Thursday, August 26, 2021(Day 82)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 82 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
God takes a stand in the divine assembly, in the midst of the gods the Lord renders judgement. How long will you judge dishonestly and show favor to the wicked? Do justice to the poor and orphan. Vindicate the lowly and wretched. Free the poor and needy… They do not know and do not grasp, in darkness they walk about. All the earth’s foundations totter.

An Opening Word
Robert Alter says that Psalm 82 is “concerned with the infuriating preponderance of injustice in the world.” It asks that age old question, “why is it that the just often seem to suffer, whereas the wicked prosper?” The force of the Psalm places blame on the pantheon of (small “g”) gods whose administration has let the cruel slide and turned a blind eye to those who are poor, suffering, orphaned, and needy. In this ancient worldview, Robert Alter says, “the order of creation itself, in the view of biblical monotheism, is founded on justice. When the lesser gods allow injustice to become rampant, the very foundations of the earth are shaken.” Any distortion of true justice moves us that much closer “toward the apocalypse.” In that way, (capital “G”) God is the only one equipped to judge the nations. The (small “g”) gods are toppled, overthrown, unseated, and God is left to rule. It is not so much “to the victor go the spoils,” but “to the truly just goes the heavenly throne.”

Today’s mystic, Caryll Houselander was exposed to that same “infuriating preponderance of injustice” as a woman born in Bath, England at the turn of the 20th century. Her mom was divorced when she was young, and though she was sensitive to the presence of God in her Catholic upbringing from an early age, she had to leave the church because they lacked money for “pew rent.” In Great Britain she experienced a world shattered by war (twice), felt called to support the Russian emigrants who ended up in her country and because she herself was a single woman who struggled to pay her own bills, she always identified with the poor, the migrants, and the marginalized, which you can hear reflected in her prayer below.

Prayer from the Mystics: Caryll Houselander (1901–1954)
By Your heaviness and fear
in Gethsemane,
comfort the oppressed
and those who are afraid.

By Your loneliness,
facing the Passion
while the Apostles slept,
comfort those who face evil alone
while the world sleeps.

By Your persistent prayer,
in anguish of anticipation,
strengthen those
who shrink from the unknown.

By Your humility,
taking the comfort of angels,
give us grace to help
and to be helped by one another,
and in one another
to comfort You, Jesus Christ.
Amen.