Opening: 100 Days of Psalms and Prayers

Friday, July 16, 2021(Day 46)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 46 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
God is a shelter and strength for us, a help in straits, readily found. Therefore we fear not when the earth breaks apart, when mountains collapse in the heart of the seas. Its waters roar and roil, mountains heave in its surge. A stream, its rivulets gladden God’s down, the holy dwelling of Elyon. God in its midst, it will not collapse. God helps it as morning breaks.

An Opening Word
Psalm 46 is easily in the top ten most well known Psalms. You hear it echoed in Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” and we can’t help but adopt the language of God as “shelter and strength.” We place our whole trust in this God who comes to our aid “as morning breaks.” It is an “us” Psalm, a Psalm that is speaking, not of an individual’s distress, but of a collective hardship, and so it is easy to fit into worship, where we admit our communal sorrows, laments, troubles, and trials.

Today’s mystic, Ann Griffiths, writes in the more personal, intimate language of “I” and tunes her hymns to the ancient Song of Songs. The poem below is one of her thirty four hymns that were handed down after her death, and carries the themes of Song of Songs into the Christian era, attributing the love, tenderness, beauty, and glory to “Him,” clearly Christ.

Ann Griffiths was born in Berwyns, Wales and while her family began their religious life as part of the Church of England, they were all converted into the mushrooming Methodist movement that lit up Wales in the late 1700s. I love the little story Jane Hirshfield tells in “Women in Praise of the Sacred,” that her family had been such faithful church goers that even on days when the family was too ill to attend church, the family dog would still sit outside the church door out of habit. She was often lost in thought, or found caught up in spiritual contemplation, even when just running out to the cellar for potatoes, or “standing in the kitchen in a complete trance.” Ann Griffiths’ life was ultimately short lived: she and her child died due to complications at childbirth in 1805 when Ann was just 29.

Prayer from the Mystics: Ann Griffiths (1776–1805)
His left hand, in heat of noonday,
Lovingly my head upholds,
And his right hand, filled with blessings,
Tenderly my soul enfolds.
I adjure you, nature’s darlings,
Beautiful in field and grove,
Stir not up, till he be willing,
Him who is my glorious Love.

July 16, 2021

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