March 7: Psalm 38

March 7: Psalm 38

Third Penitential Psalm

87.87                         Beach Spring, p. 170
Pleading Savior (Come, Ye Sinners)
Arise (Come, Ye Sinners)

Lord, do not in Thy displeasure speak in stern reproof to me;

Let Thy chast’ning be in measure and Thy stroke from anger free.

For Thy hand most sorely presses; fast Thine arrows stick within;

Wrath my weary flesh distresses, gives my bones no rest for sin.

For my manifold transgressions have gone up above my head;

Like a burden their oppressions weigh me down with constant dread.

Loathsome are my wounds neglected; my own folly makes it so;

Bowed with pain, with grief dejected, all day long I mourning go.

For my loins are filled with burning, all my flesh with sore distress;

Faint and bruised, I’m ever mourning in my heart’s disquietness.

My desire and ceaseless wailing, Lord, unveiled before Thee lie;

Throbs my heart; my strength is failing; all the light has left my eye.

Friends and lovers whom I cherish from my plague now stand aloof;

My own kinsmen, though I perish, come no more beneath my roof.

They that for my life are seeking snares for me in secret lay,

Hurtful things against me speaking, plots devising all the day.

As one deaf and dumb appearing naught I hear, nor silence break;

I’m as one their words not hearing, and whose lips no answer make.

Lord, my God, in Thee I’m trusting; Thou, O Lord, wilt answer me;

Lest they joy, against me boasting, when my slipping feet they see.

Since I ready am to stumble, ever with me grief has been;

Guilt I’ll own with spirit humble, and be sorry for my sin.

Full of life and great in number, strong the foes who me withstood;

Evil they for kindness render, hating me for doing good.

O my God, do not forsake me; O Jehovah, be Thou near;

O come quickly, help and aid me; as my Savior, Lord, appear.

(If using Beach Spring or Pleading Savior, repeat the last half of the tune for these lines)

Suffering and death entered the world with sin. To humanity’s first sinners, the Lord said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow,” and “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen. 3:16-17). Like Psalm 6, the first penitential psalm, the present psalm commences with a prayer for deliverance from divine anger. Whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, what we suffer in this life are the incursions of death, and death is simply sin becoming incarnate and dwelling among us. Such is the essential conviction of our prayer in this psalm: “For my iniquities are gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” The proper response to sin and suffering is confession of sins and the sustained cultivation of repentance. Repentance is not something done once, and all finished; it is something to be perfected until the end of our lives. This sorrow for sin, says our psalm, is continual, ongoing. Psalm 38 is not the happiest of psalms, but it is exceedingly salubrious to the spirit. Sin separates us, not only from God, but also from one another, and our psalm speaks of this isolation: “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague. And my relatives stand far off.” Finally, there are the enemies. Unlike human enemies who are to be prayed for, the demons (principalities and powers) are always to be prayed against. Our fight with them is unsleeping, as is their fight with us, plotting our ruin. (Reardon, p.73-74)

Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison; Kyrie eleison

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