Monday, December 17, 2012

Words for a Valley of Tears

The news has its way of offering a new "angle" on the Scripture. As we prayed the Liturgy of the Hours this morning, Psalm 84 kept speaking--loudly--to the sorrowful events in Newtown, CT. I found myself hoping that some of the families there had the custom of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, just so they would find the consolation embedded in that first Psalm of Monday, Week III of the Psalter.

This is the Psalm that gives us the expression we find in the "Hail, Holy Queen" about the valley of tears (in the Grail translation it is "the bitter valley"). Not that the Psalm dwells on the bitterness, no. This is a pilgrimage Psalm; it focuses all our attention on the destination. I couldn't help but hear the voices of the children, reassuring their parents as they exclaimed, "How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord God of hosts!" They have not entered a monochrome half-life of clouds and harps; they have discovered a vibrant existence that outstrips the most exuberant moments of their little lives: "My heart and my flesh ring out their joy to God, the living God." They even assure us, "I would rather one day in Your house than a thousand days elsewhere."

All this goes not only for the innocent little ones who died in an insane hail of gunfire; we can't be wrong in hearing it also from those grownups who laid down their lives trying to protect them. (I was struck yesterday at Mass, during the commemoration of the departed in Eucharistic Prayer III, at the recommendation to God of "all who were pleasing to you in their passing from this life.")

Psalm 84 speaks to us of Advent as a pilgrimage. We are not taking a sentimental journey to the Bethlehem of the past; knowing that "we have no lasting city here" (not even in Bethlehem), we are going out to meet the One who is taking giant steps toward us. The little ones of Newtown have already achieved what we are made for.

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