Sunday, June 27, 2021 (Day 27)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 27 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
The Lord is my light and my rescue.
Whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life’s stronghold.
Of whom should I be afraid?
…Hear, O Lord, my voice when I call
and grant me grace and answer me…
Hope for the Lord!
Let your heart be firm and bold,
and hope for the Lord.
An Opening Word
I love the rhetorical questions of Psalm 27, as if “Whom should I fear?” can only be answered with the affirmative, “Fear no one,” and thus remains too obvious to demand a response. The core of the psalm (not included above) returns to the themes of adversaries, foes, and enemies. A battle ensues or might. Even the Psalmist’s family seems to choose sides against him. It’s no wonder, then that the Psalmist again asks for the rudimentary, barebones response from God: please at least just hear my voice, give grace, answer me. By the end of the Psalm the way has not been made entirely clear even though the Psalmist continues to trust in the Lord. But instead the faithful poet speaks to us, the reader, enticing us to hope none-the-less. It ends on a note of promise: that we can and should trust our heart in the hands of the Lord.
Today’s mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin saw the need for that kind of deep trust in God as a young child. He had a wake-up call at an early age realizing the fragility of human life, when as he describes “I was five or six. My mother had snipped a few of my curls. I picked one up and held it close to the fire. The hair was burnt up in a fraction of s second. A terrible grief assailed me; I had learnt that I was perishable.” It was truly an Ash Wednesday shaped reflection from such a tender age: fragility, mortality, the snap-of-the-finger possibility of moving from life-to-death. Something about facing one’s mortality I think, makes us all the more ready to live fully now, and such true living can echo the divine.
One of eleven children born of an influential family in France (he was a distant relative of both Voltaire and Blaise Pascal). A student of both theology and geology, he was an influential paleontologist as well as priest-theologian. After serving as a stretcher-bearer in Northern African Zouaves and articulating the intensity, detachment, and sadness of the work of war, he went on to live in Egypt and China, and briefly South Africa and Brazil, studying and collecting fossils. He wasn’t, in any sustained way, connected to the people or communities near where he was pursing paleontology, but was isolated and cut off within the more insular scientific community (he did meet Darwin), despite the potential confluence between his theological worldview and that of Confucian tradition or earth-centered spirituality of indigenous communities. What deepening might have occurred had he been part of a more robust interfaith dialogue?
The quote below sees some convergence between the earnestness of scientific study and the yearning for divine love. It sees our human quest for knowledge and understanding as a cumulative forward-looking advance, in which our curiosity will push us toward every kind of knowledge, and there at the center of such knowing, we will know in a deeper way how to mobilize divine love, the power of which will change everything. It’s not so much a prayer as a vision of a possible future but it seems to me a future that could come sooner rather than later if we were willing.
Prayer from the Mystics: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955)
The day will come when,
after harnessing space,
we shall harness for God the energies of love.
And on that day,
for the second time in the history of the world,
we shall have discovered fire.
May such love come soon, Lord. Amen.