Tuesday, November 26, 2013

a psalm of lament

woman at beach in San Diego,
©Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda
Perhaps the most popular exercise at my "Writing as Prayer" retreat at Cedarbrake Renewal Center this year was the proposition to write a personal psalm.

After praying as a group Psalm 95 for morning prayer, and contemplating various Psalms in private prayer, I invited participants to write out their own psalm using one of the prayer styles found in the Psalms.

I have previously published here my own psalm from that weekend; as well as a few others that have been generously shared with me recently by the participants. You can find Nora's "Bare to the Core" psalm here; and Pat's "Our hearts are burning" psalm here.

Today, I am pleased to introduce to you Theresa Sismilich of Pflugerville, Texas--and her beautiful narrative psalm, "A Psalm of Lament."

Cedarbrake path

A Psalm of Lament

Your counsel, O Lord, I sought
     And You answered me
I asked which path to walk
     And You replied,
“Look not beyond the day today
     For each has trouble of its own.”
So I had no more worry
Though all the while You knew
There were foxes in the vineyard
     Ready to steal my joy

I set out to follow You
     To walk the journey laid before me
One day at a time
I cried out for You
     But could not find You
It seemed you were preoccupied
As if counting hairs upon my head
You tricked me, Lord,
     And I let myself be tricked
So soon I would retract my fiat
     Seeking remedy of my own
Only to return again
     Crying tears to wash Your feet
And dry them with my hair

But You, O Lord, are Ever-faithful
Each time I found myself with anger
     In a valley of tears
You gave me some thing
     To which I clung –
Some part of You
     That was Enough
To carry me again from day to day

Once You awakened me
     In the middle of the night
Illumined him asleep
     Beneath the comforter
And for some time
     I saw him as beloved
Until human that I am
In my darkness
     I abandoned Light


Another time the phoenix sang
     Soaring from her funeral pyre
A call to die to self
     So You would live in me
I was reborn some while
     Until I tired of waiting
For his anger to be at peace

So You showed me my beloved –
     Isaac as my sacrifice
And I offered him day to day
But I soon fell again
     With lack of trust
And I entered into fire
     With anger on my back

This path You measured out for me
     Became a gauntlet
Before me fire and fury
     A wall of rage kept us apart
My efforts on the way
     Insufficient without You
I had refused to take Your yoke
     And took up mine instead
The journey would be easy
     With You at my side
But all I felt was burdened
     With my Isaac

And I cried in my anguish
     Of this task too great for me alone
My own rage
     Boiled within me – became my food
And I swallowed hurt
     Like tears on unquenchable fire
How long, O Lord? How long?
     “One day,” You said “One day…”
But I didn’t let you finish
And I forgot that my 12,000 days
     Are as but one to You

Then came Lanciano
     And the call to be Your house
Though I didn’t know its meaning
     I said, “Yes”
And waited for You
     To cleanse the temple that is me
Drive out the den of thieves
     That sold me short

I went up to Jerusalem
     In search of You
And too I found You there – Living Word
     – in writing and in bread
And I held on as by a thread
Until at last
     You healed my Isaac
Until at last
     I held You in the night – Beloved in disguise
Until at last
     Pain itself became a source of joy
As you transformed night into day –
     Darkness into Light
And those who would have carried me away
     Released me into the arms of Love

So now I give all time to You
I offer You each moment in surrender –
In greatest of all Thanksgivings –
     The Eucharistic Sacrifice
You will transform this little heart
     Into Your own
Until I am the who of me
     One day . . . one day

I will set the world on fire

                              © Theresa Sismilich, 2013