Monday, June 7, 2021 (Day 7)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 7 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Lord, my God, in You I sheltered.
Rescue me from all my pursuers and save me.
Lest like a lion they tear up my life—
Rend me, with no one to save me.
Lord, my God, if I have done this,
If there be wrongdoing in my hands…
May the enemy pursue and overtake me
And trample to earth my life
And make my glory dwell in the dust…
I acclaim the Lord for God’s righteousness,
Let me hymn the Lord’s name, Most High.
An Opening Word
Today’s psalmist claims innocence in the most humbling of ways: “if I have done this…” the psalmist pronounces, then let my enemies pursue me, but know that I have not. My life does not deserve to be torn up. If my life did deserve to be ripped to shreds as if a lion were tearing me asunder, then even my glory deserves to “dwell in the dust.” Yet even with the lion-claw marks on their innocent body, this psalmist still says “God in You I shelter.” This is at once one of our most challenging, poignant, potent, uplifting, and at times troublesome theological claims: that God is shelter, even when an innocent person is plunged into the depth of human suffering by another person (or persons).
Therese of Lisieux, today’s mystic, was no stranger to suffering. She was the youngest of nine children, only five of whom lived through childhood. Then at the age of fifteen, Therese went on to become a Carmelite nun in Lisieux, the city her family moved to after her mother died when Therese was only eight years old. Contracting tuberculosis in 1894, she herself died not long after at the age of twenty-four.
Therese was not a “traditional mystic” who experienced visions or the intensities of spiritual experiences. She said, “I have never wished for extraordinary graces. That does not fit in with my little way.” But she was tuned in with love, claiming inspiration from John of the Cross’s words “Love is repaid by love alone.” For Therese of Lisieux, there was nothing extraordinary about the direct experience of God’s love, it was simply manifest to her at every turn.
Religious philosopher and lover of mystics, Louis Dupre, says that Therese offers an “unembarrassed account of her growing abandonment to God’s love in pure faith and of the ways this manifested itself both in her prayer and in her relations with other persons, especially those with whom she would otherwise avoided.” And so you’ll see within her prayer, an expression of love multiplying again and again, a love that shifted and transformed her daily interactions with even the most cranky, hard-to-get-along-with people in her life.
Prayer from the Mystics: Therese of Lisieux (1873–1897)
Deepen your love in me, O Lord,
that I may learn in my inmost heart how sweet it is to love,
to be dissolved, and to plunge myself in your love.
Let your love possess and raise me above myself,
with a fervor and wonder beyond imagination.
Let me sing the song of love.
Let me follow you into the heights.
Let my soul spend itself in your praise, rejoicing for love.
Let me love you more than myself, and myself only for your sake.
Let me love others, as your law commands. Amen.