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April 04, 2012


Bob MacDonald

She has made a true statement. Violence given to the infinite cannot then be taken up by the one who gave it. But - just how many of these psalms are there and what do we call them? By my count, there is only one psalm that is under the rubric of 'invective' - that is Psalm 109. Violence enters many psalms both from the inner perspective of the poet and from the recognition of violence in others. But not all violence prayed is invective. You use the term 'imprecatory' and I try to guess its meaning as a prayer against others. But frequently the poet prays for the shame of others, which can be seen as a desire that their conscience be quickened.

The BCP of 1958 in Canada did not even include Psalm 58 in it. There was no such Psalm, we were told. But it is one of the 6 Miktamim (15,56-60) and one of the four inscribed Do Not Destroy (57-59,75). I have wondered whether it is these psalms that we must pray or we will find ourselves fulfilling the violence and abuse on others. Psalm 75 is the one where the wine in the cup is drunk. Surely this is in anticipation of the events we recall week.

Jim Gordon

Apologies to Chris and Bob for the delay in posting their comments. Been on holiday and been busy - not an oxymoron just the way life is.

Bob, as always your comment makes me think again - but if we believe the Psalmists spoke with utter frankness to God, then vengeance and grief, anger and despair would be part of the genuine experience of people of faith facing life's extremities. The collisions of emotional and theological responses within the collection of Psalms is what makes them the prayer book of the human heart, and also enables such prayers to be an honest and authentic cry of faith whether struggling or celebrating, questioning or affirming.

But yes, any reading of the Sermon on the Mount, and serious reflection on the pivotal event of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, making peace by the blood of the cross, requires of us the responses of those who are ministers of reconciliation. The eucharistic cup, of anguished suffering and suffering love, of shared faith and holy communion, itself holds together the polar extremes of human experience and the infinite range of Divine love and peacemaking.

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