Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hushing the Storm to Silence

Well, we’ve certainly had enough snow.  There are higher snow banks outside Saint John’s Seminary than any First Sunday of Lent in recorded history, with promises from mother nature of at least a few more storms before we sing the Easter Exultet!

The Church talks a lot about storms in her Sacred Liturgy and in her Sacred Scriptures. There’s even a Mass “For an End to Storms,” buried way in the back of the “Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions” of the Roman Missal.  

O God, 
to whose commands all the elements give obedience, 
we humbly entreat you,
that the stilling of fearsome storms 
may turn a powerful menace into an occasion for us to praise you. 
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Maybe if it were located more prominently we would have used it more during February and God might have spared us all that shoveling!

The prayer begins with a description of God, whose commands are obeyed by all the elements.  One need only think of creation, when God said “let there be light,” and there was light.  Or when God commanded that the whole world be drowned with the exception of Noah and his little ark.  Or Jesus in the midst of a storm on the Sea of Galilee.  This disciples were panic stricken, especially poor Saint Peter, but the Lord calmed the sea by his command.

God created all creatures and elements in this world and beyond and they obey his commands.  All of them except you and me, who exercising the free will he gave us sometimes turn away from him, seeking not his will but our own.

The prayer continues, humbly entreating God “that the stilling of fearsome storms may turn a powerful menace into an occasion for us to praise you.”  In other words, the Church is not asking that the nor’easter turn East and dissipate just so we won’t get clobbered with another snowstorm, but that in being saved from all that shoveling we might have an occasion to thank God for his great mercy!

Since the days of Genesis, we have been praying God for delivering us from disasters, especially the beautiful Psalm 107.  It describes a pretty miserable scene with people suffering from every imaginable disaster.  Some are hungry and thirsty and lost in the desert, some are stuck in a dark and dank prison “imprisoned in misery and chains,” and some are in the midst of a terrible storm, their hearts trembling from the danger, crying to the Lord.

But the Lord heard their plea and “hushed the storm to silence.” (Psalm 107:29)  So they thanked the Lord for his mercy and praised him the in the assembly of the faithful.

That’s what the prayer “For an end to Storms” is all about.  It’s not just getting rid of the storm, but getting closer to God.  And if it takes being delivered from a storm to get us closer to God, well then we were lucky to have the storm around in the first place.

There are a lot of storms in life, some of them even bigger than the record snowstorms of the past few weeks.  You may be experiencing those storms as Lent begins.  Maybe its your health or a broken heart or fear of what comes next.  Pray to the Lord of Creation, to Christ through whom all things were made, and beg him to “hushed the storm to silence” this Lent, so that having participated in his Passion and Cross in Lent we might praise his Risen Glory at Easter.

Storm to Silence.  Cross to Glory.  Death to life.  It’s all about Lent.