Meditations on the Psalms, The Christian Life #11, by Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox

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

Psalm 113

When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people: Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion. The sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of the flock. What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou didst flee: and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back?

Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye hills, like lambs of the flock? At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob: Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of waters. Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory. For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?

But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would. The idols of the gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men. They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not. They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not. They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.

Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them. The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector. The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector. They that fear the Lord hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector. The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house of Israel: he hath blessed the house of Aaron.

He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great. May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children. Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men. The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord: nor any of them that go down to hell.

But we that live bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever.

• • •


First Point. Our Redemption the source of all grace. The escape of Israel from Egypt, with the ceremonies of the Pasch, is the natural type of our redemption by the sacrifice of Calvary, which brings us out of the alien domination of sin into our true country. And in the act of thus delivering us, Christ has claimed for himself our human nature as his temple and as the battle-ground of his Power. The waves of sin that kept us back from God, a prey to our spiritual enemy, have now closed behind us, and though it still remains for us to pass the river of death, this too has its passage sweetened and made easy for us by the Resurrection. Meanwhile, the mountainous obstacles which stood between our unaided nature and the performance of any act pleasing to God are removed from their place, and need not daunt us any more. By what power is it that these three great barriers the guilt of sin, the fear of death, the frailty of human nature, have all at once made way for us? By the presence in human flesh and suffering under human conditions of the same God whom we had offended. And now the face of the world is changed for us, and life, barren and dreary though it may still seem, becomes joyful to us through the streams of sanctifying grace which flow abundantly from the side of the Crucified.

Second Point. The Christian religion, alone among religions, insists on the action of grace at every turn. What have we, then, that we have not received? What heroic act can we perform, and not turn afterwards to thank God for the grace that enabled us? If we insist on human effort, we only justify the attitude of the unbeliever, who attributes all the triumphs of Christianity to unusual application of the natural virtues. The philosophy of the moderns will deny the existence of a God transcendent and omnipotent, and seeks to content us with the doctrine of a vague Pantheistic deity, a World-soul, immanent in nature but not above nature, a God tied by his own laws and powerless to hear prayers or to exert his power to save. And those who believe in such half-religions share the fate of their divinity: the doctrine of God’s grace and God’s omnipotence lost, they find themselves unable to help the world by curbing human passions or stimulating human effort. But the Church still knows where her strength lies, and the simplest of her children understand that they must pray for grace; the religious, the ascetics, the mystics, for all their heroic endeavours, still attribute everything to God; and those outside the Church who have not lost this sense of dependence have the best chances of conversion and salvation.

Third Point. We must co-operate jealously with the grace given to us. Can we then ever cease to be mindful of God’s claims, when he is so continually mindful of us? We shall have to give a strict account of our graces whether the habitual grace so lavishly granted to all the Church’s children, or the supernatural favours bestowed on God’s specially privileged friends, or the motions of actual grace which are given also to those with out the Church, nay, even to the abandoned sinner and the deliberate heretic for their conversion. We must spare no effort and no prayer to complete the work of grace in ourselves, and to propagate it among the generation that comes after us. God is absolute Lord of heaven and earth, and he has given us the earth as a garden we must cultivate for him: our time here is our probation, and the grace of repentance is not given to us after death, when by our neglect of grace here we have merited eternal reprobation. Let us then so husband our grace here, that we may give thanks among the redeemed for ever.

Acts: Gratitude, confession of our helplessness, resolve not to fall short of grace.

Colloquy with Christ pierced for us, our Rock in the wilderness.