ESUS, THE WORD MADE FLESH, is both Divine and fully Human. I have great difficulty wrapping my brain around this truth. However, I accept it joyfully as a matter of faith. Still, it will likely remain an unreachable understanding throughout my life.
That humanity is entwined in the divine is no more evident than in the Book of Psalms. Consider that “the Psalter is the basic songbook of the Liturgy.” (GIRM, no. 102.) Therefore, our greatest prayer, the Mass, weds the human with the divine, as does the crucified Jesus. This is a notion of great beauty, considering how fragile our humanity is.
St. Paul refers to our body as a “tent.” It decays. But as Catholics we believe in not only the resurrection of our spirit, but of the body. Sometimes we forget this or even deny it. From the Requiem Mass, the chant Credo quod Redemptor emphatically cries, “I believe that my Redeemer lives, and that on the last day, I shall rise from earth and in my flesh I shall behold God my Savior.”
“…and in my flesh” … This is astounding!
SALM 139 (138) most extraordinarily describes complete faith in the divine that mercifully upholds humble humanity. (Most telling of the importance of this psalm is that it is prescribed for the Introit, Resurrexi, on Easter Sunday.) Humanity’s intimate relationship with the divine is evident in its first lines:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
God’s watchful eye over us is most evident in this psalm. No matter how we try to flee from God, He will find us:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Some of the most famous (and controversial lines) are in found here, in the wonderment of our human creation:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Towards the end, King David reveals, as he often does, the despair and ugliness of humanity. In his song and prayer, he calls for the defeat – the blood of his enemies. He describes his hatred for God’s enemies. He laments that God does not destroy them.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
That perhaps we can relate to this, may be disturbing to us. That we may pray for this may be frightening. These sentiments are startlingly human.
And so, the human is immersed in the divine with this conclusion of the psalm. Like the capitulation of a musical theme, David prays that God will search him and know his heart, and to lead him out of his great sinfulness:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
May we find the divine though our humanity. God will always find us, even in the depths of our earthly imperfection and sin.
MEZZO-SOPRANO, Katherine Dulweber sings a concert setting of Psalm 139: