Thursday, May 31, 2007 -- Week of Proper 3
Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
Today's Readings for the Daily Office
for Thursday of Proper 3 (p. 968)
Psalms 37:1-18 (morning) 37:19-42 (evening)
2 Corinthians 3:1-18
for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (p. 997)
Morning Prayer: Psalm 72 // 1 Samuel 1:1-20 // Hebrews 3:1-6
Evening Prayer: Psalms 146, 147 // Zechariah 2:10-13 // John 3:25-30
(I chose the readings for the Visitation)
There is something profound in the catharsis that Hannah experiences when she prays in 1 Samuel. She pours out her heart before God, presenting her pain and need with earnest energy. She is so engaged in her prayer that the priest Eli thinks she has been drinking. (Or maybe Eli had lost his ability to tell the difference between the holy and the profane.) When Hannah speaks of her "great anxiety and vexation" Eli answers, as is so easy for a priest to answer, "God in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him." (It sounds almost dismissive to my ears.)
But something profound has happened within Hannah. She has given her heartache to God, and rises anew. "Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer."
The facts and circumstances of her life have not changed perceptively. She still has no child; she is not pregnant. She is still living with her husband's other wife who taunts her. She returns from her prayer to the same circumstances that she has lived with for so long. But everything has changed. She has given her distress to God, and her countenance is sad no longer. She is trusting, relaxed, and open. That night she conceives Samuel.
Over and over I have experienced the same thing in my life. When I pour out my "great anxiety and vexation" to God, giving and offering it with pleas for help, sometimes I can leave my prayer trusting, relaxed and open, with a countenance that is sad no longer. Those days tend to go better than others. And so often, new possibilities are conceived which directly address my worries and concerns. Even if the circumstances don't change, I have changed. I am more able to be whole in their presence rather than be distressed.
That came to mind as I recalled the Psalm I had just read, Psalm 72. Psalm 72 is a prayer asking God to make the King a good one. It describes the kind of political leadership that I want for my nation. (I translate verses 10-11 a bit; they are triumphalistic verses about the other kings. I include among the "kings" the "multinationals" -- the real powers in our day. "All political authorities and multinationals shall bow down before him, and all the powers do him service.)
The prayer is a compelling one. Justice, righteousness, prosperity. Defending the needy, rescuing the poor, overcoming the oppressor. Peace. Abundance. And all the powers of politics and economy are bent toward these good ends. "He shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper. He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy. ...May there be abundance of grain on the earth." This is the kind of government that I want; the kind of leadership that I yearn to support.
I'm going to re-pray that psalm, with Hannah's sincerity.
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