By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from Psalm 22
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?
2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;
by night as well, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are the Holy One,
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4 Our forefathers put their trust in you;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 They cried out to you and were delivered;
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
6 But as for me, I am a worm and no man,
scorned by all and despised by the people.
7 All who see me laugh me to scorn;
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
8 “He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”
9 Yet you are he who took me out of the womb,
and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.
10 I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born;
you were my God when I was still in my
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
12 Many young bulls encircle me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
13 They open wide their jaws at me,
like a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint;
my heart within my breast is melting wax.
15 My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
16 Packs of dogs close me in,
and gangs of evildoers circle around me;
they pierce my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
17 They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.
18 Be not far away, O Lord;
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
19 Save me from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog.
20 Save me from the lion’s mouth,
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
21 I will declare your Name to my brethren;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
22 Praise the Lord, you that fear him;
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.
23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them;
but when they cry to him he hears them.
24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who
25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the Lord shall praise him:
“May your heart live for ever!”
26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
27 For kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules over the nations.
28 To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down
all who go down to the dust fall before him.
29 My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.
30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.
Everyone has down days. Yet, there may be times when a blue mood lingers, and, over time, deepens, taking up residence within us. Such is the mood of Psalm 22, which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It continues: “My heart within my breast is like melting wax.” It is in the nature of melting wax that as the pool grows deeper, the wick is drowned and the flame snuffs out. “All my bones are out of joint.” The weight of darkness in our hearts can cause us to carry our bodies differently, or create physical pain. “My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd.” The longer we spend in the dark, the more we may lose our ability to articulate what is amiss inside, and grow increasingly silent.
Where is God in that forsaken place? In such a state, how do we rekindle the fire, turn our pain to peace, our lament to praise, and walk back into the light?
Today the Church remembers St. Teresa of Ávila, a woman who was no stranger to spiritual struggle or physical pain. This scrappy nun suffered from debilitating headaches her whole life, but was not deterred in her passionate pursuit of her calling. Among her many writings, The Interior Castle speaks directly to one who feels forsaken in darkness. The book envisions the soul as a crystal palace with seven rooms, with a darkness surrounding the soul: “like a crystal in the sunshine over which a thick black cloth has been thrown, so that however brightly the sun may shine, the crystal can never reflect it.” St. Teresa lays out the road one must walk to meet God at the center of the soul, in the seventh room. She invites us to set our interior rooms in order and find the light that God gives within.
Any of us would benefit from exploring The Interior Castle, but especially perhaps those who, like many sufferers, find themselves living in prolonged darkness.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Georgia
Church of St. John the Divine, Houston, Texas