ADVENT PRAYER: Third Sunday Of Advent by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

Third Sunday Of Advent

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 84

My soul longs, yea faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. (v. 2)

“How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts,” (v. 1).  The Hebrew term, yedidot (from the verb dwd, which also forms the name David) carries a stronger meaning than pleasing.  Elsewhere in the Bible, the word always refers to those “beloved” by someone, particularly by God.  So, the psalmist is saying he is in love with God’s house.  Why this deep affection and desire?  Nowhere does the poet speak of how the temple looks, or of the manifold liturgical activities that take place there.  His longing for “the courts of the Lord” is inspired not by the beauty of objects and activities but by the beauty of the One who lives there – “my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God,” (v. 2).  For this reason, he utters three benedictions upon the one who makes his pilgrimage to Zion.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, (v. 4).  If making a pilgrimage to the temple is an occasion of great joy and celebration, how much happier would the person be who lived there all the time?  Like the birds of the air that nest in the rafters of the tabernacle, such a person might make his permanent home within the presence of God.  There he could sing unceasing praises to the Lord God of hosts.  No more would desire and longing define his days.  Fulfillment would replace restlessness, and – even by only standing at the door, (v. 10) – contentment would be his forever.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, (v. 5).  The psalmist knows that a pilgrimage to Jerusalem can be a dangerous undertaking, but those who draw upon God are sure to arrive safely, (v. 7).  The man who loves God’s house, whose well of strength is God himself, is not afraid of even the driest valleys.  The landscape of our soul’s pilgrimage is often marked with rough and parched terrain, but the one who walks with God will never fail to find (even make) a stream out of the desert, (v. 6).  (See Isaiah 35:6.)

Blessed is the one who trusts in you, (v. 12).  This is the heart of the psalmist’s benedictions.  God is the “light and defense” (or the “sun and shield”) of them that live according to his ways.  Nothing good is withheld from them, for God himself is the sum of their longing.

From The Fathers

Somebody may ask, “Why in the valley of tears, in the place that God has set for the contest – or for the conflict – why has he placed us as athletes?  Why has he willed us to fight?”  The psalmist gives the answer: He has willed that this place be set for us as an arena that he may reward our victory with a crown.  “They go from strength to strength”; hence, unless we are strong here, we cannot have greater strength there.  Do you want to be a person of fortitude there?  Then be one here first.  Do you want to be crowned there?  Fight here. (Jerome)

My strength is in you, Lord
Today, even in my weakness – especially in my weakness, I am strong.
So, if the fight comes to me today, Lord, I will fight on your side…by your side.

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