Arriving at psalm 32, we come to one of the great ‘penitential psalms’, a group of psalms often used in the season of Lent, or at anytime to express personal confession and contrition. But that doesn’t make it a gloomy psalm, it’s a beautiful psalm because in the same breath that it calls for confession, it proclaims forgiveness. It opens with a ‘Beatus’, a beatitude, a blessing:
BLESSED is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven: and whose sin is covered.
The key to this psalm is the observation that hiding and repressing the truth about oneself only makes things worse: ‘For while I held my tongue: my bones consumed away’, and then, after honest confession and forgiveness comes that beautiful line:
Thou art a place to hide me in, thou shalt preserve me from trouble: thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
My poem in response to this psalm takes a necessarily more personal tone but I hope it can in that sense be personal to all its readers.
As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.
XXXII Beati, quorum
In your deep silence and your mystery
You led me to confess and be forgiven.
You gave me the relief of honesty.
How long and bitterly I might have striven
With all the guilt that I could hardly name
How painfully my heart might have been riven
By hidden memories and secret shame
Instead you blessed me with a new beginning
Unbound me from bands and brands of blame
My false accounts of losing or of winning
And called me to come forth like Lazarus
And start my life again, rejoicing, singing
Baptised and born in your mysterious
And all-involving love, a love that lifts,
A love that comforts and embraces us.
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