Why dost thou stand afar off, O Lord? Why dost thou hide thyself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:)
The main reason the Psalms have endured as usable prayers for some three-thousand years is because they are profoundly honest. They express the genuine questions and feelings that people of faith have had despite differences of time, culture, geography and social standing, whether they are standing in a Nazareth synagogue in 30 AD, or in an Orthodox Church in New York City in 2013.
Why is there so much deceit, fake piety, oppression and scheming? Why are the poor perpetually being crushed down? Why do arrogance and pride win the day? And why is God so far away when he is needed most? The psalms show that God is resilient enough to withstand the unvarnished, impious, angry, despairing feelings we hesitate to share with anyone else.
Saint Augustine saw this as the psalm of the Antichrist, the evil one temporarily victorious over the crucified Christ. But in some Jewish traditions this psalm is used in the ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Repentance begins with taking a hard look at ourselves and recognizing that we are the ones this psalm describes. As they say, when you point a finger at others there are three fingers pointing back at you.
O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek; thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
* * *
One of the remarkable features of the Psalms is how they combine deep feeling with masterful poetic literary composition. So here a cry from the heart about oppression, duplicity, greed and secret scheming is set out in a carefully crafted poem of one stanza per letter of the Hebrew alphabet in the original single poem that was Psalms 9-10. Creative and enduring art is always associated with profound feeling, but sometimes in our anatomical dissections of the scriptures this is lost. We do well to remember that human creativity in every sphere is the fruit of our creation in the image and likeness of the Creator.
Metropolitan Council Retreat: Managing Conflict
Yesterday the Metropolitan Council began it’s four days of meetings with a retreat at Our Lady of Kazan Church in Sea Cliff, NY on “Conflict Resolution” led by Dr. Albert Rossi of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and Father Nicholas Solak. Dr. Rossi teaches courses in pastoral theology at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. Dr. Rossi has a brief, bi–weekly podcast on Ancient Faith Radio titled Becoming a Healing Presence. Fr Nicholas is pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Stroudsburg, PA, Dean of Northeast PA and had a career as a prison drug and alcohol counselor. He supervises prison Ministry fieldwork for Saint Vladimir’s Seminary.
The retreat combined practical instruction on dealing with conflict as a normal part of life with emphasis on prayer, inner stillness and invocation of the Name of Jesus as what distinguishes the Christian approach to becoming a healing presence even in times of conflict.
Here are five useful principles of conflict resolution explored at the retreat:
- Separate people from the problem
- Focus on common interests
- *Invent options for mutual gain
- Insist on objective criteria
- Avoid language of enemies
The business meeting of the Metropolitan Council begins this morning. His Beatitude is returning from France where he attended he grandmother’s funeral. He is expected back in the early afternoon and will go straight from JFK airport to the meeting at East Norwich Inn to chair the gathering and give his report.