Saturday, September 4, 2021 (Day 91)
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Psalm 91 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
You shall not fear
from the terror of the night
nor from the arrow that flies by day,
from the plague that stalks in darkness
nor the scourge that rages at noon.
Though a thousand fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand,
you it will not reach…
For you—the Lord is your refuge,
the Most High you have made your abode.
An Opening Word
Psalm 91 is a Psalm of assurance. It is saying that despite the hardship and terror that surrounds you, there is still yet protection. Whether you face war or illness, there is a way through. Robert Alter says “In all likelihood, the setting evoked is a raging epidemic in which vast numbers of people all around are fatally stricken.” Of course he wrote that sentence in 2007, when even the Swine flu was only a future possibility, though endemic viruses like Ebola and AIDS would have come to mind to him then. Now Psalm 91 has a different tone to me. “Thousands” have fallen, “ten thousand” too. And so we hear with renewed spark, the way in which the words ring true, especially that last verse “For you—the Lord is your refuge.”
One of the things I love about studying the Psalms is that it puts us in touch with texts that have influenced people throughout the ages. When I read Psalm 91, I am reading a text that Jesus read, just as much as it is a text that my grandmother read, or my favorite childhood preacher read. Psalms knit a web of love, one generation to the next.
Today’s mystic Francisco de Osuna, was a prolific writer and was notably influential to Teresa of Avila. In the way of the Psalms, I love that his 15th century essays on faith connect me to St. Teresa and all the many others who were influenced by his writings. In his book “The Third Spiritual Alphabet,” he says “Communion with God is open to all.” Writing in the season of disruption in Catholic spiritual life in Spain, he witnessed the Spanish Inquisition, the first colonial slave ships, and religious upheaval. Somehow he was able to focus on a more mystical, spiritually-centered, inner open heart that was rooted in honesty, humility, and deep love. He says “We draw love from ahead and behind when we realize the time we squandered in the past, and the uncertainty and brevity of the future, and then strive more fervently to redeem the remainder of life.” I resonate with that recommitment to a life lived purposefully, moment-to-moment, truly alive.
His prayer below is addressed to “love” and elsewhere he names the Holy Spirit as love.
Prayer from the Mystics: Francisco de Osuna (1492–540)
O blessed love,
you are the anchor of our hope
that steadies us in God as in a safe port,
though we sail the stormy sea of life.