Journal CoverEastertide 2009, Volume XVIII, Number 2Table of Contents

(A featured article from the journal: God's Smile: Worship as the Source of Christian Life, by Carl Axel Aurelius, translated by Holger Sonntag)

For Luther, the image of the Christian life is most clearly seen in the psalms. The mixture of joy and suffering, lamentation and praise found in them characterizes the life and different affects of a Christian. Some of the psalms allow us to look deeply into the most difficult afflictions. We get a picture of the emotions of this situation, for example, in Psalm 6 or Psalm 13.

Both are strange psalms, and they are so in a twofold way. On the one hand, it is certainly noteworthy that they are there at all. The afflicted one is apparently in a situation in which he has to ask himself: Does it really pay to pray? Yet he prays in spite of everything. Why? On the other hand, both psalms are noteworthy due to the sudden change in key. In the middle of the psalm there is a change from minor to major. Lament is transformed into a song of praise. What actually happens there? In his second great exposition of the Psalter, Operationes in Psalmos (1519–1521), Luther states:

For the afflicted ones have to be comforted now and then in order to be able to endure. This is why joyful psalms and psalms of lament are mixed in many ways, so that this mixture of different psalms and this confused order, as it is called, should be an example and image of the Christian life that is practiced under manifold grief from the world and under comfort from God’s word. (WA 5: 287.16 ff.)

As was said, both psalms show us the most difficult affliction. They are no longer about the grief the world causes. The afflicted one no longer wrestles with man but with God. More and more he sinks down into despair. On the outside, he or she suffers from something not known to us; yet on the inside, we know exactly how this human being regards his suffering. He thinks, “God has rejected me in his wrath forever.” This is the greatest affliction. The afflicted one finds himself in chaotic darkness.

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