By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Psalm 145
1 I will exalt you, O God my King,
and bless your Name for ever and ever.
2 Every day will I bless you
and praise your Name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;
there is no end to his greatness.
4 One generation shall praise your works to another
and shall declare your power.
5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty
and all your marvelous works.
6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,
and I will tell of your greatness.
7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;
they shall sing of your righteous deeds.
8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
9 The LORD is loving to everyone
and his compassion is over all his works.
10 All your works praise you, O LORD,
and your faithful servants bless you.
11 They make known the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your power;
12 That the peoples may know of your power
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your dominion endures throughout all ages.
14 The LORD is faithful in all his words
and merciful in all his deeds.
15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;
he lifts up those who are bowed down.
16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,
and you give them their food in due season.
17 You open wide your hand
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving in all his works.
19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,
to all who call upon him faithfully.
20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and helps them.
21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,
but he destroys all the wicked.
22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;
let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.
Love is about luxuriating in intimate connection. While certainly marriage centers around building up a family, crafting a home, and providing for the household, marital life is hard to sustain without space just to be in loving presence with each other. There’s something deliciously impractical about spending hours together, looking into each other’s eyes, or going for walks in the countryside; lovers just enjoy each other’s company. To be in loving intimacy is to relish the goodness and joy of being together.
Isn’t that why we sing the psalms? Their words inspire awe and gratitude and desire in our hearts as we pursue deeper intimacy with Holy Love. Re-read today’s hymn through the eyes of a lover:
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
We don’t say or sing these words because the Almighty needs our affirmation. No, we say them much like lovers, repeating over and over the things that delight them in each other.
Practicing our love for God as the love of lovers for each other is one of the oldest traditions in the Church. In times past, preachers would often culminate a series of sermons with the Song of Songs, where the erotic love poetry of a Hebrew couple serves as a magnificent image for Christ and the Church. (Those of us who use reading guides like the BCP lectionary never get to pray Song of Songs in the daily office — it is entirely excluded!)
Eros, from which we get the word “erotic,” means to yearn toward, viscerally. I encourage you in your devotions this week to pray the psalms in the spirit of the Song of Songs, and ask yourself, “What would it mean in my life for me to feel this kind of erotic desire for a Creator who is trustworthy in all promises and faithful in all things?”
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, California, where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Church of St. John the Divine, Houston
The Anglican Church of Canada