January 31, 2014

Psalm 63

A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.

O God, Thou art my God, I seek Thee [LXX: I rise early at dawn for Thee],
my soul thirsts for Thee;
 my flesh faints for Thee,
 as in a dry and weary land where no water is.
(Psalm 63:1)

This is one of the six matins psalms, and Saint Basil says it is the perfect prayer for the morning. This is most obvious in Greek where forms of the word orthros (morning, dawn) are used in verse 1 and again in verse 6: “I have remembered you upon my bed, and meditated on you at dawn.”

The Wilderness of Judea
Mount Olives
The Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane

No one can live without water, so being thirsty in a hot, dry desert is something we can understand. Even today the daily search for water is a hard reality for millions of people around the world. But the thirst for God is different, because it can dry up or never begin. Millions happily go about their lives without it. It’s a mystery, but if we do have this thirst then we can thank God and pray that we never lose it.

The inscription most likely refers to the distressing period when King David had to flee from Jerusalem and go into the desert because of the armed rebellion led by his own son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15-19). “And all the country wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness.” “The brook Kidron” then marked the limits of Jerusalem, beyond which was the wilderness. There is an interesting parallel here to our Lord, who “crossed over the brook Kidron” to go into the garden of Gethsemane, where his Passion began (John 18:1). The evangelist John may have had this psalm in mind too when from the cross Jesus cried out, “I thirst” (John 19:28, also Psalm 69:21).

But unlike the psalm’s ending, which proclaims the destruction of the enemies, David was deeply grieved and wept aloud when his overzealous supporters killed his son Absalom. Jesus too refused to call down wrath on his enemies and instead prayed for his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Feast of Three Hierarchs at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary

Metropolitan Tikhon and Archbishop Nikon, Fr Nicholas and Mary Roth (left), Deacon Alessandro and Anna Margheritino (right)

Father Eric Tosi and I joined His Beatitude and Archbishop Nikon with many other clergy and students at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary yesterday for the chapel’s patronal feast. Archbishop Nikon ordained Deacon Nicholas Roth to the priesthood, and Metropolitan Tikhon ordained Alessandro Margheritino to the diaconate. Afterwards clergy dispersed around the campus to bless offices, library, classrooms, dormitories, apartments, exercise room, bookstore and refectory, gathering together for a final prayer in the main building followed by a festal brunch.

For the rest of the day Father Eric and I met individually with OCA students to get to know them. We will continue our meetings with students today. What a diverse group of men and women. I am grateful that God continues to inspire such spiritual thirst, desire to study and zeal to serve.