This morning, I find myself reflecting again on Psalm 1, on the Feast of Jan Hus, martyr in 1415.
1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD, *
and on this law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.
4 It is not so with the wicked; *
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, *
but the way of the wicked is doomed.
“And on this law they meditate day and night.” I’m hooked by this phrase, this image of perpetual prayer, constant focus, what I would call mindfulness. I spent some time researching the Hebrew account of this word, hagah. What does it mean to “meditate” on the law of God, perpetually?
It’s fascinating…. Hagah comes from an ancient root that means, of all things, to whisper or murmur. It is that sense of focused prayer, of attention–mindfulness–on God, reflecting on God’s presence and invitation in all of life.
I immediately think of the monks on Mount Athos, in this amazing video documentary I saw, constantly whispering the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It was beautiful, this image of monks at work, cleaning, picking grapes, tending vines…while never stopping this uttering, this meditation on God’s presence.
This hagah, this perpetual meditation breaks through the categories of prayer. It is simultaneously adoration, devotion, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. It is a confession of one’s dependence upon God, and it is also an invocation of the Spirit of Christ.
“And on this law they meditate day and night.” More and more, I think we are called to ground our Christian practice in this perpetual adoration, this deep sense of God’s presence. Raimon Panikkar, one of my favorite theologians, speaks of this experience of an “ontological touch,” whereby we have a deep experience (beyond emotional immediacy) of God’s presence and love in our lives.
Then, we do indeed become like trees next to living water, bearing fruit, with leaves that are always green. We are always nourished by the presence of God that soaks into our very being. For this, we give thanks!