Posted on August 9th, 2012
In a few moments, at the conclusion of the Litany of Evening Prayer, which comes down to us through St. John Chrysostom, we will say, “Rejoicing in the fellowship of all the saints, let us commend ourselves, one another, and our whole life to Christ, our Lord: To You, O Lord.” “Our whole life.” This entails not only the work of our hands, our mind and words, but everything that we are, were, and will be.
One is often counseled to “live in the moment,” but the truth is we are always looking backward and forward in time. We remember our past with joy and regret, and we should think of our past theologically, i.e., with thanksgiving and also repentance. And then we are ever anticipating the future, with hopes and dreams, but also trepidation, fear. What would it mean to think theologically about our future? It would mean to pray for our hopes, thus conforming them to God’s will – and also to commend our fears into His hands, knowing that Christ Jesus has told us not to be anxious about tomorrow.
In tonight’s psalm, the psalmist views the whole of his life theologically; which is to say, he sees his entire life as being in the hands of God, in whom he continually takes refuge. “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.” Behold how even the unborn child is loved and cared for by God!
And who does not fear growing old, the ravages of time, the decay of the body, the failing of the mind? This too is commended into the hands of our merciful Creator: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.”
And from birth to old age we stand in danger. Danger from enemies, those who tell lies about us, speak falsehoods to us, and also danger from ourselves, in believing some of the lies, and telling them ourselves. We have wandered far in this vale of tears, spending time in the dark corners of our minds and reveling in and suffering from the dark things in this world. Through all of it, despite our own infidelities, God has remained faithful.
All those dangers past, present, and future, we set before God, imploring Him to come speedily and deliver us, be our strong protector, a fortress in which we may hide. “For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say, ‘God has forsaken him’… O God, be not far from me!” “You are my strong refuge.”
In all this, looking back where we have been since childhood, and looking ahead, we pray not only about the time of our gray hairs, but the future of the Church. We who love the Church worry about her: she is fragmented and scattered; false sons are within her pale, and her walls are crumbling. One thing is given us to do: keep on preaching, keep on proclaiming, making sure that the next generation hears from us the Gospel, the good news of justification, free forgiveness of sins and resurrection of the body in Jesus. “O God, from my youth you have taught me…. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”
So come, my beloved believers in Immanuel, brought from the womb and sustained to your gray hairs, let us commend ourselves, one another, and our whole life to Christ, our Lord, for He is not far from us, and will make haste to help us.
Portions adapted from Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms