Domine, refugium factus es nobis a generatione et progenie; a saeculo, et in saeculum tu es. (cf. Ps. 90:1-2)
Lord, you are become our refuge, from generation to generation; from age to age, you are.
A series of Scriptural bits and pieces caught my attention today. The first (above) is the entrance antiphon to the daily mass (Tues. 1st Week, Lent). It’s that part at the end, “you are.” This little cherry on the Scriptural sundae occurs in any number of places, both in the Bible and in the ceremonies of the Church: that most basic statement, “Lord, you are.”
Of course, this confession brings us right back to Moses receiving the Holy Name of God, “I AM WHO AM.” With that name, God identifies himself as over and above everything. He is indeed the God of Being itself, uncontainable within the confines of the universe. As St. Anselm put it, he is, “that than which nothing can be greater.”
Today’s Psalm Response also caught my eye: “From all their distress, God rescues the just.” This based on the text of Psalm 34, oculi Domini super iustos et aures eius in precem eorum. “The eyes of the Lord are on the just and his ears are for their cries. The just are those who live in right relationship with God. They recognize that “He is,” and they respond accordingly.
This may not seem like much of a revelation, but it touches on a major challenge for evangelization… really, a challenge for people generally.
What do I mean?
There’s another MAJOR Lenten text, Psalm 51, the Miserere… so named for its first phrase, “Have mercy on me.” P.S. Listening to Allegri’s setting of this psalm will change your life… but I digress. Psalm 51:7 says, ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum et in peccatis concepit me mater mea. “Behold, in iniquity was I conceived, in sin did my mother conceive me.”
How few people believe in sin anymore… And even if they believe in sin, they rarely believe in their sins… and almost never in the idea that from the time of Adam and Eve, we have been -let’s say “genetically”- disposed toward sin. This phrase has been in my mind in light of a family funeral we recently observed in my family: the reality that we have, along with all the good, a heritage of sin.
On the flip side, how many people really pay attention to miracles. They’re real… we can prove it. Sometimes, we even have video evidence that one can look up and watch from half a world away. And yet… how few people live in relationship to these supreme “goods” that we call miracles? Again, at my family funeral, I thought about how often my dad has questioned, “With all these miracles, why do you think people don’t practice religion?”
What I want to touch on in all of this is “Being.” Or maybe it’s better said, “substantial reality vs. insubstantial fantasy.” In a city… in a world… where folks are not in relationship with the great reality of sin… nor in a relationship with the reality of goodness (i.e. miracles), what are people in relation with? If God is the great “I AM,” can one really claim to be in a right relationship with him while denying such vast swaths of that which is (evil and goodness in this case)?
It’s something for us to think about this Lent both as individuals and as evangelizers. In my experience, a big first step in bringing people to Christ is bringing them to grapple with reality… with all that is… That starts with goodness in things like Revelation, doctrine, beauty, love. It also include grappling with the reality of evil. The First Step, after all, is admitting that one has a problem.
Only when one is in real contact with all that is… can one begin to be in right relationship with Him who is. Lord, you are become our refuge, from generation to generation; from age to age, you are.