Thursday, September 2, 2021 (Day 89)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 89 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Let me sing the Lord’s kindness forever. For all generations I shall make known with my mouth Your faithfulness. For I said: forever will kindness stand strong, in the heavens You set Your faithfulness firm… Blessed be the Lord forever, amen and amen.
An Opening Word
Psalm 89 is another long one—53 verses. The Psalm is built upon the promise of God’s faithfulness. Robert Alter says “The Hebrew word emunah, ‘faithfulness,’ ‘trustworthiness,’ ‘dependability in fulfilling obligation,’ is the key word” used ten times. There are so many names for God “A God held in awe,” “Lord, God of armies,” “powerful Ya,” the one who can “rule over the tide of the sea,” the one in whose light the faithful walk, “shield,” “king.” It gives us a language with which to praise the Lord and a vocabulary with which to acknowledge what God has done for us. God has been faithful, trustworthy, dependable. God has a cosmic reach, imperial command, covenantal authority, transparent enduring relational connection, even to those of us with the most fleeting of lives.
Today’s mystic Denys the Carthusian (1402–1471) would have had much to say about Psalm 89, except that his reflections on the Psalms (that I can find in publication) only go through Psalm 50. Maybe the rest were lost to time or I simply can’t find them in a google search. Denys was born in the Belgian village of Rijkel and spent much of his adult life in the solitude of his own cell. Carthusians (a monastic order that began in 1080) famously lived solitary lives, mostly in contemplation, only interrupted by morning and evening prayers together, and some common meals. Their monastic orders only welcomed 12 men at a time, so remained small, which kept the details focused on the practices of contemplation that connected most with God. Denys the Carthusian was unique in that he published many commentaries, and 900 sermons (it would take 17 years to preach 900 sermons if you preached one per Sunday). He is also thought to have journeyed with mystic and scholar Nicholas de Cusa as he traveled the Netherlands for visits and spiritual reform. Some scholars think that Denys the Carthusian could be so prolific because he was part of a monastery, that was near city-center instead of off in the desert, and so he had resources like a secretary and access to a library that spurred his writing. Denys of course, said he wrote so much because of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I love his language about the boundlessness of God below.
Prayer from the Mystics: Denys the Carthusian (1402–1471)
God, most glorious, most adorable,
is light without limit.
God is wisdom that knows no bounds,
an immense fire or ardour of love,
infinite sweetness, indescribable beauty.
May we meet this “light without limit.” Amen.