Friday, March 18, 2011

Essential preoccupations

It's been an undeniably frightful week. I am sure my readers don't need a list of major news headlines and stories to be reminded of this and that like me, they will have intensified their Lenten observance as a result.

As is frequently the case, the Psalmody of the Divine Office has been strikingly apposite. Here are a couple of examples. On Wednesday at the Office of Readings we had:

From Psalm 17, with the sub-heading "A great earthquake took place at that time (Rev 11:13)

"The waves of death rose about me;

the torrents of destruction assailed me;

the snares of the grave entangled me;

the traps of death confronted me.

In my anguish I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

my cry came to his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the mountains were shaken to their base:"

And today from the same Hour
Sub-headed "The Lord is a Saviour in time of Persecution"

From Psalm 34 (They united in making plans to arrest Jesus by treachery and have him put to death (Mt 26: 3,4)

"Now that I am in trouble they gather,

they gather and mock me.

They take me by surprise and strike me

and tear me to pieces.

They provoke me with mockery on mockery

and gnash their teeth."

Japan struggles with the results of natural disaster, and Christians throughout the world face increasingly violent persecution, whilst goverments in the West seem to be blind to the precious commodity they are squandering. Praying the Office, one could not fail to think of these things, and not only on the literal level. We are living through the collapse of western Christendom, immersed in a culture of death. As the earth of Japan literally reeled and rocked, so spiritually, the Christian world reels and rocks. Our beloved earth is no longer physically secure, partially as a result of human bad stewardship; our Christian world is desperately vulnerable in the onset of a most fierce spiritual battle.

As always the Breviary reminds us that the Psalms prefigure Christ's own suffering. He endured persecution before us, and He warned us that we will also suffer it if we choose to follow Him. But we hold to the one difference between His suffering and ours. He endured if not only before us, but FOR us and our eternal salvation.

The psalmody of this morning's Office of Readings ends with some closing verses from Psalm 34

"I will thank you in the great assembly,

Amid the throng I will praise you.

Let there be joy for those who love my cause.

Let them say without end

'Great is the Lord who delights

in the peace of his servant.'

Then my tongue shall speak of your justice,

all day long of your praise."

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