Daily Devotion 25 February 2021
Lamentations 3: 17-26 ‘A Soul Bowed Down’
My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, ‘Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.’
19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! 20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
The other day I came across this extraordinary sculpture in wood of Mary Magdalene, by Donatello. Donato di Nicolo di Beto Bardi, to give him his full name, was born in 1386 and lived mostly in Florence until he was eighty years of age, being probably better known for his bronze statue of David. This statue of Mary, however, is quite shocking. When I looked at it for the first time, I was stunned by her haggard appearance – as if her early life had ravaged her former beauty and stolen her youth – even some of her teeth are missing. But as we look more closely, it’s her eyes that reveal the most. They offer us a glimpse into her weary soul – one that longs for redemption. Her hands are almost together in prayer and I see her as one standing before Jesus as a true penitent. Notice how Donatello has shown her hair long and unkempt – but ready to wipe our Lord’s feet after she has anointed them.
The subject of ‘penitence’ is not most preachers’ favourite, and you may feel it’s an odd theme to take in the current situation. It’s also interesting that the New Testament makes very little reference to ‘penitence’ – rather, to ‘repentance’. Now here, I think, we are given a fascinating insight into the journey each one of us makes towards full salvation. Repentance is, as we know, about turning towards God and beginning a new life in Christ.
However, there needs to be genuine sorrow for the sin that has marred our lives, and also – and this is of crucial importance – a trust in the mercy and love and kindness of the God who wipes every tear from our eyes, who takes our hand and lifts up to our feet, and calls us “Beloved daughter, beloved son”. In other words, whatever burdens we carry from the past we need not despair. This is what the passage from Lamentations, which affirms God’s faithfulness – to his own nature: that of perfect love. So, the message for you and I is quite clear. Whatever sorrows we carry, none of us is beyond the reach of the one whose arms embrace us all, to give us forgiveness, healing, and peace. Thanks be to God!
Merciful God, when we are burdened with the memory of failure,
and saddened by the past, give us an assurance that you will never forsake
a helpless soul that trusts in you. Help us to live as children of the light,
humble in our own frailty, yet confident in your power and love to make us new.
In Christ’s name, Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
Images freely available online.
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