Monday, April 23, 2012

Rejoicing in Drowned Egyptians

In today's Office of Readings, Venerable Bede is helpful to all of us peacemaker types who get squeamish when the psalter rejoices in the discomfort and death of enemies.

We don't have to worry what the psalmist or other biblical author felt when he gleefully describes the defeat of enemies. We who pray the psalter are to view these enemies as symbols of all that is evil, both outside us and within us. Bede uses the example of the canticle from Exodus ("horse and rider he has cast into the sea") where Moses, Miriam, and the people rejoice after the crossing of the red sea an the drowning of Pharoah's armies:

The Egyptians who oppressed the people of God, and who can also stand for darkness or trials, are an apt symbol of the sins that once oppressed us but have now been destroyed by baptism.


  1. Excellent point. Before I'm tempted to think that "enemy" necessarily means someONE else in my life who is annoying or antagonizing, I should first look within and see all the weakness, sin and plain old bad habits lurking there. I would certainly rejoice long and loud over the vanquishing of those.
    "Gluttony and Laziness he has cast into the Sea..."

  2. On the other hand, Daria, as an attorney who has had to console people over the years, many of those who have gone through great personal suffering do take comfort in knowing that the Lord is just. Having suggested psalms to client's over the years (and Protestants being more open to this than Catholics), many find alleviation in feeling that the Lord understands when they read psalms like 54, 56, 57, 73, 136 (Vulgate numbering), etc. Being betrayed by someone whose betrayal costs you financial harm to one's family is commonplace today, and it is often aggravated by our judicial system. Having them read Psalm 57 helps. Yet, they need to get through that stage of their pain before they can see it in the light similar to what Bede does. That being said, I agree with Mrs. Pinkerton.

    Happy St. George's day -- a good reading there, too!

  3. Yes, I read St. George too-it was great.
    Reflecting on what both of you said,and the fact that applying scripture to our prayer is not "either/or" but "both/and" I'll add that it can be very appropriate to apply victory psalms and canticles to real individuals, although in this case we should be thinking of a metaphorical drowning. For example, should our beloved US Bishops and their faithful followers prevail in the religious freedom struggle, I for one will be quite happily imagining some very real enemies drowning in the sea of their own hubris.(while still hoping, of course, for their ultimate salvation rather than destruction!)