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

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

Psalm 89

Lord, thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation. Before the mountains were made, or the earth and the world was formed; from eternity and to eternity thou art God. Turn not man away to be brought low: and thou hast said: Be converted, O ye sons of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past. And as a watch in the night, Things that are counted nothing, shall their years be.

In the morning man shall grow up like grass; in the morning he shall flourish and pass away: in the evening he shall fall, grow dry, and wither. For in thy wrath we have fainted away: and are troubled in thy indignation. Thou hast set our iniquities before thy eyes: our life in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are spent; and in thy wrath we have fainted away. Our years shall be considered as a spider: The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected.

Who knoweth the power of thy anger, and for thy fear Can number thy wrath? So make thy right hand known: and men learned in heart, in wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and be entreated in favour of thy servants. We are filled in the morning with thy mercy: and we have rejoiced, and are delighted all our days. We have rejoiced for the days in which thou hast humbled us: for the years in which we have seen evils.

Look upon thy servants and upon their works: and direct their children. And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us: and direct thou the works of our hands over us; yea, the work of our hands do thou direct.

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The Shortness of Life

First Point. Our life compared with God’s eternity. In the troubles and distractions of our earthly life, there is one thought that should be constantly near, either to console or to control us the eternity of God. His existence, itself altogether outside of and unconditioned by time, recedes infinitely (in our human mode of calculation) into the past and into the future. To let the imagination feed on this truth has, at first, the effect of altogether crushing our spirits and frightening us away; this is not the effect God intends. If we will think of the meaning of our life in the light of God’s eternity, it will be a sure way to conversion of the heart. With him, a thousand years are as one day, a mere brief episode: nay, time itself is lost in an eternal Now. In His sight a human life is simply the turn of a watchman at his post; maturity follows upon youth, and decay upon maturity so soon, that the brief time of man s probation loses all value and colour of its own, and is seen merely as a preparation for eternity.

Second Point. Sin in the light of eternity. And that preparation how miserably used! How little we should shrink from God’s chastisements in time, if we could always remember that he has our eternal destiny in view! Our sins, even when we ourselves are unconscious of their weight, lie open and naked in his sight; our worldliness is seen in its true colours in that infallible Light in which God sees the hearts of men. Our allotted days slip away from us almost unnoticed; almost unnoticed, too, the offences against God which mount up as our life goes on: are declining years to bring a better mind? Or are we to risk an eternity of God’s displeasure? And that in exchange for something as frail and unsubstantial as a spider’s web, the enjoyment of our brief human existence; seventy or eighty years, perhaps, and how many of them darkened by infirmities, miseries, anxieties, and despairs? God’s mercy inflicts these upon us, precisely lest we should forget, in unchequered happiness, the small worth of our life here. Otherwise, so weak are we, it would be hard for us to keep in mind the claims God has upon us, and avert his anger by the constant exercise of holy fear. O may His hand never cease to visit us with chastisement, until we have learned that divine wisdom which consists in a proper disposition of our hearts towards him!

Third Point. Renewal of resolutions. How long will it be before God will give us grace to live simply for his service? Would that this very morning might see the dawn in our souls of that heavenly illumination, which alone can bring true happiness in a miserable world! True happiness, because the possession of it enables us to see, in all our humiliations and adversities, the correction of our faults and (please God) some remission of our time in Purgatory. We are the creatures of his hand, bound to him by an infinite debt of service; may he teach us, then, to direct all our works to the sole intention of his glory: may the consciousness of his enlightening presence be with us continually, so that, as far as possible, no moment of our transitory lives may be wasted by being spent on occupations which we cannot devote to his honour.

Acts: Adoration of God’s eternity; fear of our judgment; resolution to devote our works to God.

Colloquy with God who foresees our life and our last end.