ADVENT PRAYER: Friday Of Advent II by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

Friday Of Advent II by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 56

Nevertheless, though, I am sometime afraid, yet put I my trust in thee. (v. 3)


The ancient editors of the psalms assigned Psalm 56 to David.  Its superscription, “A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath,” refers again to those events recorded in 1 Samuel 21 and 22, when, fleeing before Saul, David pretended to be crazy and took refuge among his mortal enemies, the Philistines.  Out of the frying pan and into the fire, you might say about David’s predicament.  The psalmist puts it more directly: “My enemies trample upon me all day long, for many fight against me proudly,” (v. 2).

The prayer is essentially divided into two parts – verses 1–3 and verses 5–9 – with a similar refrain concluding each part in 4 and 10–11.  The last two verses of the psalm sum up the writer’s vow to go on giving thanks to God for keeping him safe.  Verses 1–3 describe a desperate situation from which the psalmist can see no escape.  His enemies prevail over him and he appears to be at their mercy.  The most fundamental human emotion rises up within him under these circumstances – the same emotion that grips us all when danger threatens – he is afraid.

The psalmist further describes and laments his perilous situation, (vv. 5-7), but not before introducing a new thought that makes all the difference in the world.  To do so he begins with, “Nevertheless,” (v. 3).  A nevertheless we utter in the midst of our fear is like a door handle that opens the way into a room with a different view – God’s view – of the reality around us.

This nevertheless is like the first word of the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  For many paragraphs, Luke has been describing the betrayal, the trial, the suffering, and finally the death of Christ.  As he opens a new door by introducing the story of the Resurrection, however, he begins: “But, on the first day of the week, at early dawn,” (v. 24:1).  The nevertheless of the psalmist’s prayer, like the Evangelist’s but, introduces a declaration that there is more to the story – much, much more.  “I am afraid,” admits David, “nevertheless, I will put my trust in God,” (vv. 3, 11).  Why?  Because God’s word, God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy will prevail.  He who counts and records every fearful tear shed in the darkness (this is not surprising since he also knows every hair of our head) will in the end make it possible for me to walk fearlessly in the light.  The shadows are sure to come, nevertheless….


From The Fathers

In this psalm the holy church is describing what she suffers in this world, for we know that she endures struggles with the devil without any relief.  Our enemy does not weary of toil, nor does he at any time depart when overcome.  He returns all the more oppressively if by divine grace we have been able to conquer him.  So let none of the faithful complain that he is troubled by the incessant wiles of the devil, for if we wish to belong to Christ, we must always endure the enmity of the devil in this life. (Cassiodorus)

Once again, I put my trust in you, Lord, to be my defender, my protector, my victor, my Savior.

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