Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Psalm 116

Over a year and a half ago, I decided to splurge and buy a subscription to Magnificat magazine. I had been interested in the Liturgy of the Hours for years, but felt intimidated by breviaries. It felt like such a commitment and I was a bit of a language snob. I know that the translation is still the clunky old one. I saw many recommendations for Magnificat and decided to take the plunge. When I received the first issue, I thought it was beautiful. I really enjoy the artwork and I love that my children also enjoy looking at the art. At first I thought that it was the Liturgy of the Hours with a better, unofficial translation, but then discovered it wasn't. That was a little disappointing. I wish they would make that tidbit a little more clear, but discovered it worked well for my needs anyway. It is nice to have a compact little book that can be shoved into anything. When I was pumping, I used that time to pray the appropriate section. Now that I am not pumping, I have fallen out of the habit a bit. I get to turn the pages of shame.  :)  But I still try to open the book every day, if I can help it.

My point in bringing this up is that over these months, I have been really surprised at how much I enjoy praying the psalms. When I was growing up, I would see these pocket New Testament Bibles that street evangelizers would hand out and they always had the Psalms in them as well. I didn't really understand what that was about. Why was this other random book always included? After spending some time with them, I understand why they are so loved and so powerful. I might skip the hymn, I might skip the canticle (I love the morning canticle but find the evening canticle imminently skippable--probably because I'm a bad person.), but I never skip the psalm. I know it's cliche but they really do encompass the whole of human existence: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

After months of having psalm after psalm put before my eyes everyday, I came to look forward to one in particular, Psalm 116. I feel like it gives voice to a lot of my struggles. It doesn't sugarcoat. The hard reality of life is acknowledged, but confirms that faith can exist even when you are upset. It offers hope and trust that the Lord is really listening to you even when sometimes it doesn't feel like it. And best of all, it doesn't stop with these undefineable feelings, but goes on to list concrete steps to show what faith looks like in real life and not just in my head. There's a checklist! How can I live out faith in the middle of struggles and show the Lord thanksgiving for *everything* in my life? I can raise the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. How reassuring! These are things I can do, or try to do, instead of floundering in the dark.

I would love to memorize it. Here is my own personal version where I have cherry-picked different translations so it says it exactly how I want it said. One translation would be almost right, but then drop a phrase or use a different word. Maybe I shouldn't cherry-pick because I'm sure there is some degradation of the structural integrity of the translation by picking and choosing, but I am not concerned. Is there any particular Psalm that you like the best?  

 Psalm 116

1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the anguish of the grave laid hold on me;
    I suffered sorrow and distress.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, save me!”
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.
10 I kept my faith, even when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
    “All men are liars.”
12 What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call upon the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.
16 O Lord, I am thy servant;
    I am thy servant, the child of thy handmaid.
    Thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee a sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
    in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!


bearing said...

Oh, hey! I have a few verses of Ps 116 written in my prayer book to use as a "thanksgiving after Mass." It's nice and short and apropos. These verses:

What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call upon the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people....
O Lord, I am thy servant;
I am thy servant, the child of thy handmaid.
Thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to thee a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.

I love the way it poses a question and then answers it:

Q. How shall I repay the Lord for all the good he has done unto me?

A. I will receive the cup of salvation (both in the sense of the Eucharist and in the sense of God's will prepared for me); I will openly claim him as Lord; I will openly live out my vocation, in faithfulness to my vows; I will serve him; I will thank him, and again, name him as Lord.

Basically: The way we repay him is by living out our vocation, telling the truth, and observing the precepts of the Church. Simple.

Jenny said...

That is exactly what I like about it. Q. What am I supposed to do here? And then the question is answered. But I love that the question and answer comes after acknowledging that life is hard, but difficulty does not preempt faith and thanksgiving. This psalm is so appealing to me because both these concepts are coupled together. It isn't one or the other.