Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shall I wash my feet in the blood of the wicked?

So someone is reading Psalm 58. This is a psalm we never read as children because it was not in our Psalter. (The Canadian Prayer Book, 1959, did not contain Psalm 58.) Does this Psalm contradict Ezekiel where it is written that God does not desire the death of a sinner? Of course not - good grief, the poem and the prophet are on different the same playing fields. [See comment thread] We knew the Ezekiel passage from Mattins where it is a part of the absolution following the general confession (pp 5, 20 BCP 1959).

O that we had had Psalm 58 to taunt a few of our masters - who needed taunting and exposing. And Psalm 109 - the whole 31 verses, not the sanitized version. Are these psalms really so objectionable? Or are they on their surface a taste of reality, and under the surface, a foretaste of the Gospel?

Who washes their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14) who was made sin (2 Cor 5:21) for the life of the world (John 6:51)? So I wash my feet in blood, metaphorically. And Augustine says - "So the righteous did rejoice, not only when, reigning from the Tree, He saw the utter defeat of His enemies and ours by means of that very throne; but when he beheld also that more glorious vengeance of love, by which, for every drop of the most precious Blood that He shed, myriads and myriads of elect souls should enter into His kingdom." (Neale Vol2 p 237).

These inappropriate passages, these objectionable words, in our canon, have been interpreted mystically and not literally by Augustine, bringing our inherited poetry into a different mold, and teaching where the true enemy lies that must be sanctified. Scholars (whom Neale calls literalists!) may consider that such a reading is unacceptable. What reading of ancient violence qua violence is acceptable? If we fail to interpret to our growth, we must of necessity shrink.