Friday, August 20, 2021 (Day 76)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 76 (adapted from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
By Your roar, O God of Jacob,
chariot and horse were stunned.
You, O fearsome are You,
and who can stand before You,
in the strength of Your wrath?
From the heavens
You made judgement heard,
the earth was afraid and fell silent,
when God rose up for judgement
to rescue the lowly of the earth.
An Opening Word
Psalm 76 celebrates the presence of God’s saving power, especially in times of war or threat of war. The very voice of God can defeat whole armies, Psalm 76 implies. God is named “Fearsome.” All are made mute when God pronounces judgement, all listen. And why does God speak up? “To rescue the lowly of the earth.” It begs a perennial question, who are the lowly of the earth? Who does God seek to rescue? As the shifting sands of fate change the circumstances of some but not others, the “lowly” are one day him, one day her, one day them, one day us. Whether war’s beginning or end, a public health crisis, a new cancer diagnosis, a sudden financial insecurity, a constant worry, the one God rescues remains the same: the one in deepest need. God is made known in history, in the intimacy of our very lives, and the tangible events of this week’s news cycle. Our incarnate God knows no other way than to be with us in the flesh, mending, healing, rescuing.
The mystics “ascend toward Light itself through the use of symbols and images,” says mystic scholar Angelo Caranfa. In that way Gertrude of Helfta (1256–1302) is embodying the mystic spirit when she recalls this encounter with God using the symbol of a water-pipe (link to the Wikipedia page explains this instrument, and how widespread it became during Gertrude of Helfta’s lifetime). In her vision God said “Give me your heart, beloved.” When she gladly did so, it seemed to her that the Lord laid it to his own divine Heart like a water-pipe and thus reached the earth. By this means he spread the streams of his boundless loving-kindness far and wide saying “Look from now on I always take delight to use your heart as a water-pipe. Through it I may pour out to all who work to receive the pressure of that infusion, that is who with humility and trust ask you for the broad streams of divine consolation from the honey-sweet torrent of my heart”. (The Herald of God’s Loving Kindness, translated by Alexandra Barratt, p. 37.)
Prayer from the Mystics: Adapted from the writing of Gertrude of Helfta (1256–1302)
God, may you be honey-sweet.
Pour into us.