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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 8

Written by Janet Proudman, posted on Monday, March 30, 2020

In these extraordinary times, as our nation and our world face the unprecedented challenge of the Coronavirus epidemic, our first task is naturally to support and enable the efforts of Edmund Neweyfrontline staff tackling the disease and supporting those who have fallen ill. As we engage in every way we can with their work, we as Christians turn for guidance to God, in whom we have our origin and our end.

Here at Christ Church the book of Psalms – the prayer book of the Bible, as it is sometimes called – sustains our daily worship, now as always. Public worship is no longer an option, but the cathedral clergy here are maintaining the daily round of prayer and warmly encourage you to share in the spiritual communion that prayer makes possible across all boundaries of time and space.

At the core of this work of prayer the psalms voice the cry of our hearts to God. With this in mind the ministry team here is sharing one psalm each day with an accompanying reflection. Recalling the University of Oxford’s motto, Dominus illuminatio mea – ‘The Lord is my light’ – we pray that, together, we may know God’s strength, encouragement and blessing in this time of need.

‘The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom then shall I fear: the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1)

Psalm 22 

MY GOD, my God, look upon me; why hast thou forsaken me: and art so far from my health, and from the words of my complaint? 
O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not: and in the night-season also I take no rest. 
And thou continuest holy: O thou worship of Israel. 
Our fathers hoped in thee: they trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them. 
They called upon thee, and were holpen: they put their trust in thee, and were not confounded. 
But as for me, I am a worm, and no man: a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people. 
All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot our their lips, and shake their heads, saying, 
He trusted in God, that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, if he will have him. 
But thou art he that took me out of my mother's womb: thou wast my hope, when I hanged yet upon my mother's breasts. 
I have been left unto thee ever since I was born: thou art my God, even from my mother's womb. 
O go not from me, for trouble is hard at hand: and there is none to help me. 
Many oxen are come about me: fat bulls of Basan close me in on every side. 
They gape upon me with their mouths: as it were a ramping and a roaring lion. 
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart also in the midst of my body is even like melting wax. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my gums: and thou shalt bring me into the dust of death. 
For many dogs are come about me: and the council of the wicked layeth siege against me. 
They pierced my hands and my feet; I may tell all my bones: they stand staring and looking upon me. 
They part my garments among them: and casts lots upon my vesture. 
But be not thou far from me, O Lord: thou art my succour, haste thee to help me. 
Deliver my soul from the sword: my darling from the power of the dog. 
Save me from the lion's mouth: thou hast heard me also from among the horns of the unicorns. 
I will declare thy Name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. 
O praise the Lord, ye that fear him: magnify him, all ye of the seed of Jacob, and fear him, all ye seed of Israel. 
For he hath not despised, nor abhorred, the low estate of the poor: he hath not hid his face from him, but when he called unto him he heard him. 
My praise is of thee in the great congregation: my vows will I perform in the sight of them that fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied: they that seek after the Lord shall praise him; your heart shall live for ever. 
All the ends of the world shall remember themselves, and be turned unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him. 
For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the Governor among the people. 
All such as be fat upon earth: have eaten and worshipped. 
All they that go down into the dust shall kneel before him: and no man hath quickened his own soul. 
My seed shall serve him: they shall be counted unto the Lord for a generation. 
They shall come, and the heavens shall declare his righteousness: unto a people that shall be born, whom the Lord hath made. 

Hands over face‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ This cry of bewildered despair to God is very apt as we all confront the new and unexpected challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our whole way of life Is changing in previously unimaginable ways in the coming weeks and months, and we are obliged to look again at our private and public priorities.

Jesus cried out these very words in his great agony on the Cross. Certainly he knew, even if he did not say, the entirety of this psalm with its prophetic references to the events of the Crucifixion: ‘all who see me mock at me’ and ‘for my clothing they cast lots’, but we should read on.

While we, our families and friends may be burdened with fears and anxiety about the future of our society we appeal to God ‘Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help’, and find that there is hope for us all. 

Psalm 22 ends in triumph, praise and redemption: ‘He did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him’; ‘The poor shall eat and be satisfied, those who seek him shall praise the Lord’; ‘Future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.’

Just as Jesus overcame death in his Resurrection we too will trust in God and look towards the coming day when we will rebuild our lives. Thanks be to God.

Janet Proudman