Monday, August 9, 2021(Day 65)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 65 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
To You silence is praise, God, in Zion,
and to You a vow will be paid.
O, Listener to prayer, unto You all flesh shall come.
My deeds of mischief are too much for me.
Our crimes but You atone…
With awesome acts justly You answer us, our rescuing God,
refuge of all the earth’s ends and the far-flung sea,
who sets mountains firm in power,
You are girded in might, who quiets the roar of the seas,
the roar of their waves and the tumult of nations…
The portals of morning and evening You gladden…
The wilderness meadows do drip, and with joy the hills are girded.
The pastures are clothed with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain.
They shout for joy, they even sing.
An Opening Word
Psalm 65 has so many little nuggets to unpack. The mystics who seek contemplative prayer and solitude would lean on the phrase, “silence is praise.” And no wonder, if you read on to the end, that the Psalmist considers silence praise. The very dew of meadows is a song of joy to God, the very grain in the field, quietly growing day after day, is shouting praise. Did you notice too, these names for God in Psalm 65? God is “listener to prayer,” and “rescuing God.” God is “refuge” not just to the ends of the earth, but across the whole sea. God is “girded in might,” and “the one who sets mountains firm.” The poetry is thick with the tangible, enfleshed world around us, ancient nature metaphors that do not disappear into cultural-oblivion because even today we can picture “earth’s end” and “far-flung sea” (even if we do have a different astrophysical understanding of “earth’s end,” viewing the earth as round instead of flat, we can picture the atmospheric edge of our planet, where Bezos’ New Shepard rocket ship just hovered).
Today’s mystic is the familiar C. S. Lewis. When I was little, my grandmother bought me the whole set, one book at a time, from the little bookstore in Leland, Michigan while we were on vacation (I devoured them). My favorite was “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” especially the ending. I was floored and delighted to find Carl McColeman (scholar of mysticism) talking about that book as a mystic text. Supposedly it is directly inspired by “The Voyage of St Brendan” which will sound familiar if you’ve read Lewis’ book. McColeman describes in this way: “St. Brendan was the abbot of a Christian monastery. One day a friend of Brendan’s visits his cloister and announces that he has sailed west, all the way to the land of promise—in other words to paradise itself. Brendan, not surprisingly is entranced by this news, and after considering the matter in his own prayers resolves to sail himself, with several of his monks as companions in their own quest for this earthly paradise.”
You can read more about this in “Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis” by David C. Downing or “The Lion, the Mouse, and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia” by Carl McColeman. About mysticism, C. S. Lewis says, “I trust no one will call me a mystic—a name, in its strict theological sense, too high, and in its popular sense (I hope) too vague, to describe me; but it appears to me that all sorts of objects, animate and inanimate, natural and artificial … seem (I hardly know how to say it) to have been prepared from all eternity for their precise place in the symphony of things.” The poem below was extracted from C. S. Lewis’ “Dawn Treader” by a friend this week.
Prayer from the Mystics: C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.
May we find all we seek, in the seekable God. Amen.