O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,
that I might behold your power and your glory.
For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;
my lips shall give you praise.
So will I bless you as long as I live
and lift up my hands in your Name.
My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the night watches.
Where does the writer of this psalm get his joyful praise? He tells us in his last phrase. “When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the night watches.” This whole psalm reminds me so much of the experience of the Cloud of Unknowing contemplation. Like so many of our prayers, the Cloud of Unknowing prayer starts with a felt need. “My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.” The Cloud of Unknowing urges us to gently direct that naked longing, our unhidden need, to God who is imagined as a cloud above us. Many a soul discovers that this longing to know the great Unknowable, though it starts with a seeming absence, it grows into a great Glory as God ffills the heart with God's Self.
C.S. Lewis called it “Joy.”
It is difficult to ffind word strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?...Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse... withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased... In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else... The quality common to the three experiences... is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy. … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever… exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.
Surprised by Joy
The great Unknowable, infinite One who dwells beyond all categories and beyond all images and concepts, chooses to make himself known through His energies—the energies of love and longing. And when we feel that flood from beyond our little ego, we say with the psalmist, “Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, that I might behold your power and your glory. For your loving-kindness is better than life itself; my lips shall give you praise.”
The psalm goes on to suggest what is the effect of entering the presence of God in this way. “My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the night watches.”
The contentment of the soul spoken of here is an entry into a deep parasympathetic peace of the heart that becomes to us like a food—marrow and fatness. It is also like drink—a river of living water. Over time, this food and drink transforms us as we include it in the wider practices of our discipleship—ethical living, church community life, works of service, and spiritual study. We carry the peace of heart with us into the day, and it transforms our relationships and all that we do. Father Thomas Keating offers several means of extending the practice of contemplative prayer into everyday life. These are very worth considering. Click the link to read further.
May you know His supernal joy this day. You may unexpectedly ffind it through your need and longing.