Third Thursday in Great Lent
Kathisma 8 (Psalms 55-63)
“But be subject unto God, O my soul, for from Him is my patient endurance. For He is my God and my helper, and I shall not be moved from hence.” (Psalm 61)
This is a Psalm of David concerning “Idithun.” What is “Idithun?” St. Augustine comments on the meaning of the word: “one who leaps up.” He says that there are those who climb the steps one at a time, and then there are the Idithun, or those who leap several steps in a bound.
So this entire Psalm is about not only the way to ascend, but to even leap the steps of ascent by bounds. And what is that way of rapid ascent? What is the principle of this speedy climb? It is submission and patience and endurance and humility. The way up is down.
The Psalm begins by commending the subjection of the soul to God. After all, it says, He is your salvation. Then the Psalmist writes something that appears not once, but twice in the Psalm: “For He is my God, my saviour and my helper.” In both appearances of this verse, the consequence of God’s salvation and help is that the one who ascends the ladder need not fear being shaken loose from it, or losing his place.
How will we ascend to the heavens? Only by lowering ourselves before the Lord. If we try to lift ourselves up or ascend directly, as did that old serpent, the Devil, will He not humble every one that exalts himself? (Matt. 23:12) And the Theotokos sang in the Spirit: “He casts down the mighty from the thrones and lifts up the lowly.” (Luke 1:52)
This is the mystery of the cross of Christ, who said to His holy Apostles: “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
Great Lent is a time for God’s People to ascend by lowliness and submission. Hear the Psalmist’s exhortation to the congregation of God’s People: pour out your hearts before Him, for God is our helper. Do not set your heart on men, or those who do injustice, and do not set your hearts on riches. Instead, give alms. Do justice. Be merciful and serve others. Find the lowest place and become a slave of God. Is that not what we say when we go to the Eucharist? The servant of God…? The handmaiden of God…? When we live in those words, we not only ascend to the Lord, but the Psalmist and St. Augustine say that we take the steps two at a time.