In a previous post, I remarked on the struggle of the Christian who is anchored in the world of seen and unseen realities. Our deacon approached me last night at Vespers and gave me a psalm which highlights this struggle, Psalm 36 (37 MT), here, in part:
Hope in the Lord, and do good, and dwell on the earth, and like a shepherd shalt thou be fed with its riches. Delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give thee the askings of thy heart. Disclose unto the Lord thy way, and trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgement as the noonday. Submit thyself unto the Lord and supplicate Him; fret not thyself because of him that prospereth in his way, nor because of a man that doeth iniquity. Cease from wrath and forsake anger; fret not thyself so as to do evil. For evil-doers shall utterly perish, but they that wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. And yet a little while, and the sinner shall not be, and thou shalt seek for his place, and shalt not find it. But the meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in an abundance of peace. . . . By the Lord are the steps of a man rightly directed, and His way shall he greatly desire. When he falleth he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth his hand. I have been young, and now indeed I am old, and I have not seen the righteous man forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. All the day long the righteous showeth mercy, and lendeth, and his seed shall be unto blessing. Decline from evil and do good, and dwell unto ages of ages. For the Lord loveth judgement, and He will not forsake His holy ones; they shall be kept for ever. . . . Wait on the Lord and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the earth; when sinners are utterly destroyed, thou shalt see it. I have seen the ungodly man highly exalted and lifting himself up like the cedars of Lebanon. But I passed by, and lo, he was not; and I sought him, and place was not to be found. Keep innocence, and behold uprightness, for there is a remnant for the peaceable man. But the transgressors shall be utterly destroyed together, and the remnants of the ungodly shall be utterly destroyed. But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord, and He is their defender in a time of affliction. And the Lord shall help them and shall deliver them, and He will rescue them from sinners and will save them because they hoped in Him.
He also pointed me to the commentary of our priest, Father Patrick.
In this psalm, one part of the soul admonishes the other, reminds the other, cautions the other, encourages the other. And this inner conversation of the human spirit takes place in the sight of God, the giver of wisdom.
This inner discussion is rendered necessary because of frequent temptations to discouragement. As far as empirical evidence bears witness, the wicked do seem, on many occasions, to be better off than the just. By the standards of this world, they prosper.
Our psalm is at pains to insist, however, that this prosperity is only apparent, in the sense that it will certainly be short-lived. As regards the workers of iniquity, “they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb . . . For evildoers shall be cut off . . . For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be . . . For the arms of the wicked shall be broken . . . The transgressors shall be cut off together.”
The suffering lot of the just man is likewise temporary and of brief duration. He need only wait on the Lord in patience and trust: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give thee the desires of thy heart. Commit your way unto the Lord, and trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass . . . But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord will help them and deliver them; He will deliver them from the wicked and save them, because they trust in Him.”
This, then, is a psalm of faith and confidence in God, without which there is no Christian prayer. It is also faith and hope under fire, exposed to struggle and the endurance that calls for patience. After all, “faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Heb 11:1), and “We were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope . . . But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Rom. 8:24, 25). Our psalm is a meditative lesson on not being deceived by appearances, and a summons to wait patiently for God’s deliverance. (Father Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms [Conciliar Press], p. 72)