Refulgent You were, mightier than the mountains of prey.
This phrase is strange, powerful, and haunting…’The mountains of prey’ are the wild mountains where lions and other predatory beasts roam. God is seen here as even more fearsome that that scary realm.
Robert Alter, translation and comment on Psalm 76:5.
I dare not think of all that dwells up there, What beasts stalk the high, barren hills. What creature, loving its own life, would dare Tread where shadows are living? I dare yet hope in One whose self-light shines And strikes the fey-fanged heart with chills: The radiance of His Father’s joy sublime, Those beasts their own fear giving.
The dust runs trembling, escaping the horde: Horizon-hiding, all-defying foes. The drumbeat––marching feet––felt in my toes, My heart long since migrated to the north. My guts now water, my throat dry and sore: Breath gasping, voice rasping, my blood runs cold. What strength I had replaced by fear that grows, Waiting for their champion to come forth. Then, breaking ranks, my own hero appears: Neither armed nor armored nor skilled in war Instead armed and armored and skilled in love. No keening war-cry cuts the air, but near, Whispering courage in my ear before The fear brings me to the dust, given up.
Note: the photograph above was taken by my wife. Because still photography only captures a single moment in time, it gives the illusion that the bridge is steady. I distinctly recall it never being anything less than 45 degrees at any point of my harrowing crossing. Just saying.
Whether in temptation or calm, says Abba Isaac, whether in fear or reassurance, whether in pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, there are no circumstances in life when it is not supremely proper to pray: “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.” This prayer, he goes on, should never be absent from our lips. …
After stating that this formula–“O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me”–had been handed down through the Egyptian monastic tradition from its most ancient fathers, with a view to attaining purity of heart and constant prayer, Abba Isaac continues: “Not without reason has this verse [Psalm 70:1] been selected from out of the whole body of Scripture. For it takes up all the emotions that can be applied to human nature and with great correctness and accuracy it adjusts itself to every condition and every attack. It contains an invocation of God in the face of any crisis, the humility of a devout confession, the watchfulness of concern and of constant fear, a consciousness of one’s own frailty, the assurance of being heard, and confidence in a protection that is always present and at hand, for whoever calls unceasingly on his protector is sure that He is always present. It contains a burning love and charity, an awareness of traps, and a fear of enemies.”