All This Overwhelms Me

I am at St. Benedict’s Monastery this weeekend for the 20th Anniversary celebration of Studium, the Monastery’s visiting scholar’s program. As regular readers of this blog know,I have benefitted much from several stays at the Monastery over the past few years; the ora et labora rhythm of Benedictine monastic life provides a wonderful environment for my writing.

Because yesterday was the burial day of one of the Sisters who died, the sisters prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for the Dead during their communal prayer periods. During evening prayer, one of the psalms we prayed was Psalm 139, a psalm I frequently use in my own prayer and recommend to others.

I’ve prayed with many translations of Psalm 139. What struck me powerfully last evening in the translation that is part of the Evening Prayer for the Dead was verse 6: speaking of his realization that “before a word slips from my tongue, Lord, you know what I will say. Yoou close in on me pressing your hand upon me,” the psalmist admits, “All this overwhelms me–too much to understand.”

Why this particular translation struck me more than other versions of that verse I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps it is because it conveys the psalmist’s reaction in such plan, simple terms and it is a reaction I identify with.

If we take the realization of the psalmist to heart – if we really realized the enormity of God’s love and God’s constant presence, I think we share that reaction – it is overwhelming…really too much to understand.

In any translation, Psalm 139 is a beautiful psalm. It is worth spending some time praying with this God from whose love we cannot escape.