Monday in Holy Week

He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.
                               -Isaiah 42
*           *        *
I am glad that something has gone haywire with my email account, at least for the moment. Because the email from Universalis with the daily Mass readings hasn’t arrived, I visited the site for Lauds and the Mass readings. A few lines into the Benedictus, I thought, this is a strange translation of the Benedictus. And then I remembered why I like this “strange” translation so much:
Through the bottomless mercy of our God,
  one born on high will visit us
to give light to those who walk in darkness,
  who live in the shadow of death;
  to lead our feet in the path of peace.
The heart of our salvation is this, “the bottomless mercy of our God,” whose coming among us we remember in a distinct way this week. God chose this bizarre way to save us, this way that seems so foolish and un-God-like. Gregory of Nyssa contended with those who thought the Incarnation and the Passion were wholly unworthy of God. But it shows God’s infinite mercy spectacularly. It is that “bottomless mercy” that inspires the way of the Lord’s coming to “visit us.”
“He does not break the crushed reed/nor quench the wavering flame.” Indeed not. Instead, God opts to be crushed, though Isaiah insists that “he will neither waver nor be crushed until true justice is established on the earth.” So the One who cannot be crushed is crushed (Isaiah 53), and so true justice is established on the earth; and we are not crushed, but saved. 
And so all of our Lenten practice comes down to this, this week, in which we remember that all our endeavors to join the Lord in his suffering serve not to crush us, but to prepare us to receive him once again in his mercy–bottomless mercy!–at Easter. 
 Deo gratias.

Easter Saturday

Give thanks to the Lord,
 for he is good,
for his love has no end.

The Lord’s right hand
 has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die,
 I shall live
and recount his deeds.
                           Psalm 117

.       .      .

Some days this is the heart’s cry: God has triumphed, and the soul rejoices. The evidence of God’s goodness is obvious and close at hand. Even the senses seem to attest to God’s goodness, as the psalmist elsewhere exclaims, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good!’

And then there are those other days. On those days, the objective truth of God’s goodness remains. It is, after all, Easter week. The triumph of the Lord is–or should be–obvious and close. But, though even the heart knows the truth of God’s victory and the extent of God’s goodness, the joy and gladness do not seem to follow.

On those latter days–I admit that today is one of those–I am grateful for liturgical seasons and appointed feast days. Holy days of obligation are a gift to me, and the psalms set for Mass and for the daily office make way for me to give thanks to the God of heaven, the One who raised Christ Jesus from the dead.

I am not blessed with a constant experience of the joy of my salvation. Would that I were, that the happy praise of the Lord were always on my lips and in my heart. But I am low some days, downright glum. But that doesn’t change anything about who God is, or how right and just it is to praise the Lord ‘always and everywhere.’ Tomorrow, I will join the rest of the congregation in the alleluias and amens, and happily so: for the company of the faithful supports me (however little they may be aware of it) simply by offering that praise and inviting me to join in. By their presence, they testify to the truth I know, that the Lord has called us all out of darkness and into his marvellous light.

For that, I am glad–truly and deeply glad–indeed.

Deo gratias.

Tuesday of the fourth week in Lent

Cease striving, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
                                           Psalm 46 [45]: 10-11

.        .        .

I admit that these two verses are not among those set for the reading of this psalm today at Mass. But they strike me as particularly apt for this point in Lent. “Cease striving,” the psalmist says (many translations have “be still”). Yet I don’t think about Lent as a time of rest. What place does rest have in a penitential season? Here I am, giving up and taking on (and not doing a stellar job of either, truth be told). Is the psalmist telling me to stop it?

Somehow I don’t think so. I think, rather, that the psalmist is reminding me (in these two verses and those to be read in Mass today) that all the abstinence and action that make up my Lenten observance aim for this end precisely: rest in God. To give up something I enjoy has a double effect: a certain suffering that comes from a want left unsatisfied, and the possibility for refreshment from another source, from God. And what have I taken on, but more time for reflection, more frequent attendance at daily Mass? This is a recipe for resting in God for me.

Because that is, after all, what God desires of us. Cease striving, says the Lord: I am God, I will be God, and I will be exalted. You can sit back and enjoy my strength; you can rely on my saving help. We see our need for that strength and saving help better, perhaps, when our Lenten discipline makes us want. How much more ready, then, will we be to enjoy the good things that God gives us–and to recognise their source–come Easter?

Deo gratias.