The Psalms of Advent, December 2, 2022
You are invited to light a candle and join me on this journey of reflecting on the psalms chosen for the Season of Advent, most recently Psalm 72, found here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2072&version=NRSVUE. A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I am not a scholar of the psalms. I simply chose them as something to explore in this season of expectation and waiting. I appreciated very much what a fellow blogger posted: “I actually love that you are not a scholar of the Psalms. The vast majority of us are not. Your thoughts and reflections remind me that the Psalms are for me, just ordinary, not scholarly me” (Visit her blog on spirituality: Living on Life’s Labyrinth). Yes, the psalms are exactly for “ordinary” us.
The Book of Psalms comes in all shades of color: the red of anger, the black of despair, the purple of royalty, the blue of joy, the gray of seeking, the gold of thanksgiving. No emotion is “inappropriate” for this book of holy poetic scripture. No emotion is too bad to lift before God. Psalms speaks to the totality of human emotions, those we label both good and bad, that make us who we are: ordinary people.
My approach to these psalms has been to use the ancient spiritual practice of “lectio divina,” which means “sacred reading.” Instead of reading a piece of text for information, lectio divina (which is NOT bible study) invites us to read it for transformation, which is quite a significant difference. We don’t rush through it. Information feeds the head; transformation touches the heart. The purpose of lectio is to allow time for a word or phrase to catch our attention or touch a deep part of us and so become a guide and/or an invitation as we walk our journeys. Lectio is similar to hearing that still, small voice of God, Being, Universe whisper personally to us.
So, I do not attempt to explain what the psalms are about or figure out who wrote them. I do not research much, if anything, about each individual psalm other than what the footnotes may offer me. What I do, instead, is to respect each psalm as the ancient piece of wisdom literature that it is. I listen to the voice of the writer for the ancient, and yet still universal, wisdom that is shared. I read slowly, paying attention to each word until a word or phrase tugs me back, invites me in. Then, I meditate on it, trying (not always succeeding) to open my heart to the Light and to Love and to what the Spirit may be saying or how the Spirit may be nudging.
All of this is to say that what I hear, you may not hear. (Please see my last couple of posts as examples.) How I interpret the message may be completely different from your interpretation. I am neither right nor wrong, and neither are you. My hope is that when I share my ponderings, I do so universally, in a way that speaks to ordinary people, like me, no matter who they are, who they worship, or where they are on their spiritual journeys. In this season where so many spiritual traditions are seeking the Light, I pray that these psalms are flickers along the way.
Blessings ~ Rosemary
How the Psalms Came to Be
Imagine dozens, hundreds,
thousands, no, millions of people
standing under the sky
cobalt and immense above
In their hands,
all their hands,
see birds of color:
the hot red of fiery anger
the still blue of deep joy.
the heavy black of aching grief
the harvest gold of sincere gratitude
the pale sage of silent solitude
the ash gray of ceaseless longing.
Myriads and multitudes
of colored birds
are tethered to wrists,
birds nodding, fluttering
when a whisper
of Spirit, a word on a wind,
and the hundreds
and thousands and millions
of tethered birds, (mine, too,
are cut loose to fling their colors
up into the open and immense sky
writing a rainbow above the people
while a voice blesses from the heavens,
“I receive it all.”
(c) Rosemary McMahan
Picture credit: Rosemary McMahan