Justice and Peace Have Kissed

The beginning of the Fall semester always brings a few fires to put out—students who need to drop and add, random technology melt-downs, and errors in the syllabi. Having survived most of this first week of our semester, I thought I’d sit down for a minute and pray with St. Augustine (happy memorial day).

Though I’m ashamed to confess I prayed evening prayer at a shockingly early hour, I read a psalm in a way I’ve never read before, and feel I’ve received a gift.

A psalm for August 28th’s evening prayer, Psalm 85:9-14, relates a beautiful hymn in which images of earth and sky complement the gifts of merciful love and faithfulness:

Merciful love and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have kissed.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth,
and justice look down from heaven.

I have usually considered all these descriptions as conditions present when God’s salvation reigns—the way of life in the perfect kingdom of God. But, today, I heard something different. Earlier, in Psalm 85, we hear of “peace” for God’s “faithful” who have turned their hearts to God. With this in mind, I heard the first two lines above in this way:

God’s merciful love meets the faithfulness of God’s people;
God’s justice kisses the peace that reigns in the hearts of those who trust and turn to God.

The image is repeated, in the image of the earth. The lines which appear as:

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth,
and justice look down from heaven.

I read as:

The faithful of the earth rise up with joy to meet
the Lord of justice, who comes down from heaven.

I am no biblical scholar—but I am sincerely delighted when I hear Scripture in a new way. The images of unity reflect a notion of covenant and relationship, reminiscent of the Song of Solomon.  I’m grateful for what our Lord has given me this day.

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3 comments

  1. Your post calls to mind the alternate (US) collect for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time from the former Mass translation, one of my favorites:

    Lord our God, in you justice and mercy meet.
    With unparalleled love you have saved us from death
    and drawn us into the circle of your life.
    Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us, that we may serve you free from fear and address you as God our Father.
    We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

  2. I can relate to your discovery, but first a bit of context: my archdiocese publishes an almanac of sorts…mainly for the benefit of those who remain accustomed to planting with the moon. I was asked to help prepare next year’s edition, which naturally focuses on mercy. Part of this involved suggesting a Scripture quote for each month, usually on the basis of something religious (e.g. Lent, Easter) or sociocultural (e.g. Carnival, school/vacation).

    For December, though not fully in the Jubilee, my theme was Christmas…and the quote in question is precisely what came to mind.

    To take my cue from an explanation of the Trinity I once heard: if God is always faithful, he is such even to himself – a self-concept by which God is both Father and Son. The love in this union, this peace, is the Holy Spirit, who itself, as the “spouse” of our Lady, in-spires that faithfulness, that fidelity, in her and in all humanity like her. By this God was conceived in her, in a corporeal way, and by this God can be re-cognised in us.

    In short: this psalm verse is one of the best summations of the cosmos that I know!

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