You will not reject me; you will fill my mouth with laughter. [Ant. Psalm 126]
It is vain to rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil: — for you, O Godde, give sleep to your beloved. [Ps. 127]
We will not fear the terror of the night… [Responsory]
People’s Companion to the Breviary, 122-123
I have returned to the People’s Companion to the Breviary at night before I go to sleep. Reading the day’s Evening Prayer has a way of calming my mind and heart, and giving me food for prayer during the night when bouts of anxiety assail me.
Why is it that some folks sleep so soundly and peacefully and others with the same sort of life fretfully toss and turn? How is it that some of us are born with a strong leaning toward scruples or dread attacks? I have known those since I was a child. The challenge of course now is that when my mind is seized by non-stop running of the same scary scenario over and over again, by the time the morning comes I am a wreck.
Some time, I don’t even know why I cannot sleep, like that time on the Via de la Plata when I only slept three hours and found myself unable to resume my journey the following morning. A sort of inner saboteur squatting within me, stowed away in the recesses of my mind, playing havoc with my plans.
This is where the Companion to the Breviary comes to my rescue. A bit like singing psalms of praise to Godde when the whole world around me seems to be collapsing. The transparency of my heart turns toward the One who loves me and I catch the straws that holy words send my way. They exorcise my fear, they put them into perspective, they help me face my aggressors, and welcome them. We are on the same boat after all…
You will fill my mouth with laughter… with songs of praise cutting through the fog of emotions out of control…
I also say St Ignatius’ prayer, Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, memory, understanding and entire will… Recently though I find that the words change of themselves into —
Please, Godde, take my anxieties, fears, scruples, and despair, all that fills me and possesses me. They do not come from you, and you can blow them away, like a parent gently blows on his baby’s crying face. Just give me your love and your peace that is enough for me.
Art: Kara Walker, Excavated from the black heart of a Negress, 2002