Opening: 100 Days of Psalms and Prayers

Saturday, June 19, 2021 (Day 19)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 19 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
The heavens tell God’s glory,
and God’s handiwork sky declares.
Day to day breathes utterance
and night to night pronounces knowledge.
There is no utterance and there are no words,
their voice is never heard.
Through all the earth their voice goes out,
to the world’s edge, their words….

The Lord’s judgements are truth,
all of them just.
More desired than gold,
than abundant fine gold,
and sweeter than honey,
quintessence of bees.

An Opening Word
Psalm 19 is worth its weight in gold. Or rather, its metaphors and language about God are so valuable they could last you the rest of your life. It opens with this provocative language of the very heavens proclaiming God’s glory, not some counterfeit fool’s gold, but a luminous divine love that you can sense by simply looking up to the skies. God’s creation shouts, sings, echoes, amplifies the divine spirit, and the very ordinary elements of life are transfigured into a textured holiness. The earthly rhythms of night and day whoop and holler, whistle and yodel God’s nearness, God’s goodness, God’s everywhere/everywhen. And yet this “shouting from the rooftop” of all creation is less a human-tinged verbal language, and more a silent, visual portrayal of God’s manifold witness. “No voice is ever heard.” This is exactly my experience of the divine as I look out over the lake, or closely examine the tender unfurling of this week’s tiger lilies. “Through all the earth their voice goes out,” and we can witness all the earth proclaiming God’s presence.

And just for good measure, I included verse 10–11 at the end there, because I am a beekeeper (once a beekeeper always a beekeeper right? I just don’t have a hive right now). Robert Alter said the Hebrew here uses two different words that both mean “honey” and so it has this doubling effect: a hyper-intensification which means “the sweetest of imaginable honeys.” I just love that.

Our mystic for the day is Benedict of Nursia (480–550). He is recognized as the founder of monasticism and considered the patron saint of Europe. He was born to wealthy Roman parents in the city of Nursia, known for being a haven for artists, medical professionals, lawyers, and authors. He was sent to Rome for school in his youth, but he became disillusioned with the decadence of Rome and left, taking up residence as a hermit in a narrow cave in Subiaco where he lived for three years. He was discovered by the locals, and he instructed them in spiritual life, and they fed him. He began setting up small monastic groups of twelve monks and one abbot, and eventually wrote his famous “rule,” a guide for all those who truly want to seek God. It covers everything: prayer, work, relationships, mindfulness, hospitality, community, worship, reverence, and even what we would now describe as psychological growth. His prayer below seems to cover it all: it asks for all one might need in seeking God.

Prayer from the Mystics: Benedict of Nursia: (480–550)
Gracious and Holy Father,
Please give me:
intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
ears to hear you,
eyes to see you,
a tongue to proclaim you,
a way of life pleasing to you,
patience to wait for you,
and perseverance to look for you.
Grant me a perfect end,
your holy presence,
a blessed resurrection,
and life everlasting. Amen.

June 19, 2021

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