Today’s Readings for the Daily Office
Psalm 75, 76 (Morning)
Psalm 23:27 (Evening)
Gen, 24: 28-38, 49-51
Once upon a Daughters of the King Quiet Day Retreat, the very special young priest who led the exercises distributed copies of a Gospel passage; his instructions were to “enter” the passage, observe the scene, smell, listen, participate if desired. We brought journals for writing also materials to draw, paint, or for me, water color, the essences felt.
This experience, inexplicably, came to mind as I meditated on the scriptures-an embarrassment of riches-in today’s office. I invite you to join me in a thoughtful, visualization exercise in which color brings another dimension to experiencing the language.
Our palette is a single piece of multi-media art paper, say, 24″ wide and 10″ vertically, folded in the middle, creating a four-sided folder of 10 x 12.” On the front side I have written “Waiting for the Lord” (Ps 27.14) in letters 1 inch high in bold red ink.
Opening to the inside left, you are called into the page by the black calligraphic letters of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd” appears at the top left of the page, and the Psalm continues around the edge of the page. Notice the swashes of water-colored images of green pastures, in their magnificent variety: along with grass green, there is leaf green, malachite green, moss green, emerald green, with touches of aquamarine and a dozen more. You can hear the peacefully undulating creek winding through the pasture, and you can see its silvery sheen amid a rainbow of blossoms on its edges. We note that several winding paths are available to us, all leading to meditatively comforting places: places that are “right” to visit.
A darkened, rather murky, area is positioned ahead of us-in tones of gray and brown-but because we carry the “rod and the staff” of the Lord, we are unafraid. But beyond that, the glistening figure of the Lord stands in a wash of the reds poets have associated with the Christ: I picture crimson, magenta, cinnabar, maroon, cerise, damask, even puce. Now in the bottom right of the page you and I have been depicted indistinctly, sitting at a table. The almost glistening figure of the Lord stands between us, now with his hand at your forehead, anointing you will the oil of his grace. Smell the sweetness of the oil. Feel the firmness of His touch.
Against a pale blue wash of color has been written in a larger, more commanding, calligraphy, the final verse of the Psalm. It is as if there is an angel hovering over us, assuring us of the utterly realistic expectation that “goodness and mercy shall follow [us] all the days of our lives” because we have been welcomed eternally to the “house of the Lord.”
In small vignettes in the blank spaces you can see, as I can, lingering memories of loved ones comforted by this Psalm, who wanted to hear it over and over in their illness and to have it read at their funerals (as did my mother). I see her face, now resurrected in “the light of the Lord,” our “stronghold” (Ps. 27). Can you almost hear the harmonic tones of the “stringed instruments” (Ps. 76) and almost feel the reverberations of bow on strings?
Always among the thoughts of sweet repose with the Lord there are images of the evil that inevitably remind us to pay attention. Within a translucent wash of sulphur-yellow, a figure with muted features holds a cup of “foaming wine, well mixed,” a symbol of God’s wrath. The wicked will be forced to drink this metaphorical draught of chastisement to the very “dregs” (Ps.75:8). All around this central figure we may imagine images of the generations who struggled to come together under the Christ in the book of Hebrews. This “great cloud of witnesses” who lived, worshipped, and suffered for transgressions (Heb. 12.1). You and I are encouraged to counter the foaming wine, meddled with toxic spices, as we “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
I wonder what words or images you see when you turn to the back page?
Written by Pamela Mellott
Pamela holds a Ph.D. in English Renaissance Literature and the History of Medicine from the University of California, Riverside, and UCLA, granted in 1998. She and her husband, Kerby, have been appreciative members of St. Paul’s since September, 2016. Kerby retired in July, 2016, from the University of California Irvine Medical Center, Orange, CA, after 25 years as Senior Director of Special Services.