Friday, June 27, 2008

Scholion on David the King

"David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of his family heard about it, they came down to him there. He was joined by all those who were in difficulties or in debt, or who were embittered, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. " 1Samuel 22: 1-2

"All those...who were embittered..." Who can this be but those who, with Qoheleth, see that the world involves us relentlessly in 'vanity of vanities'? And what can it mean that we who suffer this bitterness of heart should seek out David as our leader, but that we should seek our solace in the Psalter?

"I believe that the whole of human existence, both the dispositions of the soul and the movements of the thoughts, have been measured out and encompassed in those very words of the Psalter....For whether there was necessity of repentance or confession, or tribulation and trial befell us, or someone was persecuted, or...someone has become deeply sorrowlful and disturbed...for any such eventuality he has instruction in the divine Psalms."
St. Athanasius, Letter to Marcellinus, 30

"If I am disquieted by the urges of anger, avarice, or sadness, and if I am being pressed to cut off the gentlness that I have proposed to myself and that is dear to me, then, lest the disturbance of rage carry me off into a poisonous bitterness, let me cry out with loud groaning, 'O God, incline unto my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me.' [Ps. 60/70: 1]
"We find all of these [human] dispositions expressed in the psalms, so that we may see whatever occurs as in a very clear mirror and recognize it more effectively."
St. John Cassian, Conferences, 10.IX.10, 10.XI.6.

David managed to assemble a disciplined army out of the outcasts of society. We, who are abhorrent to (and thus outcast by) the World, can find a place in the disciplined army of the Son of David, if we allow ourselves to be instructed in self-knowledge and praise of God by David's songbook, the Psalter.

1 comment:

Maria, Elmhurst said...

The first time I went on retreat at a monastery last year, I was surprised to find the emphasis on the Psalter in the liturgy. Initially, I thought, "what do these have to do with me?" These desert fathers, these Kings and their violence, these sometimes ravenous, angry statements. But as the days went on, I found my bones became like dust in the words. The desert became me. I didn't expect it, but I became resonant and I found myself in the words, the aching, the beseeching, and the joy of finding. I understand that knowledge is power, that owning and laying out all my contradictions is better than the lie of existential acedia. It makes sense that there is a way to see self-knowledge (and hopefully improvement) as finding a place in a "disciplined army of the Son of David..." I consider myself a warrior for justice-and yet it is a resonance of both the war and peace within me that the Psalter contains.

Thank you for all your words.


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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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