Cry the lost motherland

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Here is a commentary on Psalm 77 by Rev Fr Charles J. Callan, and Rev Fr John A McHugh published September 1, 1929. A few weeks after, the nation suffered the Wall Street Crash of 1929, that began on October 24, 1929, and was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, when taking into consideration the full extent and duration of its fallout. That crash  also followed a period of moral dissolution and corruption like the one we are going through right now in the United States and most of the Western Hemisphere. Reading and praying this Psalm is a source of comfort for all of us, facing a very similar time only nine decades later.


Psalm 77

In sore distress over the fate that has befallen his nation, which has been carried away captive to Babylon, the Psalmist here complains to God for having apparently abandoned His Chosen People and broken His promises to their fathers. But reflecting on Israel’s past history, in which divine guidance and mercy have been signally manifested, he finds consolation and feels certain that all will yet be well; God will redeem his people and judge their enemies.

The Psalm has two main divisions:

I. Ad Dominum clamavi. In anguish of soul the Psalmist prayed to God, but without comfort (vv. 2-4); during the watches of the night he pondered on Israel’s glorious past, and in anxiety wondered if God had really abandoned His people, and forever (vv.5-10)

II. Nunc coepi; haec mutatio dexterae Excelsi.  The Psalmist finds an answer to his questions by considering how God has dealt with Israel in the past, especially in the deliverance from Egypt (vv. 11-16); and, dwelling on the details of this wondrous exhibition of divine love and protection, he finds consolation for the present and hope for the future (vv. 17-21).

The spirit and language of this poem are very similar to the Canticle of Moses (Exodus 15) and the prayer of Habacuc (Habacuc 3). This is the beginning of the laments of the Psalmist distressed over the fate of the nation carried away in captivity by the Babylonians. In the middle of such unmitigated disaster he finds hope, and feels certain that all will yet be well; God will redeem His people and bring swift judgment to the nation’s enemies.

Ad Dominum clamavi. The Psalmist prays to God in distress, fearful lest the divine mercy towards Israel has come to an end (2-10)

I cry aloud to the Lord; yea, I cry to God with my voice, praying that He may hear me.

I seek the Lord in my hour of of trouble, lifting my hands in prayer to Him during the night unceasingly; yet my soul is not comforted.

I remember God, our helper of old, and I moan; I keep pondering, and my spirit pines away.

Mine eyes forestall the night-watches, being unable to sleep; I am so disturbed with conflicting thoughts that I cannot speak.

I think on the glorious days of old, I call to mind the years long past;

I meditate with my heart at night, I reflect and scrutinize my spirit, anxiously wondering

Whether or not God will discard us forever, will He never be more gracious to us than He is now?

Has He cut off from us His loving kindness forever, for all generations to come?

Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in his anger closed up His compassion against us?

Nunc coepi; haec mutatio dexterae Excelsi. As he reflects on past history, the Psalmist is consoled (11-21)

Then I said: “Now I understand the cause of my sorrow, which is what the right hand of the Most High has changed; it is not exercised in our favor as formerly.”

“For I will recall the deeds of the Eternal in our behalf, I will bring to mind Thy wondrous works for Israel from the beginning of her history.”

“I will meditate on all thy marvelous deeds, and reflect on thy doings.”

Thy dealings, oh God, are holy. What God is great like our God?

Thou art the God that does wonders; Thou hast shown the world Thy might,

Rescuing Thy people by Thy power, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.

The waters in the red Sea saw Thee, O God, the water saw Thee and shook with fear; the depths of the ocean where in dismay.

Mighty was the roar of the waters; the clouds thundered forth; Thine arrows flashed around.

The voice of thunder was in Thy chariot-wheels; Thy lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.

Thy way was in the sea and thy paths through mighty waters, and thy footprints were all unseen.

Thou didst lead Thy people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, and therefore Thou will help us now.

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