Meditations on the Psalms, On The Interior Life #19, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

cover of the ebook 'Meditations on the Psalms, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox'

Psalm 41

As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God. My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? My tears have been my bread day and night, whilst it is said to me daily: Where is thy God? These things I remembered, and poured out my soul in me: for I shall go over into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God: With the voice of joy and praise; the noise of one feasting.

Why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou trouble me? Hope in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance, And my God. My soul is troubled within myself: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan and Hermoniim, from the little hill. Deep calleth on deep, at the noise of thy flood-gates. All thy heights and thy billows have passed over me. In the daytime the Lord hath commanded his mercy; and a canticle to him in the night. With me is prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God: Thou art my support. Why hast thou forgotten me? and why go I mourning, whilst my enemy afflicteth me?

Whilst my bones are broken, my enemies who trouble me have reproached me; Whilst they say to me day by day: Where is thy God? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me? Hope thou in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance, and my God.

• • •

Spiritual Darkness

First Point. The soul aspires to God, who still hides himself. The hart flies to the streams for safety, for coolness, to quench its thirst. In God the soul finds her salvation, her refreshment on her journey, the satisfaction of her spiritual desire. But there are times when the soul, though her thirst is undiminished, finds that her prayer is no longer satisfied with spiritual delights; when, wearied and parched, she looks in vain for the cool plunge into recollection; when she cannot even feel that she is in a state of grace. The thirst, which used to meet at every breath with an answering draught of the Divine favour, now becomes a painful exercise: how long is the time of her trial to last, before God will admit her to a more continual union with himself? Her own state, her own unsatisfied yearnings, fill her whole outlook with what seems a selfish absorption. And there is a devilish voice which whispers to her insistently, either that God is not, or that he has cast her off as worthless.

Second Point. In such trials, it is well to remember God’s mercies in the past. God seems to absent himself from our prayers: is there no object to which we can turn in order to feed our affections? At least we can go back in memory to the spiritual favours of the past transitory, indeed, like a tabernacle in the wilderness, yet full of awe and of delight, when we seemed to feel God dwelling close to us as in his temple. The outbursts of happiness, the gratitude, the banquet (though it were but of fragments) of the Divine Love . . . Can we, whom he has thus privileged, really despair of our spiritual journey, really be alarmed lest he should leave his work in us imperfect? We dare not give up hope; we have committed ourselves to him, and he is our God and our All. Because we have now no light, because he allows us to fall into this distress of spirit, we must remember all the more the passage of our Jordan, that is, the transferring of our affections to heavenly things, our Hermon of Transfiguration, when, though it were only for a moment, he showed us something of the brightness of his Face.

Third Point. We must pray in quietness and confidence that he would bring us out into the light again. We must humble our heads, while the strange echoes affright us in our loneliness, and wave after wave of spiritual impotence seems to crush and annihilate us. It was, and will be, by God’s mercy and God’s disposition that the light visits us; it is ours to see that in the darkness too we do not fail to raise the aspiration of our wills to him. Prayer is the soul’s life; while we yet live, we can pray to God who, in spite of all, never lets go his hold of us: we can remonstrate with him quietly on the exposure of our souls to spiritual assaults, as long as we remember that these are only permitted in order to crush out self and self-love and self-pride, the hard resistances of the human spirit. Days come and go, and still he tarries, but still we will not give up our hope, because we rest secure in the confidence that we have committed ourselves to him, and he is our God and our All.

Acts – Gratitude, confidence.

Colloquy with God whose arms are still beneath us, though the waves go over us and the darkness hides him.