Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Column: Mercy is never exhausted Psalm 130

Every night, around 10 pm, my friend Cathy shares the  Episcopal Church's end of the evening post on Facebook.  If I'm on my computer at the time, I know it's time to pack things up for the night when Cathy's post ghosts in the corner.  Often the post draws from Compline's reading and prayers, and deepens my sense of the work of prayer being passed from hand to hand, in so many different traditions and in so many different ways.  I treasure the echoes I hear in Cathy's post.

And when I wake in the night, it's to be buoyed up on these prayers.  And The Egg is fine, it was just a tough week, and sometimes you really do need to call your mom.

This column appeared at on 24 February 2016

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading. — Ps 130:1-3

Tuesday night, I woke to the phone ringing on my bedside table. It was 12:55 a.m. and my youngest son was calling from California. Sometimes you just need to talk to your mom at the end of a long and tough day. We talked until a bit after 2 a.m., then I slipped back into bed, to catch a few hours of sleep before a long day of classes and meetings.

That night, as I sat down to say Compline — Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours — I thought of all the nights where I prayed this “last” prayer of the day, only to be up again and again with little ones. The psalm set for this Wednesday night is the De Profundis, Psalm 130, named for the first words of the Latin translation. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

When my sons were young, this prayer so often rose out of the depths of my exhaustion. Hear my voice, O Lord, and let this little one fall back to sleep. Or in my worries over a sick child, I would long for the morning to come, when things inevitably would seem less frightening.

Now when I pray Psalm 130, memories of those long dark nights swirl across the pages of my breviary, and I can feel in my depths the yearning of the psalmist for relief, for the Lord’s merciful presence. My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchman for daybreak.

Pope Francis speaks of the way God’s mercy is like the love of a mother or father for their child. It is a visceral love, arising from the very depths: tender, compassionate, indulgent and merciful. It expresses itself in very concrete ways. God binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted, he sets prisoners free, he forgives us all our sins.

It is a love that doesn’t keep count, that is never exhausted. Like a mother, one ear always open to hear the child who calls out in the night, God is listening for us. Each and every time we cry for mercy.

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