Monday, December 15, 2008

The Third Week of Advent: Monday

The psalm portion for today is from Psalm 44, which combines a historical review with a communal lament.
  • The first part of the song looks backward and recalls the "days of old," when God displayed his mighty power in setting the people free, overcoming their enemies, and planting them in the good land he promised to give them. This was all of God's grace: "for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance, for you delighted in them" (v.3).
  • The second half of Psalm 44 is a song of lament and supplication:
Yet you have rejected us and abased us,
and have not gone out with our armies.
You made us turn back from the foe,
and our enemies have taken spoil for themselves.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter,
and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbours,
the derision and scorn of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations,
a laughing-stock among the peoples.
All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face
at the words of the taunters and revilers,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

...Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For we sink down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up, come to our help.
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

(Psalm 44.9-16, 23-26)
As Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it, they have moved from a place of orientation, where all seems right with the world, to a place of disorientation, where their world has been turned upside-down and their experience seems to contradict God's goodness and promises to them. They cry out for reorientationthat God will arise and act once more to set them on their feet again.

In Advent, we long for reorientation. We pray for God to come and set the world—and our lives—right once more.
Away with sorrow's sigh,
Our prayers are heard on high;
And through Heaven's crystal door
On this our earthly floor
Comes meek-eyed Peace to walk with poor mortality.

In dead of night profound,
There breaks a seraph sound
Of never-ending morn;
The Lord of glory born
Within a holy grot on this our sullen ground.

Charles Coffin, Paris Breviary 1736.

Translation: Charles Williams 1839

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