A Maundy Thursday Prayer (Psalm 88)

Despair is difficult when the Resurrection hovers nearby.

For two millennia the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection have been told and retold, celebrated and feted. Everyone knows how the story ends.

It doesn’t end with “It is finished.”

Rather, with “”Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised.”

It’s difficult, therefore, to read the Passion–the betrayal, the arrest, the beating, the mocking, the nailing, the thirsting, the dying–with much despair.

Knowing the victory of the Empty Tomb leads us to read the Passion dispassionately.

And that’s a problem.

Because if you don’t feel the despair of Thursday and Friday, can you really experience the unbridled joy of Sunday?

When your eyes have adjusted to the Light, the Light is no longer so bright.

To fully experience the brilliance of the Light, you must immerse yourself in deep darkness.

You must venture into the Valley of the Shadow.

The Psalms boldly face the Shadow and embrace the Darkness. They are forthright in expressing the despair of Lament.

On this Maundy Thursday, I invite you to put aside all thoughts of Easter and hear the Lament of Psalm 88. Let it become your prayer, if only for this night.

Lord, God of my salvation,

by day I cry out,
even at night, before you—
let my prayer reach you!

Turn your ear to my outcry
because my whole being is filled with distress;
my life is at the very brink of hell.

I am considered as one of those plummeting into the pit.

I am like those who are beyond help,
drifting among the dead,

lying in the grave, like dead bodies—
those you don’t remember anymore,
those who are cut off from your power.

You placed me down in the deepest pit,
in places dark and deep.

Your anger smothers me;
you subdue me with it, wave after wave.

You’ve made my friends distant.
You’ve made me disgusting to them.
I can’t escape. I’m trapped!

My eyes are tired of looking at my suffering.
I’ve been calling out to you every day, Lord—
I’ve had my hands outstretched to you!

Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do ghosts rise up and give you thanks?

Is your faithful love proclaimed in the grave,
your faithfulness in the underworld?

Are your wonders known in the land of darkness,
your righteousness in the land of oblivion?

But I cry out to you, Lord!
My prayer meets you first thing in the morning!

Why do you reject my very being, Lord?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Since I was young I’ve been afflicted,

I’ve been dying.

I’ve endured your terrors.

I’m lifeless.

Your fiery anger has overwhelmed me;

your terrors have destroyed me.

They surround me all day long like water;

they engulf me completely.

You’ve made my loved ones and companions distant.

And my only friend is darkness.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

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