Friday, January 23, 2015

Longing for God

Last week, I was able to spend approximately 36 hours at New Melleray Abbey, a Trappist monastery just outside of Dubuque, Iowa (  I plan on writing more about the experience in an upcoming article, but in the meantime, I thought I would share what happened to me this morning.

Whenever I return from a retreat like my time at New Melleray, I find myself motivated to pray the daily prayer offices more regularly, set aside more time for contemplative prayer, read more Scripture and devotional writings, etc. Then, after about a week or so, I fall away from that new-found enthusiasm, and those kinds of practices fall by the wayside.  I don't get up early enough in the morning to do those things before work, I'm too busy or tired at night before going to bed - I always come up with a reason for falling away.

This morning, I awoke early enough that I didn't have an excuse, so I dug out "For All the Saints" (Lutheran book of daily prayers and readings) as well as the new Psalter that I picked up at New Melleray - they use the "Grail Psalter", which is a rather beautiful, poetic translation of the Psalms.  After coming back home, when I do pray, I've been trying to follow along with the monks' schedule for praying the Psalms, so that I am still praying with them in a sense, even at a distance of around 300 miles.

This morning, as I picked up the Psalter, it fell open to Psalm 62 (which is normally Psalm 63 in most Bible translations - the Grail Psalter is based on the Greek Septuagint, where many of the Psalms are numbered differently). In this Psalter, the title of the Psalm is called "Longing for God".

That phrase struck me this morning as being significant, but I couldn't figure out why.  I had not looked yet at the New Melleray's schedule of psalms that were to be prayed during Lauds (Morning Prayer) this morning, but I hoped that Psalm 62 was one of them.  But what were the chances of that?  Three Psalms are prayed by the monks during Lauds, and there are 150 Psalms, so if my math was correct, I figured I had a 1-in-50 chance. 

So, when I looked at New Melleray's schedule for praying the Psalms, I was delighted to see that Psalm 62 was on the list for this morning! The first few verses of the Psalm go like this:

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting,
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.

I think the phrase "Longing for God" seemed significant this morning because in between the times when my prayer life is rejuvenated by such things as going on retreats, I am thirsty -  thirsty for the kind of water that only God can provide.

While life sometimes seems like a continuous wandering in a dry, weary land, longing for God, we are assured by this Psalm that the glory of the Lord is not so far removed from us so as to be out of sight.  At the time this Psalm was written, people went to the sanctuary to see God's strength and glory.  Now, we go to the sacraments - those signs of God's grace and glory which also join us to the cross.  The life-giving waters of  baptism quench our thirst, and the body and blood of Christ nourishes us during our time in the desert.

Until we meet God face-to-face, we struggle with a continuous longing for God, but we can give thanks that we have been given the means of grace to sustain us on our journeys.


No comments:

Post a Comment