I have these verses from Psalm 137 ringing in my head:
By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows* there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.
“On the willows there we hung up our harps.” That’s the dry land. In metaphor. Context of today’s world. The desert ~ if you truly care. Where somehow the “heart” often seems to be missing. If you are an exile as I feel I am. (I’m speaking metaphorically.)
If you pay attention to what’s going on the world, and keep your ethical principles tuned up, it is a painful lot you have chosen.
You could join those singing the tune of whoever pays the piper. Or you can join the mourners. Keeping your spirits up by remembering you’re not alone, that even the psalmist knew your sorrow.
I suddenly recall the words of Jesus:
31 ‘To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep.”
These passages I’ve quoted belong together. And they express things I’ve been feeling. They cry out for mourning in a way. They call us to our principles, despite knowing that our principles may lead to mourning in the short run. They speak to the fact that society urges us to conform – but conforming often means giving up one’s principles, selling out. Go with the flow... even if it means changing your tune every 5 minutes.
Maybe that’s why I’ve somewhat abandoned the political commentary for this spiritual path. It seems the only one left to me at the moment. The only one from which I can draw comfort in a sense. Where mourning is honesty. Where the path of so many prophets leads.
The Prayer of the Heart. The prayer from a suffering heart. So much of this pertains to things I’ve written about. The Mystery of Suffering. This poor poem I wrote for a patient once. I can see I’ve been preparing to write on this topic for some time.
For the task, I think, is to find the stamina (spiritual fervor, if you will), the inner purity of heart to plod on… following well worn trails. Trails of tears. Even mustering the Joy that comes from knowing you’re on the right path, no matter how painful it is, no matter how many set-backs, struggles, crucifixions.
This is what Prayer of the Heart really means. For the psalmist it is the recollection of Jerusalem, a metaphor for clinging to one’s deepest heart, one’s dearest concerns, longings, commitments. Now I’m thinking of Paul writing in the letter to the Philippians, especially verse 8 below:
4 Rejoice* in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.* 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, beloved,* whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about* these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Prayer of the Heart: From the furnace of a loving heart, praying (and working) for the transformation of the cosmos “to the last speck of dust.”
Thanks to Alan, here’s this wonderful video of the first verse of Psalm 137: