Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

This excerpt comes from Psalms 1-50 (BTCB) by Ellen Charry, commenting on Psalm 36:5-10:

Psalm 36:5–9 also prompts reflection on the unfathomability of divine providence and raises the question of theodicy, where moral intuition expects mercy for the righteous but harsh judgment seems to prevail as they suffer. Commenting on 36:6, which says that divine judgment is like great mountains and deep oceans, Ibn Ezra sounds a note of pious agnosticism:

“People cannot bear Your righteousness, for [it] is like the mighty mountains. However, in reality its meaning is that God’s righteousness is beyond comprehension. It is like the mighty and powerful mountains that no man can reach. The knowledge of God’s judgments is similarly like the great obscure deep, which man cannot see.”

However, the poet assures the righteous that they will feast delightedly at God’s table, “for the core of life is with you and in your light we see light” (36:8–9). That last (famous) phrase is tantalizingly ambiguous and invites speculation. Theodore interprets the light literally, insisting against other commentators that the light is not Christ but rather the physical gift of light, which is, indeed, the fountain of life. “[David’s] meaning was to present the utter generosity and abundance of God’s gift—hence his mention of these two things in particular: the light . . . and enjoyment of the light.” God is therefore shown to be both “creator” and “provider”; he gives “some [of those things] for our continuance and sustenance, some for us to have a pleasurable and beneficial enjoyment of life.”

Feasting in God’s house (36:8), which refers to salvation for those who take refuge in God, speaks to Christians of heavenly reward after this life although that idea is not in the text. While Theodore denies that these verses allude to Christ, Augustine is sure that they do. Eschatologically, Christ is the fountain of life.

“The reality is that a fountain is light also; you may call it what you will, because it is not what you call it. You cannot find a suitable name, because it is not captured by any one name. If you were to say that it is light, and only light, someone might object, ‘What then was the point of telling me that I am to hunger and thirst? Can anyone eat light? That other hint that was given me was obviously more apt: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8). I had better prepare my eyes, then.’ Yes, but prepare your throat too, because the reality that is light is also a fountain: a fountain because it drenches the thirsty, light because it illumines the blind. . . . Here below the two may be separated; but there you will never flag, because there will be the fountain for you, and you will never walk in darkness, for there is light.”

©2015 by Ellen T. Charry. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.