VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to a reflection on Psalm 26(27):1-6. He gave the address in Italian.
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1. Our reflection on the prayers of vespers continues today with Psalm 26(27), which the liturgy distributes in two diverse passages. We will now reflect on the first part of this poetic and spiritual diptych (see verses 1-6), which has as a background the temple of Zion, see of Israel’s worship. In fact, the Psalmist speaks explicitly of the “Lord’s house,” of the “temple” (verse 4), of the “shelter, dwelling, house” (see verses 5-6). In the Hebrew original, in fact, these terms indicate more precisely the “tabernacle” and the “tent,” namely, the very heart of the temple, where the Lord reveals himself with his presence and his word. The “rock” of Jerusalem is also evoked (see verse 5), place of security and refuge, and allusion is made to the celebration of thanksgiving sacrifices (see verse 6).
If the liturgy is the spiritual atmosphere in which the Psalm is immersed, the theme of the prayer is trust in God, both in the day of joy as well as in that of fear.
2. The first part of the Psalm, on which we are now meditating, is characterized by great serenity, based on trust in God in the dark day of the assault of the wicked. The images used to describe these adversaries, that are the sign of the evil that contaminates history, are of two types. On one hand, there seems to be an image of a fierce hunt: The wicked are like wild beasts that advance to snatch their prey and tear its flesh, but they stumble and fall (see verse 2). On the other hand, there is the military symbol of an assault by an entire army: It is a battle that flares up impetuously sowing terror and death (see verse 3).
The life of the believer is often subjected to tensions and disputes, at times also to rejection and even to persecution. The conduct of the just man is irritating, because it resounds as a warning to the arrogant and perverse. It is recognized in no uncertain terms by the wicked described in the Book of Wisdom: The just man “to us is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us,/ Because his life is not like other men’s, and different are his ways” (Wisdom 2:14-15).
3. The faithful one knows that consistency creates isolation and even stirs contempt and hostility in a society that often chooses as its banner personal advantage, external success, wealth, unbridled pleasure. Yet he is not alone and his heart retains an amazing interior peace, because — as the splendid opening “antiphon” of the Psalm says — “The Lord is my light and my salvation, […] refuge” of the just man (Psalm 26:1). He repeats continuously: “Whom do I fear? … Of whom am I afraid? … My heart does not fear … even then do I trust” (verses 1,3).
He seems to hear the voice of St. Paul who proclaims: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). But interior quiet, strength of spirit and peace are a gift that is obtained by taking refuge in the temple, that is, by taking recourse to personal and community prayer.
4. The man of prayer, in fact, entrusts himself to the arms of God and his dream is also expressed in another Psalm (see 22:6): “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” There he will be able “to gaze on the Lord’s beauty ” (Psalm 26:4), to contemplate and admire the divine mystery, to participate in the sacrificial liturgy and raise his praises to the liberating God (see verse 6). The Lord creates around his faithful one a horizon of peace, which excludes the noise of evil. Communion with God is the source of serenity, joy, tranquility; it is like entering an oasis of light and love.
5. Let us listen now, as a conclusion to our reflection, the words of the monk Isaiah, of Syrian origin, who lived in the Egyptian desert and died in Gaza around 491. In his “Asceticon” he applies our Psalm to prayer in temptation: “If we see the enemies surrounding us with their cunning, that is, with indolence, weakening our soul with pleasure, or failing to contain our anger against our neighbor when he acts against his duty, or tempting our eyes with concupiscence, or leading us to taste the pleasures of gluttony, or turning our neighbor’s word into poison for us, or making us disparage the word of another, or leading us to create differences between our brothers saying: “This one is good, that one is evil” — if then we are surrounded by all these things, let us not lose courage, rather let us cry out like David with a firm heart saying: ‘Lord, protector of my life!'” (“Recueil ascétique,” Bellefontaine, 1976, p. 211).
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, an aide of the Pope read the following summary in English:]
The first part of Psalm 26 speaks of the “house of the Lord,” a place of refuge, thanksgiving and joy. Assailed by evils from all sides, believers do not give in to fear, for their trust and hope is steadfastly placed in the Lord from whom they receive inner strength and peace.
In fact, this communion with God may be likened to an oasis of light and love. The Syrian monk Isaiah, who died in Gaza around the year 491, saw this Psalm as a prayer against temptation: When threatened by sin and evil, God’s faithful people do not lose heart but call on their Savior, crying out with firm conviction: “Lord, protector of my life!” The Lord is indeed our protector, it is he who saves us and brings us to his house that we may dwell there “all the days of our life.”
[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present in this audience, particularly the pilgrims from England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ghana, New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the risen Lord’s gifts of grace and peace.