Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Psalms as Balm for Election Irritation

The other day an old friend—a friend who prays the Liturgy of the Hours—commented on Facebook about that day’s reading from Morning Prayer. The one about watching our language, not only to keep it free of foul words, but that what we say should be truly helpful to others.

Here is it, Ephesians 4: 29-32. It goes on to say we should remove all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling, and malice. My wise friend said that this passage described well the problem so many of us seem to have discussing the upcoming presidential election.

As someone who had also been fretting and arguing about said election---I decided to start listening a little harder to those psalms as I read them, and see what else God might be trying to tell us (or me, at least) about the political tempest we are enduring.  (This is a wonderful feature of liturgical prayer. Yes, you are praying on behalf of, and for the needs of, the whole church—that is primary. You are even praying with the voice of Jesus Himself—what an amazing and mysterious privilege!  But even as you are doing that, you are also praying in your own, individual little voice, about your own, individual little situation. There is no conflict between personal/devotional and public/liturgical prayer.) 
So, starting my search with today’s (Saturday) Daytime Prayer, I was reminded quite forcefully by Psalm 119 about where my priorities and desires should be:

Guide me in the path of your commands; for in them is my delight…turn my eyes from gazing at vanities [like links to political columns, perhaps?]… in your way, give me life.
Next, Psalm 34 told me not only to re-focus my energies on God’s law, but to seeek joy regardless of what the talking heads are jabbering about:

I will bless the Lord at all times, I the Lord my soul shall make its boast…I sought the Lord and He answered me; from all my fears He set me free…Look towards Him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed…Taste and see that the Lord is good…They lack nothing, those who fear Him…Many are the trials of the righteous, but from them the Lord will deliver him.

Reminds me of how Dorothy Day said we have a “duty of delight” before God.

Anyway, I found all this both consoling and convicting: if I want the consolation to last I’d better keep my head in the psalms and out of tv, radio and internet politics for a while.  Maybe the month of August can be a retreat from all such vanity of vanities (to borrow a reference from this Sunday’s first reading).  Then maybe I can resume paying attention to it—in a more measured, well-ordered, and detached way—in September.  Sounds like a plan.