Saturday, August 28, 2021 (Day 84)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 84 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
How lovely Your dwellings, O Lord of armies! My being longed, even languished, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh sing gladness to the living God. Even the bird has found a home, and the swallow a nest for itself, that puts its fledglings by Your altars, Lord of armies, my king and my God… Happy are those who dwell in Your house.
An Opening Word
If you’ve ever been in a long distance relationship, you’ll know the sense of longing Psalm 84 is describing. If you’re in a long distance relationship, it can feel as if all the people who get to spend in-person time with your loved one are under-appreciating the gift of your loved one’s presence. What you’d give to spend one day with them! The Psalmist is longing for the intimate, cherished place of divine hospitality, the temple courts. In the courts all are happy. Even the birds find a little place to nest and thrive. Robert Alter says, “the speaker, yearning for the sacred zone of the temple, is envious of these small creates happy in the temple precincts, whereas the Psalmist, like an unrequited lover, only dreams of this place of intimacy with the divine.” For those who make the long pilgrimage to Jerusalem for every high holy day, the temple there becomes like the familiar, restful, safe vacation home you journey to for holiday. You walk in the door, and are immediately reconnected with who you are, who you have been and who you hope to be.
Today’s mystic Clement of Alexandria articulates a similar longing to be with God. He was born (probably) in Athens and traveled city to city in search of a spiritual mentor, until he landed in Alexandria, Egypt a city of culture and a center of trade like none other at the time. There was a great university at the center, and the whole place was an intellectual landing zone with a broad tent, and tolerance for multiple view points. He tried to crack open the language of faith using vivid metaphors like this one about music with which I resonate “Christ is the New Canticle… whose melody subdues the fiercest and hardest natures.” The prayer below has this beautiful journey language, vivid with cities, and waters sailing, and a sense of floating in the love of the Spirit. May you be drawn home, into the warm embrace of the Spirit.
Prayer from the Mystics: Clement of Alexandria (birth year unknown–died around 215)
May we journey toward your city,
Sailing through the waters,
Borne serenely along by the Holy Spirit.