I use the Commons for a memorial I.E St Apollinaris that the Saints Memorial would be raised to a Feast if I used the antiphons reading Benedictus/Magnificat antiphon and Intercessions from the common for both Lauds and if i used the Psalms for Vespers 2 from the appropriate Common.

    Is it classed as raising it to a Feast if I only use Vespers 2 of the Saint Day? As I prefer to put full focus on the Saint in question?

    1. Mitchell,my friend, you ask these kinds of questions very frequently. Nothing wrong with that, but please try not to be overly obsessive or scrupulous about these kinds of things. The Lord wants you to take joy in praising Him with the psalms each day without fear of doing this "incorrectly". If you read the General Instruction for the LOTH you will see several places where we are encouraged to "adapt" our daily prayer to suit out needs and situation. This seems to be what you are doing in your personal devotion to the saints.

      If you want to know my personal practice, I follow the principles laid out on page 37 of the Christian Prayer breviary. If you don't have this breviary, then go back to this old post of mine, which pretty much explains them.

      I see you have visited the above link several times. There isn't much more that I can add to it except: Yes, occasionally I celebrate a saint's memorial as a full feast. Why? Because I have a special affection for that saint. I believe the Church is okay with this because in fact, religious orders and fraternities will celebrate their own saints as feasts, even though the general calendar has them down as memorials. That makes sense--of course a saint should be celebrated with full honors by those who have a special bond with him or her. So I believe we individual lay people can extend this permission to ourselves for saints that are especially meaningful to us. At the same time, I would not do every saint this way, because I believe the Church prefers us to stick with the 4 week psalter and the liturgical seasons in preference to always going with a full-on, saint-centered cycle.

      If you go around asking these same types of questions at other blogs or discussion groups, you may get a different point of view than mine. I don't pretend to have the gift of infallibility for these things. So choose the advice of whichever person seems to you to make the most sense, and stick with it! May God reward your desire to give Him perfect praise through the liturgical hours.