So every morning (when I remember), the Liturgy of Hours opens with Psalm 95. Some mornings, it resonates. Others it’s just words on a page. Some days, praise comes easily. Others, I have to work hard to suppress the cynicism. Although it seems “cheap” to praise when things are going well. Even though my head (and heart) isn’t into it, the days praise comes hardest seem to be the most sincere.
I’ve been thinking about the second readings the past few days from the Office of Readings. I’m having an almost visceral disgust-reaction to them, I think I know why, but I think they deserve another look. Full text found here. St. Ignatius of Antioch was a doomed man when he wrote it, as a friend suggested. Logically, I know this letter is an insight into one destined for capital punishment, torture, and imprisonment. It didn’t help that I only got the middle chunk of it, the second readings being replaced on Sunday (solemnity of the Holy Trinity) and today (feast of St. Antony of Padua). I keep coming back to the line in Romans, that it’s harder to live in Christ, than it is to die in him.
The first part of it (1-3) seem normal enough, almost a goodbye letter from a bishop to his churches. I can grasp this, he’s being a living example to others. Paragraph 3 I can understand: “Just pray that I may have strength of soul and body so that I may not only talk [about martyrdom], but really want it.”
But then from paragraph 4 on, things get weird for me. I can understand he wishes to unite his death with Christ’s, and perhaps the joyfulness in tone is he trying to steel himself for it. While I read about suicides at Guantanamo Bay, and I’ve seen the pictures of Abu Gharaib, I can’t understand dying a gruesome, painful death, and knowing it’s going to happen beforehand. Maybe this some of my discomfort with the letter. It’s pushing me out of my cushy little world, and sticking me in the head of someone who isn’t long for this world, people I pray for, but don’t ever directly encounter.