Advent Book Club Bonus Day 4

Sing praises to the Lord,
O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning…
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you
and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Psalm 30:4-5,11-12

Today Nouwen challenges us to turn loneliness into solitude. He thinks we spend too long clinging to people, things and experiences in trying not to be alone, rather than learning to let God fill the silence. I guess this is true of me – I can easily find 101 things to do with my time other than pray.

Oddly enough, though, today’s Bible reading is a good example of the sort of thing that helps God fill the silence. I’m thinking again of the discipline of Daily Prayer.  I can’t promise that I do always manage it, but my hit rate is getting pretty good. And the psalms play a very important part in that cycle of prayer. When we are short of our own words, we can often find something in the psalm of the day that chimes with us.

Like Dorothy, I found today’s suggested action – resolving to practice cheerfulness – and prayer – to cast away all our sackcloth and ashes and be joyful in the Lord – didn’t quite fit with the Nouwen thought. Both of these seem easy to do from the sake of appearance but hard to do from the heart. I loved Dorothy’s suggestion that instead we are honest with God – we share with him the rough and the smooth – we are not artificially happy.

One cannot simply be relentlessly cheerful.  Indeed, as we all have occasion to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, it would seem odd to be cheerful throughout our prayer time or any formal liturgy that includes repentance and absolution. Likewise, intercessory prayer is not tailor-made (at least for me) for outward cheerfulness.

I promised yesterday to pray for the Syrian orphans. Today I found the obvious link too of the Holy Innocents, commemorated in the church calendar today, with the massacre at Newtown. Indeed, that chimed again with the psalm above – in a speech given by President Jeremiah Bartlet in the West Wing episode College Kids in the aftermath of a massacre at a college, we have the following quote: “Joy cometh in the morning,” scripture tells us. I hope so. I don’t know if life would be worth living if it didn’t.”  Let this be our thought for the day too.

May joy come to your mornings.

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