Meditations on the Psalms, Song of Ascents #3, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

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

Psalm 125, 126, 127

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Sion, we became like men comforted. Then was our mouth filled with gladness; and our tongue with joy. Then shall they say among the Gentiles: The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us: we are become joyful. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as a stream in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Going they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves.

Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it. It is vain for you to rise before light, rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of sorrow. When he shall give sleep to his beloved, Behold the inheritance of the Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb. As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken. Blessed is the man that hath filled the desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.

Blessed are all they that fear the Lord: that walk in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labours of thy hands: blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife as a fruitful vine, on the sides of thy house. Thy children as olive plants, round about thy table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. May the Lord bless thee out of Sion: and mayest thou see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.

And mayest thou see thy children’s children, peace upon Israel.

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Spiritual Fruit

First Point. The spirit of captivity. For all true interior progress we need the spirit of captivity, which embraces, by an act of the will, a rule for our daily actions and a deliberate direction of our affections and thoughts, against the inclinations of nature, which chafes at being thus cramped and confined. Only after this, only when God sees fit, these contradictions of our natural bent will become, instead of irksome, grateful and simple to us. What happiness that will be for us, what a blow to our spiritual enemies! We must remember that this ready acquiescence in our own spiritual good is not ours by right or by merit, but a free gift of God. When the drudgery of perseverance in prayers, mortifications etc. that are painful to us turns into the happiness of willing service, it is like a stream of water suddenly flowing in the wilderness an act of his power. Yet, commonly at least, it is not presumptuous for us to think that the happiness will come as the reward of the drudgery, and will be in proportion to the labour and the difficulty which have exercised and disciplined us; the tears of our mortification do really water and make fruitful the seeds God’s grace has sown in us.

Second Point. The need of discretion. The edifice of perfection cannot be planned by human device; its architecture is God’s. Nay, even the process of watchful custody of the senses, whereby we guard against our imperfections, is fruitless except in so far as God furthers our endeavours. Hence we must not be in a hurry over our spiritual progress; must not wear ourselves out with impatient and sometimes presumptuous efforts at self-improvement. Rather, we must try to reach by interior prayer that resignation of our own wills which allows God to make known to us, as in a vision of the night, his more perfect will for us. As God grants or withholds the gift of issue to marriage, so he distributes in his own time and in his own measure the graces that are acquired in prayer. Yet those graces will be truly ours; and, as the father of many children is safe against assault or judicial oppression, so he who has made progress in prayer will find comfort in the day when he stands at the Judgment-seat.

Third Point. Spiritual advancement makes us blessed even in this life. It might seem as if living in a holy dread of God’s judgments, walking in a narrow way between clearly defined landmarks, would mean an anxious and scrupulous life in this world. It is not so. The husbandman who lives on his own produce will have to work hard, but he will be independent of his neighbours for his living: so our hard spiritual discipline will make us, in our degree, independent of worldly comforts and consolations the surest road to happiness. The soul will be like a well-ordered household or a well-trained garden all its elements properly balanced and harmonized, and therefore at peace. The only true happiness is peace of mind. And what if we seem to be isolated, cut off from the current of worldly events? We know that our prayers go up to God in his holy temple, calling down blessings on the faithful, winning new children for the Church, increasing the harmony and well-being of the Christian family.

Acts – Resolution to persevere through discouragement: resignation: gratitude to God for calling us to an interior life.

Colloquy with Christ as the Gardener of our souls.