SNOW

Snow012014The sun is shining, the temp is going up to 30ish or less, and that white stuff called snow is still a blanket of cold fluff covering the leaves, grass, and dirt.  The birds, squirrels, and other of God’s creatures are scurrying about on top of the blanket searching for the food we have set out.

What a beautiful day the Lord has made !!!

We read in the Psalms. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Here the Psalmist, David,  refers to the spiritual washing required for his cleansing. He makes a deliberate request of God to wash Him, knowing that only the cleansing power of Almighty God can make a man clean and pure. Though his sins have covered him in filth and stained him to the very roots of his being, the washing power of God makes a man whiter than snow.

In our understanding of the symbolism of colors, “snow-white” is considered the ultimate in white, the whitest of white, as pure and unsullied a white as possible. David’s expectation was that God’s cleansing power would exceed even that ultimate white – “I shall be whiter than snow.” We can only relate this to absolute spiritual, moral perfection, the very state in which Almighty God exists. The wording expresses that the scrubbing God could give him would permit him to exist in that absolute, ultimate state of perfection.

This Psalm 50 is recited at every Divine liturgy as well as in our Morning Prayers before the Lord.  The psalm is not merely an expression of penitence and self-disgust. It is the overwhelming holiness of God that is the source of profound repentance, and it is particularly related to the coming of the Holy Spirit. The recitation of Psalm 50 is a preparation for the epiclesis, when we call on the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood. And so in Psalm 50 the priest says, “Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me. Do not cast me out from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” In the Liturgy of St Basil the Great, the priest prays that God will not, because of his own sins, “withhold the grace of the Holy Spirit from the Gifts here spread forth”.

Psalm 50 is a prayer not of despair but of hope: “You will sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed. You will wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. You will make me hear of joy and gladness; the bones which have been humbled will rejoice… Give me back the joy of your salvation, and establish me with your sovereign Spirit. I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn to you again…”.  And we are reminded that God hears the prayer and contrition of the heart: “if you had wanted a sacrifice, I would have given it. You will not take pleasure in burnt offerings. A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a humbled heart God will not despise”.

Psalm 50

Have mercy on me, O God, in accordance with your great mercy. According to the multitude of your compassion blot out my offence. Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my wickedness, and my sin is ever before me. Against you alone I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, that you may be justified in your words and win when you are judged. For see, in wickedness I was conceived and in sin my mother bore me. For see, you have loved truth; you have shown me the hidden and secret things of your wisdom. You will sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed. You will wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. You will make me hear of joy and gladness; the bones which have been humbled will rejoice. Turn away your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me. Do not cast me out from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and establish me with your sovereign Spirit. I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn to you again. O God, the God of my salvation, deliver me from bloodshed and my tongue will rejoice at your justice. Lord, you will open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise. For if you had wanted a sacrifice, I would have given it. You will not take pleasure in burnt offerings. A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a humbled heart God will not despise. Do good to Sion, Lord, in your good pleasure; and let the walls of Jerusalem be rebuilt. Then you will be well pleased with a sacrifice of righteousness, oblation and whole burnt offerings. Then they will offer calves upon your altar.

This is why the celebrant of the Liturgy, identifying himself with the worst of sinners, prays for God’s mercy for himself and for the people as the Church begins to prepare for the Holy Oblation and to receive Christ in Holy Communion: “Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin… Turn away your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me”. For only when we are at peace – with God, with one another, and with ourselves – can we worthily offer our liturgy to God and, in so doing, be made worthy to receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Then ‘we will hear of joy and gladness; the bones which have been humbled will rejoice’, and we can return to the world to ‘tell what great things God has done for us’ (Luke 8:38). And being thus filled with that divine joy and gladness, we can “teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn to you again”.

Forgive me Jesus, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,

Have mercy on me,

A Sinner!

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About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR and serve as Rector at St. Joseph of Optina Parish in Virginia Beach, VA
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