ADVENT PRAYER: Wednesday Of Advent II by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

Wednesday Of Advent II by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 57

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let they glory be over all the Earth! (vv. 5, 11)

Is Psalm 57 a prayer of lament or a song of praise?  It is both, really, but praise is given the last word.

The psalmist uses vivid imagery to describe his predicament as well as the power of God to save him.  For example, his cry for mercy and help is made as he hides himself “in the shadow of God’s wings,” (v. 1).  This is an almost technical reference to the golden wings of the cherubim that hover over the ark of the covenant in the temple, (Exodus 25:18-20; 1 Kings 6:27-28), but the Hebrew could also refer to the shadow of “your Shekinah,” meaning the glory of God’s presence.  Shekinah is sometimes used to speak of the pillars of cloud and fire that guided and protected the children of Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness, (see Exodus 13:20-22).

In either case, even while troubled and in danger, the psalmist pictures himself securely concealed in the protective shade of God’s presence.  He may be hiding in a cave (see the opening ascription), but he sees himself resting under the cover of God’s merciful and limitless power.  In this sense, he is in truth surrounded by Heaven’s glorious light, even as dark shadows loom over his head.

The psalmist pictures his enemies vividly, (vv. 1, 4, 6).  They are like a violent storm that leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.  They are like ravenous lions, stealthily stalking their prey, with teeth as long as spears and as sharp as arrows, and with pointed swords for tongues.  They are like hunters, skillfully laying their snares and digging their traps.  Pursued by such cruel forces and foes, how can the psalmist hope to escape?

Twice in the psalm a refrain of victory is repeated: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let thy glory be over all the Earth!” (vv. 5, 11)  God, the Lord of the universe, reigns over Heaven above – where the storms of destruction are carried on the winds; the glory of God fills the Earth below – where prowling enemies hunt and scheme.  The psalmist’s vision of God – in glory, exaltation, faithfulness, and love – dispels his vision of danger.  And that God-given vision inspires his fearful heart to awaken with praise and thanksgiving.  For hundreds of years, some liturgical traditions have assigned Psalm 57 to be a regular part of  morning prayer.  The reason is clear: the night visions are past; the darkness gives way to dawn, fear dissolves with the rising Sun.  Praise is the only fit greeting to give the new day.

From The Fathers

You are exalted, you who were enclosed in your mother’s womb; you who were made in her whom you had made; you who lay in the manger; you, suckled at the breast as a baby, according to the very nature of flesh; you holding up the world and being held by your mother; you, who were hungry for our sakes, thirsty for our sakes, tired along the road for our sakes; you, arrested, bound, scourged, crowned with thorns, hung on the tree, pierced with the lance, you dead, you buried: “Be exalted above the heavens, O God!” (Augustine)

O God, my Creator and Redeemer, whose glory and love fill the universe, whose power and mercy cover the whole Earth:
Give light to my eyes, that, where now I can see only darkness, I may see you.
And give light to my heart, that, where now I can only fear, I may praise you. Amen.

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