Third Friday in Great Lent
Kathisma 9 (Psalms 64-69)
“We shall be filled with the good things of Thy house; holy is Thy temple, wonderful in righteousness… Thou shalt bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness, and Thy plains shall be filled with fatness.” (Psalm 64)
This Psalm might look at first glance like any other Psalm that praises the Lord for His goodness in the face of some bounty or at receiving good things from His hand. Look at the superscription and you’ll see what makes this one special: this Psalm was inspired by one of the worst events in the history of God’s People: the deportation into Babylon.
God’s People had been unfaithful, and as a result He sent the Babylonian Empire to conquer them. The Babylonians destroyed the Temple, forced God’s People to leave their homeland, and even forbade the use of their language. This was probably the harshest discipline God ever visited upon His People.
That is what makes this Psalm so amazing: in the midst of a present that is about as bad as it gets, the Psalmist looks forward to a time of future blessing. It is a gracious gift from the Lord that enables one of His people to see beyond his present situation and participate by faith in a promised time of future bounty. This is “anticipation.”
“We also ought to know first our captivity, then our deliverance: we ought to know the Babylon wherein we are captives, and the Jerusalem for which we long to return with sighing,” writes St. Augustine. This is an important part of our Lenten practice. We remember that this is not our home, that we are pilgrims and sojourners, that with holy Abraham we long for “a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is the Lord.” (Hebrews 11:10)
Great Lent is a time to experience, by faith, an anticipatory fulfillment of God’s promises of future bounty. Even while we eat simple fare, we anticipate the Day of the Lord, when He will bless the land with fatness. In the midst of this pilgrim life of captivity, the Lord Jesus brings us the fullness of His Kingdom, a Kingdom that is both now and not yet.
You may look at circumstances and feel like you’re on the verge of losing everything, just like the circumstances that inspired this Psalm. But faith enables you to sing this Psalm before its time – to rejoice in a bounty that seems so far away and yet so close you can taste it. This is what we participate in mysteriously every Sunday (Day of the Lord) in the Liturgy: freedom and bounty invading and conquering captivity and suffering.