Taste and See: The Lord’s shelter…

Walls of Oystermouth Castle, Swansea, Wales. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Psalm for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 15(16):5,8-11

There are so many times when we know fear.

Sometimes the cause lies within us, and there are no threats or dangers without us.Sometimes there are very real threats and dangers without.

Either way the fear is real and often debilitating.

The Lord is our refuge and shield, our protection. He is also our portion and cup: he gives himself to strengthen us to withstand whatever is the cause of our fear. 

Praying the psalm, singing it, saying it, reminds us of the care God takes of us, and helps us renew our trust in him.



Advertisement

Speak Lord: that we may give fresh praise

Ireland September 2002 126.jpg

The Lord is close to all who call him.

I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
his greatness cannot be measured.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to all who call him,
who call on him from their hearts.

The Lord is close to all who call him.

Responsorial Psalm for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm 144:2-3,8-9,17-18

The Psalmist begins by promising to bless and praise God: a noble ambition. He proceeds to do just this simply by recounting the goodness and good works of God.

Too often we can take these for granted, until we are maybe taken by surprise by goodness where the opposite might be expected; beauty manifest where we might otherwise have found ugliness; truth where lies may have been common in the past. In a moment we can glimpse something of the awesome quality of the Creator and Redeemer – and that glimpse of the more than we are can sustain us in faithful living, even for a lifetime.

  • For what of God might you give praise today?

Donegal. (c) 2002, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: Shepherd Lord

 

Venice July 2004 122.jpg

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

The Lord is my shepherd: there is nothing I shall want.

Psalm 22:1-6

The Responsorial Psalm sung at Mass tomorrow, the 4th Sunday of Lent, is perhaps the best known psalm in the English-speaking world, at any rate, and the one most commonly requested at funerals and weddings. It is a psalm that speaks of confidence and trust in the Lord in good times and bad, hard, sad times.

We sing it tomorrow after hearing of the shepherd by chosen to be Israel’s king. Kingship is a troubled concept in the Old Testament. For Israel has its king – the Lord – but it hankers after kings such as the other nations have… and though God allows them their kings they often enough turn out to bring disaster on the people.

The Bible denotes Psalm 22 as a Psalm of David. Whether this means he worte it, no-one knows. But the account of David – despite its ups and downs and tragedies – does reveal him to be a person who knew God to be his Lord, his king, and who placed his trust in him. The psalm expressed just such a faith.

And  today, still, not least by this psalm, David’s faith continues to inform ours.

Mosiac of the Good Shepherd, The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425 C.E., Ravenna, Italy. (c) 2004, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Make us new, make us better

img_0477-desert-flower

Come, Lord, and save us or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

Come, Lord, and save us or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan.

Come, Lord, and save us or Alleluia!

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age.

Come, Lord, and save us or Alleluia!

Psalm 145:6-10

 

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, tomorrow, the 3rd Sunday of Advent offers a further set of images of reversal, healing, change.

There is much in our world, and in us, that needs the healing touch of God. In Advent we acknowledge that need, and we are invited to renew our trust that what God has promised, he will do – even for us.

Flower. Gozo. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: faithful one

Aix 2104 OLadyThe Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow, the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, celebrates the faithfulness of the Lord.

We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful.

And when we call, he not only listens, but answers.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.

On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord.

Psalm 137:1-3,6-8

  • For what do you thank the Lord?

Our Lady. Aix en Provence. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Still giving thanks

Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell

The Responsorial Psalm on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, was an invitation to the people of God to again join in common song, praising God for his merciful love.

We are his people, the sheep of his flock.
or
Alleluia!

Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing for joy.

Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age.

Psalm 99:1-3,5

In the song we surrender something of our individuality in order to share what we have in common – and yet it is in our particular lives and circumstances that we find the justification, indeed the very drive to join in the song of all the faithful.

We sing not only because ‘they’ sing, but because we, each one, has need to sing.

  • For what do you sing?
  • How has he made you you, and his?

Church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell, where I was ordained priest, 25 years ago today. And for that, and the 25 years since, I give thanks and sing. (c) 2010, Allen Morris.

 

Speak Lord: My rescuer

Peter savedThe Responsorial Psalm for Mass tomorrow, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, might be heard as coming from the lips of Peter the apostle. From Peter saved and rescued by Jesus in so many ways, not least from his betrayal of his friend when he three times denied even knowing him. In the first reading tomorrow we hear how Peter has grown in faith and trust, able to resist pressure from without: he has gained this courage because of the compassion with which the Lord has shown him again and again. Rescued, saved, Peter praises.

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me or Alleluia!

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you have raised my soul from the dead,
restored me to life from those who sink into the grave.

Sing psalms to the Lord, you who love him,
give thanks to his holy name.
His anger lasts a moment; his favour all through life.
At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.

The Lord listened and had pity.
The Lord came to my help.
For me you have changed my mourning into dancing:
O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.

Psalm 29:2,4-6,11-13

  • From what has or does the Lord save you?
  • For what do you praises him, and when, and how?

St Peter saved as he sinks beneath the waves. Cathedral of the SPilled Blood, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord:

Angels, Notre Dame, LondonThe psalm for tomorrow, the last Sunday before Lent, the fifth Sunday of the Year, is a song of communion.

The psalmist sings before the world – its kings and peoples, before the angels, and before God of God’s faithfulness and love and care.

Can world, kings, angels remain silent. Surely not…

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

All earth’s kings shall thank you
when they hear the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:
‘How great is the glory of the Lord!’

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.

Before the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

Psalm 137:1-5,7-8

Will we sing? Will we sing the psalm at Mass – or will it be said? And will we respond in word or song with gusto, or not.

The scriptures set before us attitudes and modes of relationship. It is for us to make them their own. And if we do not, if we do not join the song, the praise, where does that leave us?

In these last days before Lent, that is a good question to ponder? Where do we find ourselves – joined with the prayer of the Church active in our part; or on the outside looking in?

  • If the latter do we know there is an alternative? That we are invited in?
  • If we are in, do we still count our blessings?

Detail of mural by Jean Cocteau, Notre Dame de France, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Hope and help

Hope Grasse

The Psalm sung on Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, confessed the Lord to be our help. In doing so we professed our vulnerability, our need, our present contingence.

My lips will tell of your help.

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, free me:
pay heed to me and save me.

My lips will tell of your help.

Be a rock where I can take refuge,
a mighty stronghold to save me;
for you are my rock, my stronghold.
Free me from the hand of the wicked.

My lips will tell of your help.

It is you, O Lord, who are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, since my youth.
On you I have leaned from my birth,
from my mother’s womb you have been my help.

My lips will tell of your help.

My lips will tell of your justice
and day by day of your help.
O God, you have taught me from my youth
and I proclaim your wonders still.

My lips will tell of your help.

Psalm 70:1-6,15,17

In just over a week’s time we begin the season of Lent a time when we face up to our temptations and weaknesses, even to challenge them, to seek to overcome them. In doing this we wish to demonstrate our freedom of them, either by our resilience and deliberate act, or – if we fail! – by turning to the Lord and his mercy, and his power, in a new awareness of the importance of his victory over sin and death.

But whether we succeed in keeping our Lenten penance and fasts, we seek to know more keenly and confess more readily that his is the glory, our salvation comes only through him.

  • Where are we bound? Imprisoned? Heading?

Carving, Grasse, France. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: simple and true

Wall painting, Utrecht

The Psalm for the 3rd Sunday of the Year has us sing to the Lord – even with a sense of awe and wonder – about the virtue of his words, his law.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life.

Psalm 18:8-10,15

The awe and wonder comes surely not from any surface grandeur in the word of God. There are some stylistic, rhetorical features and, especially from use, these impress themselves up on us – think of the opening of John’s Gospel and of Genesis. But by and large the prose is prosaic, and the poetry modest (at least in the English). There are metaphors that find their way to our heart. But mostly there is little in the text itself to engage us, little in the way of literary fireworks.

But the word is a living word, given not to draw attention to itself, or its human authors, but to the God and faith who inspires the words and speaks heart to heart through the words. It is before this truth that the psalmist almost falls silent, but speaks still to give thanks and witness to the precious gift of the Lord.

Candlestick and wall painting, Utrecht. (c) 2003, Allen Morris