Monday, July 19, 2021 (Day 49)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 49 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Hear this, all peoples,
hearken, all who dwell in the world.
You human creatures,
you sons of man,
together the rich and the needy.
My mouth speaks wisdom,
my heart’s utterance, understanding.
I incline my ear to a saying,
I take up with the lyre my theme…
God sees the wise die,
both the fool and the stupid man perish,
and they abandon to others their wealth.
…But God will ransom my life,
from the grip of Sheol God will take me.
Do not fear when a man grows rich,
when he enlarges his house’s glory.
For in his death he will not take all,
his glory won’t go down behind him.
An Opening Word
Well this one is a reality check if I’ve ever seen one. We are all mortal. We will not live forever. We can’t take our money with us. The Psalmist’s bold song (“I take up with the lyre my theme” —can you imagine the Psalmist with guitar improvising as these words pour out?) is addressed to “all people… who dwell in the world… rich and needy” and points to the way we are all in the same boat: this life will end. It’s not the most uplifting of Psalms, but there is (as the Psalmist boasts) much wisdom in the reality that all we have is who we are. None of the “stuff” we “acquire” in this life has eternal value. It emphatically suggests “this is an important message.” It urges us to consider the wisdom of examining our mortality as a way to re-evaluate our life’s work, not to mention our capacity for generosity.
Today’s mystic—Henri Le Saux—might have felt grateful for Psalm 49, and it’s seeming appeal to the foolishness of wealth-building, first making vows of priesthood in the 1920s, then feeling called to monastic life, and he finally asking his superiors if he could move to India to commit to a life of contemplation, a lifestyle that is built upon recognizing our mortality as part of a lifetime of urgently pursuing connection with the divine. In India, in the late 1940s, he founded a Christian ashram in Tamil Nadu where he adopted the name Abhishiktananda, which means “bliss of the anointed one,” and finds deep confluence between the Christian language of mysticism and the Hindu expressions of “ananda,” or what he calls “an inexpressible sense of compassion, peace, joy, and fullness.” His deep dive into the spiritual life led him to hermitages in the Himalayas, and he deeply trusted the practice of silence and solitude as a way of finding God.
The words below from Henri Le Saux (Abhishiktananda) teach us to watch for the presence of God in silence.
Prayer from the Mystics: Henri Le Saux (1910–1973)
Only when the soul has undergone the experience
that the Name beyond all names can be pronounced
only in the silence of the Spirit,
does it become capable of that total openness
which permits one to perceive the mystery in its sign.
May we receive the gift of silence. Amen.