22 March 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Lent:
22 March 2022 (Psalms 42)

‘As the deer pants for the water’ (Psalm 42: 1) … at the edges of Muckross Lake in Killarney, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I spent another night in Milton Keynes Hospital last night following my minor stroke on Friday night. I am waiting results this morning of a CT scan yesterday and an MRI scan the day before, and have also seen pharmacists, doctors, nurses and radiographers in the last day or so. But, before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning (22 March 2022) for prayer, reflection and reading.

During Lent this year, in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 42:

Psalm 42 is the first psalm in Book II in the Psalms, from Psalm 42 to 72. This second book of Psalms is also known as the ‘Elohistic Psalter’ because the word YHWH is rarely used and God is generally referred to as Elohim.’

In English translations, this psalm is often known by its opening words, ‘As a deer (or hart) longs for flowing streams (brooks), so my soul longs for you, O God ’ (verse 1). In Latin, its incipit in the Psalterium Gallicanum is Quemadmodum desiderat cervus, but in the Psalterium Romanum this is Sicut cervus.

The psalm has been set to music in Palestrina’s Sicut cervus, Handel’s As pants the hart and Mendelssohn’s Psalm 42.

In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and most Latin translations, this psalm is numbered as Psalm 41.

The psalm is a hymn psalm. It is one of 12 psalms attributed to the sons of Korah. But, despite this attribution, the text is written in the first person singular. We know the writer lives in the northern kingdom, for he refers to Mount Sinai as Mount Horeb (see 42: 5). He has a deep desire to visit God him in the Temple, but is ill or wounded, and unable to make a pilgrimage from the north to Jerusalem.

He has fond memories of past pilgrimages (42: 4), but he wonders whether his inability to visit God in the Temple means God has forgotten him (42: 9), and ungodly people say he is ill because he is wicked (43: 1).

He now prays that God may come to his rescue, so that he may be able to make the pilgrimage once again.

Some commentatoprs suggest that King David composed this psalm when he was prevented from returning to the sanctuary in Jerusalem, either due to persecution by Saul or because of Absalom’s revolt.

The psalm can be divided into two parts, each ending with the same line – verses 6 and 12 in the Hebrew text.

The psalmist bemoans all the troubles he has endured in his exile and prays for salvation. He laments his remoteness from the Temple of God, and he expresses his desire for the renewal of God’s presence.

Some ancient Hebrew manuscripts have this Psalm combined with Psalm 43, and some commentators suggest that on account of similarities of thought and language in Psalm 42 and 43, these two psalms were originally one. They form one single poem or song consisting of three stanzas, each with the same refrain (42: 5, 42: 11; 43: 5).

Among Jews today, this psalm is traditionally recited as a prayer for the end of the exile, and to find favour in the eyes of others.

Sephardi Jews recite Psalm 42 on the first and second nights of Sukkot prior to the evening prayer. Those who follow the custom of the Gra say Psalm 42 as the Song of the Day on the second day of Sukkot.

Psalm 42 is one of the ten Psalms of the Tikkun HaKlali of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Many verses in this Psalm are echoed by Christ during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26: 38; Mark 14: 34; John 12: 27).

‘As a deer longs for flowing streams’ (Psalm 42: 1) … mosaics in the sanctuary in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 42 (NRSVA):

To the leader. A Maskil of the Korahites.

1 As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help 6 and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God, my rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?’
10 As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Today’s Prayer:

The USPG Prayer Diary this week has a particular focus on ‘Lingering Legacies’ and remembering the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary this morning (22 March 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray with Keila Comrie, an 8-year-old from Jamaica, as she celebrates the ending of slavery and prays that we may never allow ourselves to become slaves of impersonal things.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘As the deer pants for the water’ (Psalm 42: 1) … the base of the ‘Market Cross’ in Kells, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

1 comment:

Patricia said...

I thought about Ukraine as I was reading the psalm. Such beautiful, passionate, heartbreaking words.