I thought perhaps I would finish all the Psalms this week, and then I would be sad to leave behind such beautiful poetry. However, nothing of the sort occurred. I moved only from Psalm 121 (an old favorite) to Psalm 122 (which is now a new favorite). I love the words: "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" The psalm talks about individual tribes in Jerusalem worshipping God and about praying for the peace of Jerusalem. The ending is every bit as good as the beginning: "Because of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good." How little has changed over the centuries!
Reading: Psalm 122
Meditation: I did not always have this reaction to the House of the Lord. As a child, I was severely and routinely abused by my parents. Sundays were no exception. They would begin with my father chasing me around the neighborhood, whipping a switch in the air as he ran. Ultimately, he would win -- or he would exhaust his energy but, having nowhere else to go, I would return to our fiery house in defeat. Then, we would triumphantly proceed to our pew in the church as a family; nicely dressed, with long stockings, sleeved tops, and long skirts or pants hiding our physical scars, we children would sit quietly nursing our physical and emotional bruises while real-life neighbors in neighboring pews, who should have had some idea of what was going on behind our smoky windows, would nod approvingly at our parents about how well-behaved we were. This continued every week until I was a teenager and asked to give the youth Sunday sermon. What I said in that sermon resulted in my family being asked to leave the church permanently. I posted about it last year on Mahlou Musings so will not spend the time re-telling the story here. "Siberia on Easter Morning" opens with the description of that Sunday service (well, a few paragraphs after the opening that story is told.)
An inveterate atheist from birth, never one to push my lack of belief onto anyone else but also not one to accept any information about belief from anyone else, I remained in the desert of unbelief and outside the House of the Lord for, ironically, exactly 40 years. After 40 years, God unexpectedly and dramatically appeared to haul His lost lamb away from her frolicking in the bramble bushes back into the flock, kicking and screaming all the way. That story is told in my conversion story on Clan of Mahlou, and so I shall not repeat that story here, either.
Maybe it is this history that has made the House of the Lord so special to me, or maybe that feeling comes from living in a town that is home to a convent, monastery, mission, and retreat center and that has been called by a friend of mine "namolein" (drenched in prayer), or maybe it comes from the blessing of being able to attend Mass in a mission that is more than 200 years old, offers Mass every day and, on weekends, in three languages (English, Latin, Spanish), and has in over 200 years never missed a Mass. Whatever the reason or reasons, when I enter the House of the Lord these days a special awe creeps over me, then settles into my bones. I know that I am some place special. So, nowadays, I am glad when they say to me, "Let us go to the House of the Lord."
Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer, repenting for all those years and all those thoughts that kept me from the House of the Lord, to thank God for always being with me even when I was not with Him, to praise God for caring enough about His 100th lamb to pull her back into His flock, and to ask Him to help all the unbelievers I know and love to come to be glad when it is said to them, "Let us go to the House of the Lord" for they know not yet to what an indescribably marvelous place they are being invited. Then I will move on to contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.
I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I hope you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too.)
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.