Canticle

One of the things that has been interesting about doing the Daily Office is this category of canticles, or songs. Some are from Scripture, others from early church writings. The evening prayer includes the song of Mary when she learns she’s going to bear Jesus, and/or the song of Simeon when in the Temple he holds baby Jesus. Others include the song of Moses, the song of Zechariah father of John the Baptist, and various passages from Isaiah, Revelation, and more.

I guess the one I wanted to share here isn’t really a canticle, because it is not read after a Scripture reading (“lesson”), instead taking the position of an invitatory psalm. It’s an early church hymn:

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

This evening’s psalm was Ps. 22, most famous for lines associated with the cross like the opening sentence, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “they divide my garments among them” (Ps 22:1, 17b). Two verses that stood out to me were the tenth:

“I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.”

And the twenty-third:

“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.”

The first speaks to God as the initiator of our spiritual life and relationship with him; even those of us who have a conversion experience were in his hands before we were born. The second strikes me in how the Bible often conflates material / financial poverty with spiritual poverty — and how neither condition is to be despised, and neither condition puts a person out of God’s reach.

Also? I have a history of fearing being despised — of being so weird, or broken, or intense, or something, that people would be driven to hide from me, or dismiss / patronize me so as to not really listen to what I have to say. (Or to be too worried about me to hear and see me clearly.) This idea of God being one who never turns away, who knows me fully, every word I think or speak, every nonverbal thing in me, who never has too much of me, was a huge part of what drew me in to love Jesus when I was fourteen.

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