Thursday, August 13, 2015

Suffering Psalm 22

It was while I sat at Evensong during my retreat that Psalm 22 was chanted with the above chant. Now I have sung this so many times myself when I was in Church Choirs and it did take me back to times of great serenity. As I listened, I was overcome with a profound sense of sadness and desolation and I found myself dwelling rather self-pityingly upon all my perceived abandonments and rejections.

As it got to the words "All they that see me laugh me to scorn," I became rather ashamed of myself as I entered into a reflection on the Passion of Our Lord and just how much he suffered and how little my self-pitying compares with that suffering. Yet, as we reached "O go not from me, for trouble is hard at hand"I found myself questioning whether I was indeed being self-pitying. As I looked at each of the instances of being desolate and abandoned, I realised that this was the truth of how I felt regardless of whether I was actually being abandoned. I had judged myself to be self-pitying when it wasn't actually true - I was feeling feelings. I felt that I was being drawn to consider these deep, dark thoughts as a participation in the sufferings of Christ as He weeps over Jerusalem, as He feels frustration and anger at the faithlessness of man, and that intense pain that He suffers over the Triduum,

The fact is that Our Lord feels feelings even as I feel feelings and they are inevitable. In feeling such sadness, I realised that, when purified in the person of Our Lord, my feelings participate in His sufferings. Whether or not my sense of rejection is justified, or even justifiable, nevertheless I found myself awakened to being part of the passion of the Church and my Baptism into the death of Jesus.

Every suffering, big or small, justified or unjustified brings us into the reality of the Death of Christ and points us to His Resurrection. Pain exists because something is wrong. It is an indication that something needs to be done to bring us back to God and that, ultimately, al suffering occurs because of our separation from Him.

Sometimes we overplay our sufferings, and over-dramatise them to the extent that we actually find it pleasurable to wallow in that suffering through self-pity and morbid humour. However, sometimes we are quick to accuse ourselves of being self-pitying when we are depressed or low. We just have to learn to be honest with ourselves. We feel what we feel, rationally or irrationally, but we must recognise them as feelings and know that Our Lord had those feelings as well. Since He sanctified Human Nature in Himself, He does sanctify those feelings too and so, whatever we are actually feeling now, we need to see our feelings are participating in the Humanity of God and allow Him to draw our feelings into a place in which we can use them to glorify Him.

Our suffering can only ever have an answer and a healing in God, so to wallow in negativity can do us no good because we are focussing on where God is not. Again, we must look at ourselves honestly when we do and find some way to connect with God. Psalm 22 does help us with this because it reflects that honesty of feeling without allowing it to overcome us. See how the Psalmist gives vent to His feelings and yet still turns to praise God. The same is true of other psalms. For example Psalm 109 postively seethes with human fury, but the point is that very fury is brought to God who can sanctify it and make it fruitful if we allow Him to reply to our complaint.

Often that reply will appear as a wall of silence. That's because a reply may not need to be vocalised, indeed perhaps it cannot be vocalised. In this silence, we are being offered the opportunity to know our feelings for what they are, and to find rest from them in the same cleft in the rock in which Elijah was sheltered from the earthquake, wind and fire. It is then that we can conclude with another fact that we end our psalms with the Gloria Patri. All things end with the glory of God, even the most profound suffering. It is in that Glory, that the suffering of humanity can find recognition and sanctification, and demonstrate the dignity that God has given to each of us.

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