Learn where prudence is, where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace. Baruch 3:14
A few weeks ago, on a snowy morning, there were only three of us at church for Morning Prayer. With so few the pastor proposed we recite the psalm verses in turn, rather than alternating sides of the chapel as we usually do. As each psalm moved from Richard, to Father Denny and back to me again, I was struck by how very alive the psalms seemed, as if the Holy Spirit were dancing over our heads, her breath in our mouths, her voice resounding in ours.
In this sixth of the seven readings set out for the Easter Vigil, the prophet Baruch speaks similarly of wisdom appearing on earth, moving among the people. She, he says, is the book of the precepts of God. Turn toward her, let her light direct your steps, cling to her and have life.
I hear in this reading a powerful reminder of the great gift of Sacred Scripture, God’s Word made manifest in time, the Spirit continually breathing into us life and wisdom. The Catechism of the Church reminds us that we should venerate the Scriptures as we venerate the Lord’s Body (CCC no. 103). They, too, are the bread of life, broken open for us on the altar. Scripture is not a historical document, but is alive and moving among us even now.
In his book “The Art of Biblical Poetry” scripture scholar Robert Alter writes of the ways in which the psalms sweep “to-and-fro,” moving us from the stuff of the earth — bees and mud and pounding waves — to gaze on God — in the stars, in the mountain fastness, walking the earth unseen. In Alter’s own beautifully poetic translation of the psalms he sought more than just the right words, he sought out the movements within each psalm, the ways in which the psalmist used the structure of these sacred poems to say what words alone could not capture. The psalms take flesh on these bones.
Baruch reminds us that Scripture is more than the law. Here we find fountains of wisdom, of strength, of understanding. Here there is delight, glory and joy. Here, grace and peace. As we enter into these final days of Lent, let us remember that the Word of God has taken flesh and dwells among us even now. May we cling to the Word, and have life.
To read: Baruch 3:9-15, 32 and 4:4
O God, who constantly increase your Church by your call to the nations,
graciously grant to those you wash clean in the waters of Baptism
the assurance of your unfailing protection.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rosephanye Powell’s choral setting of the prologue of John’s Gospel: “The Word was with God.”
During Lent Michelle Francl-Donnay examines each of the readings to be proclaimed at the Easter Vigil Mass — see her columns in our Lent 2015 section. She is a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Bryn Mawr.