Divine Mercy for Human Misery: The Heart of Lent

Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam (Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercies). Psalm 51:1

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Misery: noun. Brit. pronunciation/ˈmɪz(ə)ri/, U.S. pronunciation/ˈmɪz(ə)ri/ classical Latin miseria wretched or pitiful condition. Anglo-Norman and Old French miserie: unhappy state.  

  1. a condition of external unhappiness, discomfort, or distress; wretchedness of outward circumstances; distress caused by privation or poverty.
  2. colloquial. A gloomy, peevish, or self-pitying person, esp. someone who is constantly disgruntled or depressed; a killjoy. Frequently used as a term of (mock) abuse. 

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Old Misery Guts

I remember well the first Ash Wednesday service I attended. It was February 2015 and I had dragged myself along to a Cambridge College service. I was miserable and determinedly so. I was in my dark night of the soul. But instead of turning outwards and towards God with my doubts, I had turned inwards and into myself. I received the imposition of the ashes. Then the choir sang Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere. The voices echoed from one side of the chapel to the other, notes piercing the air, though not my soul. I wouldn’t let them.

The second definition of misery given in the Oxford English dictionary fitted me perfectly. A gloomy, peevish, or self-pitying person, esp. someone who is constantly disgruntled or depressed; a killjoy.In my pitiable condition, I had turned to self-pity. In my misery, I had become miserable. Old Misery Guts, you might say.

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Bible Reading Week 3 (Jan 17-23, 2022)

Week 1

Week 2

Old Testament (Genesis 17-23)

1. Genesis 17:1-23: What is the significance of the covenant of circumcision? Does it not constitute works righteousness and if not, why not? And why circumcision as a sign of the covenant?  

Since that’s not one question but three, let’s take each in turn. 

Genesis 17 refers to the giving (Hebrew: ntn) or confirming of the covenant. This covenant ratification follows on from the covenant inauguration (or “cutting of the covenant”) in Genesis 15. The cutting of the covenant, with its strange ceremony with fire and divided animals stresses the chronological priority of God’s action which takes priority and pre-eminence over man’s. Genesis 17 majors on man’s response which ratifies and confirms the covenant already made by God’s divine initiative. 

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