“…it profits the soul”

My Psalter

Psalm 40:3 “The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed; from his illness and all his infirmities, You will heal him.”

Psalm 34:13,2 “I prayed with my head bowed down.”

My Advent Prayer Book

Psalm 33:17 “The righteous called and the Lord heard them and delivered them out of all their affliction.”

Psalm 33:4 “I sought the Lord with diligence, and He heard me and delivered me from all my tribulations.”

Isolation

My bout with C19 brought me, literally, to my knees. As I was getting these treatments to assist my lungs, I was face down on a hospital bed. I had a halo around my face to keep me off the mattress, with a full mask on and the oxygen pumping at full capacity. And the nurses would feed the nebulizer up under the halo part and shove it into my mask. The room I was in was sealed off in the sense that the walls were bare and the oxygen in the room was forced outside through a large ducting system, complete with a pump. It went 24/7. When you add the breathing treatments every 4 hours and the sound of the Oxygen, I could hear pretty much nothing. And what is there to do? Can’t look at anything but the mattress sheet just at the end of my nose. I could sneak my phone under there while I charged it, which was great, but my hands could not reach it without disrupting everything they had me hooked up to. I had 4 IV’s in my arms, as well. I would turn it on and look at the screen saver and tell my husband how much I loved him.

My screensaver. August 2021

After I would look at that photo, of how happy we were that day, I would start praying. And because I was sick, some of the memorized prayers I have prayed for decades came out all jumbled up. I would recall bits and pieces of prayers. I would recall stories of the Saints and then I would be off seeking intercession. Then I focused on the angels. “St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil…:” and then I recalled the story of the angel Gabriel in Scripture. His story meant so much to me then that I can recall that prayerful moment. I also asked that all the people praying for me be rewarded with peace and the knowledge that I felt those prayers. The intensity of my prayers was probably the strongest it has ever been. I called upon my patron saints, St. Rita (patron of the impossible) and my beloved Ruth. I called upon the army of God to surround me in my illness, to literally stand around my bed and hold me up before God as I sought His help. I cried for it. And I felt it. I truly felt the intense love of God. I wept and was overcome with a sense of peace. I felt like God was saving me, and letting me know I was not done, yet. Why it took such a close brush with death, I have no clue. But I can assure you I am very aware that I was redeemed by God and my “infirmities” were cured. I was going to be fine.

Psalms

Each year, twice a year, the Church fasts prior to feasts. Right now, we are fasting and praying during Advent and the coming feast of Christmas. In the Spring, we have Great Lent, during which we fast and pray until the feast of Pascha, or Easter. I am Melkite Greek Catholic. We’re one of the many rites associated with the Roman Catholic Church, but we are distinct from Rome. We have our own Patriarch, and he is who I listen to, outside of what the Pope in Rome is saying. I sort of have one foot in being a Melkite, and the other in Orthodoxy. The Melkites are jokingly called the, “Orthodox of the West.” And because I posted a photo of a Psalter, and the other book (which I adore) called “Songs of Praise,” many Catholics and Protestants will be turned off. But it is not all that mysterious. The Psalter is nothing more than the Book of Psalms, in a book of its own, with prayers for before and after you read the days’ Psalms. You can get through the entire book of Psalms, twice, during the 40 days prior to Christmas or Easter. The other book, “Songs of Praise,” is a companion. Sylvia (the author) put all the Psalms in there, broken up in to each days’ group of Psalms, along with prayers and a short commentary/reflection for each day, and tons of room to journal. I have two of these books. One I use for “Advent” and one I use for “Lent.” I began doing this about 5 years ago. And I cannot begin to tell you how much it impacts your soul, and your outlook on the coming holy-day. I have all sorts of notes in there from each year and it is fun to look and see where I was and what I was thinking. But the most profound thing for me is that every time I read the Psalms, they jump out at me. How did David (the author) know I needed to hear that, now, in 2021? The Psalms have been described by the saints in so many ways! “No other book so glorifies God as does the Psalter. It profits the soul; it glorifies God together with the angels and exalts and extols in a powerful voice.” St. Basil the Greek.“The singing of the psalms adorns the soul, summons angels to one’s aid, drives away demons, dispels darkness, and produces holiness.” St. Augustine.

As I was reading through my Psalms for today, I was struck by the application to my experience with C19. Psalm 40:3 – “The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed..” Wow. He certainly did. I felt it. Psalm 39:1 “I waited eagerly for the Lord, and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” and Psalm 39:4 “Blessed is the man whose hope is in the name of the Lord.”

There is so much more we can glean from studying our bibles. And in particularly, the Psalms. Christ Himself quotes the Psalms all through the New Testament. And when he did, the people knew He was doing that, and they knew exactly what His meaning was. But most of us are ignorant of the Old Testament, which is a shame. There is a vast richness in all the books of the Old Testament. As I mentioned above, I adore Ruth. I read her story in the OT and I felt so drawn to her. Proverbs is a wonderful book to study and there is an entire ministry centered around Proverbs 31 and how to be a good wife and mother. I read that for my Mother-in-law’s funeral and it fit perfectly for our remembrance of her.

Don’t be afraid of this world and what is roaming through it, trying to devour our souls. We have God. And He wins. It is our journey, our act of being a sojourner in this life, that sets us on the path to eternity. And how we react to what happens to us. I’m bummed that I had to be deathly ill to resume my deeper prayer life, but I am thankful I did not have to live the life of Job. (Another great OT book). I am still able to learn, grow, and become better than I was yesterday, through the grace of God.

Psalm 36:4-5 “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Disclose your struggle to the Lord; hope in Him, and He will act.”

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