Joy, Gratitude, and Trust: A Priest’s Reflections on Psalm 15 (MT 16)Posted: April 5, 2017
Joy, gratitude (or thankfulness), and trust are attitudes of faith. These are not optional, but are essential. By the exercise of these attitudes, they are strengthened within our lives and become attributes. By such exercise, faith is increased in our lives. The exercise of these attitudes also leads to deeper prayer, charity, and discipline, and other virtues of our faith. Psalm 15, according to the Septuagint accounting of the Psalms, Psalm 16 by the Masoretic accounting (common in western traditions), is an inspired declaration of joy, gratitude and trust.
Every reader should place his or her life within its words. Psalm 15 should be biographical: it speaks to our experience of God in our lives. I have been given many gifts by God: of husband and father, of education and profession, of home, friends, and parish life. Yet, there is one gift that causes me to relate to Psalm 15 in a deeper way — God has given to me the undeserved gift of priesthood. By this gift’s lens, I examine, very informally, selected verses from this Psalm.
The psalmist begins with a plea, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” He then begins his confessions and declarations: “I say to the Lord, ‘you are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”
He continues, “As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight (v. 3).” As a priest, I too, take delight in the faithful whom have been ennobled by their adoption as sons and daughters of God. The faithful nobles of God are prophets, priests, and the vice-regents of our Lord. I serve them as I hear their confessions, and give to them the Body and Blood of Christ our Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Gratitude is declared in verses five and six: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes I have a goodly heritage.” As a priest, these words call to mind the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the center of Christian worship — the Divine Liturgy moves us to Communion. I desired to be a priest so that I could be as close to our Lord in the Eucharist as humanly possible. God graciously granted me this desire. I am the human instrument used by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be present before the altar, and call on the Holy Spirit to change common, humble bread and wine to become the cleansing and life-giving Body and Blood of Christ. I have the privilege and joy to give the Body and Blood of Christ to his redeemed people. This is joy! This relationship with God as priest is my chosen portion and my Cup. As I am used to minister to God’s people I truly do have a blessed life and a “goodly heritage!”
I am reminded of the hearing of the Scriptures in verse seven: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel…” Not only do the Scriptures read in the Divine Liturgy, Matins, and Vespers (and other Hours) give such counsel, but so do the hymns, and the prayers of the Church. They move into my heart and mind — sometimes very slowly — and dwell therein to instruct me: “…in the night also my heart instructs me.”
The Psalm concludes so beautifully, powerfully, and truthfully:
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. You do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fulness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.