Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Friday meditation on the Gradual Psalms



Folio 152v - The Crucifixion.jpg

Today, I want to provide some comments on these psalms from St Fulgentius of Ruspe, a contemporary of St Benedict, that seem to me particularly apposite for the day:
Just as one who returns to his homeland [Psalm 119] always has more of the trail ahead of him until he arrives, so we also, as long as we are in this mortal body, are away from the Lord.  For us in the present life is a road in which we always have room for being able to make progress, until, with God leading us, we are able to reach that eternal homeland of blessed immortality.
Therefore it is a great blessing in the present age to love in such a way that each member of the faithful applies himself to spiritual progress but not, however, at any time proudly attributing this to his own power.  Rather, with humble heart he asks God for a ceaseless guarding of the gift received [Ps 122], from whom emanates not just the beginning but also the perfecting of every good will....
There is no period in this life in which the enemy does not set a trap for people; no one can escape his snares with his own strength except that one whom God has deigned to free by his grace through Jesus Christ our Lord...So the prophet too proclaims that his feet will be freed from the snare not by his own power but by the divine gift..in another text, whom the Lord has deigned to transfer to safety and happiness for eternity, it is said:'Our soul has escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare has been broken are we have escaped'. [Ps 123] ...
Here we overcome the adversary if we fight with tears and prayers and continuing humility of heart.  It is written that 'The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds...and it will not desist until the Most High responds'.  Therefore the weeping of the humble contributes greatly to the destruction of carnal concupiscence.   The tears which come from compunction of heart both conquer the enemy and gain for us the gift of triumphal happiness.  For those 'who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves' [Ps 125].  
How well does the holy prophet teach that the seeds of good works must be watered by a river of tears!  No seeds germinate unless they are watered; nor does fruit come forth from the seed if deprived of the aid of water.  Accordingly, we too, if we wish to keep the fruits of our seeds, let us not stop watering our seeds with tears which must be poured out more from the heart than from the body.  Therefore it is said to us through the prophet that we need to rend 'our hearts and not our clothing'; something we can do when we recall that we ourselves, even if not in deed, frequently sin in thought.  Because the 'earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind' and our land does not cease to produce thorns and thistles for us.  We are unable to get to eating our bread, unless we will have been worn out by weariness and the sweat of our brow...
Therefore although we have reason to thank God, because by his free mercy, he has subjected us to himself so that we are humble, still we have reason to have to beseige the divine ears with continuous prayers; because as long as we are in this mortal body, just as we cannot be without sin, so we are not yet able to show forth perfect humility to the divine commands...(trans Robert B Eno, in Fulgentius Selected Works).

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