Dominus illuminatio mea

“The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: whom shall I fear?”

I have lifted this quote from the Introit to today’s Mass (Vetus Ordo), for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost. I have tampered slightly with the standard English translation, by removing the elegant variation in the reiteration of, “Whom shall I fear?” This was to bring out the insolence I detect in the original Psalm 26 (or 27, Masoretic), from the opening of which that Introit was taken. It is an insolence directed towards King David’s enemies, who are also God’s enemies. Though a host of them may encamp against him, he will stand his ground. He exalts the Holy, but too, in his manner of address here and elsewhere, he is “a pushy Jew.”

Or to put this in a more contemporary light, the Psalmist is obsequiously humble in the presence of Our Lord; but he is not even slightly humble in the face of the Dictatorship of Relativism.

The first words of the Psalm and Introit are famously the motto of Oxford University, from the days when it was a Christian institution. The Lord teaches, to this Christian view; the Lord illuminates; but what He teaches is not “facts and arguments,” the way they are taught in a “normal” school. He teaches, for instance, courage in the defence of Christian causes that may not be popular. (Oxford once had a long tradition of that.) He teaches sanctity in the face of temptation, including the temptation to cut and run, or remain very silent when the world, and sometimes even spokesmen for the Church, are teaching dreadful lies.

In like case I recited, to myself at my father’s death, and in some other cases over the years, chiefly to myself, the old KJV text of Psalm 46 (or 45, Septuagint and Vulgate). As for instance in a hospital once, nearly forty years ago, at the approach of my Christian conversion. It begins:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.”

Likewise, in the miraculous draught of fishes, recounted in today’s Gospel, the eccentric Rabbi of Nazareth (as He was then known) tells our first Pope (as he was not yet known) to go out and try again. And by no brilliant doing of his own, after a long night of pointless labour, Simon Peter’s nets are suddenly groaning, and there are two boats loaded with fish, almost to sinking. And this fisherman of Galilee goes to Jesus, and tells Him on his knees to give up on him, because he is such a sinful man. And Jesus tells him that he will be a fisher of men. (Not a prediction but an order.)

For Jesus, too, was a pushy Jew.

“Enough of your kvetching.”

We are surrounded by our enemies in a former Christendom gone over to the Devil’s side; in an America, too, that ain’t Kansas any more. Labour all the night, and we draught nothing. We know that we are very sinful ourselves, and at best unlucky anglers. We know that, by our own efforts, this is not going to change. Truly, there is nothing we can do about our situation: except try again, with renewed dedication to, and faith in that Jesus.

It is also “Father’s Day,” I notice from a greeting; a day for living fathers to remember that they are fathers, and to recall their own fathers in their turn. Saint Peter, son to the Son of Man, pray for us.