Sunday, August 22, 2021 (Day 78)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 78 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Hearken, my people, to my teaching. Let your ear to the sayings of my mouth. Let me open my mouth in a rhapsody, let me voice the old verses, that we have heard, and we have known, and that our fathers recounted to us.
An Opening Word
Psalm 78 is a long Psalm—72 verses long. It recounts the long history of salvation. Moses and the parting sea. The wandering in the desert. Manna from heaven. Choosing David as king. It is a teaching Psalm, telling the story of the past in order to help us know how to live in the present and plan for the future. After a long season of pandemic separation, I resonate with the desire to “voice the old verses…” as if the old hymns that we know by heart might be balm in Gilead. We want just now, a little dose of the familiar along with the constant newness of the day’s headlines. Let us “hear” and “know” the ancient stories, the ones “that our fathers recounted to us,” so that we might be wrapped up in the reminder that God is near, and God has always been near; that God has taken hundreds of generations through trying times (true valleys of shadow), and that God will be with us through this and then some.
Daniel L. Brunner says mysticism is the “experience of the nearness and in-breaking of God…nearly inexpressible and facilitated as much through the heart as through the mind.” Bridget of Sweden, today’s mystic, felt this in-breaking of God in visions and conversations with God which were then recorded in the book, “The Revelations of St. Birgitta of Sweden.” She is considered the one of the six patron saints of Europe. Born Birgitta Birgersdotter, she became a nun later in life when her husband died after twenty years of marriage. She was the daughter of a knight and from a wealthy family of land owners. When her husband died, she had a vision in which God spoke to her and called her to be a witness to the presence of Christ in the world. Some of that vision is excerpted below. It was that vision that prompted her to devote her life to prayer and caring for the poor and sick. She is the mother of St. Catherine of Sweden, who carried on her work after her death.
Prayer from the Mystics: words from Christ in a vision to Bridget of Sweden (1303–1373)
Do not be afraid.
For I am your creator of all…
my Spirit shall remain with you until your death.