Thursday, July 1, 2021 (Day 31)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 31 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Get me out of the net that they laid for me,
for You are my stronghold.
In Your hand I commend my spirit.
You redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.
I hate those who look to vaporous lies.
As for me, I trust in the Lord.
Let me exult and rejoice in Your kindness,
that You saw my affliction,
You knew the straits of my life.
And You did not yield me to my enemy’s hand,
You set my feet in a wide-open place.
An Opening Word
Psalm 31 carries us into a trap. The Psalmist trust in God and sees the ways in which the enemy is still ensnaring and pursuing them. We get a clear request to God: Get me out! The Psalist is stuck in a net, unable to get out. Yet the unyielding trust of the Psalmist moves us from that stuck place to a wide-open place by the end. When you’re in that stuck place, it’s impossible sometimes to trust that one day you will arrive in the wide-open place, but this Psalmist can be our partner in hope.
As the Psalm goes on, I hear Jesus’ words from the cross when I read, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit” and now I can’t help but hear Jesus’ words from the cross in the context of this Psalm, in which the Psalmist is stuck, entrapped, with enemies ensnaring them. Isn’t that exactly where Jesus is when he says these words from the cross? In the net of his enemies who have put him there on the cross?
Finally I love that the Psalmist hates “those who look to vaporous lies.” It seems like a very 21st century aphorism, but the world of vapid, empty lies is as ancient as the biblical text itself.
Nicholas of Cusa is our mystic for today, and he offers a beautiful, philosophical prayer on the depth and entanglement of love. Nicholas of Cusa was born in 1401 in what is now Germany, and he was son of a fisherman—but not the poor fishermen of the New Testament disciples, but a wealthy boatman who could afford to send him to elite universities. He earned a doctorate in Canon Law and then an honorary degree in Civil law. He was a scientist, philosopher, and mystic, influential in Renaissance mathematics and astronomy. He understood (long before Copernicus or Newton) that the earth was a sphere spinning on an axis and had Nicholas of Cusa’s writings not become obscured by history, Copernicus might have been more bold in publishing his seminal works. He saw stars as the source of other worlds and influenced the concept of the infinitesimal and modern relativity.
Theologically Nicholas of Cusa reads like a philosopher-mystic or scholar-mystic who wrote at length about the infinity of God and the ineffability of the divine. He understood God to be “Possibility Itself” and therefore philosophical issues like “who created God?” disappear into the background because God to him, is the powerful force of possibility at the creation of the universe.
Prayer from the Mystics: Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464)
You, my God,
are love who loves,
and love who is lovable,
and love who is the bond between these two.