Saturday, July 31, 2021 (Day 56)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 56 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Grant me grace, God,
for a man tramples me,
all day long the assailant does press me.
My attackers trample me all day long,
for many assail me, O High One.
When I fear, I trust in you, in God,
Whose word I praise, in God I trust, I shall not fear.
What can flesh do to me?

An Opening Word
We just watched this six part 2020 Beatles documentary called “McCartney 3, 2, 1,” a project that was filmed during the pandemic, with Paul McCartney and Rick Ruben so clearly trying to keep six feet distance while dancing to Sergeant Pepper. Paul recounts the early days of writing songs with John, and at one point he suggests that his song lyrics were simple because in those days, you just had to remember them. No one carried a recording device in their pockets like we do now. (Okay Paul, I see your point, but you could just carry around a little notebook for your lyrics.) Without being able to read music, Paul did have to set it all to memory.

Similarly Psalm 56 feels like an in-the-moment poem, one written mid-trampling maybe? Then set to memory and then written down later after the fact. It is evocative in that way: I immediately pictured the Psalmist in the mud with a boot to his cheek. If Psalm 56 were made into a film, there would be a montage of footage, with the attackers trampling “all day long.” In some way then, the first verse should clue us into the fact that this writer ultimately was saved, for otherwise their words would never have made it to the page. The very fact of this Psalm means there was rescue and a return to life, safe and renewed.

Today’s mystic is Mother Teresa, a mystic maybe first and foremost because of her long, dark periods experiencing divine absence that were revealed when her personal journals were published a decade or more after her death. One of the themes that runs through the history of Christian mysticism is this articulation of divine presence, often intensely, followed by feelings of loss and separation from God, when it seems as if God is far off, or even gone. Mother Teresa’s story is likely well-known to you: she grew up in present-day Skopje, North Macedonia, sensed a call to religious life, was trained in Ireland, and then sent by the Irish Sisters of Loreto to India where she first spent time as a school teacher, only to feel an even deeper, more urgent call to serving the poor, and the poorest of the poor.

Her words below came from one of her weekly newsletters to her sisters in 1992. She often articulates, with similar confidence, this full surrender and reliance on Jesus, an almost cyclical, recurrent submission to the one in whom we live and move and have our being.

Prayer from the Mystics: Mother Teresa (1910–1997)
One thing Jesus asks of me;
that I lean upon Him;
that in Him and Him alone I put complete trust;
that I surrender myself to him unreservedly.
May we lean on Jesus, in the way of Mother Teresa. Amen.