Friday, February 03, 2006

A garment of praise

I've just finished reading Lauren Winner's book Mudhouse Sabbath. Winner, who was raised Jewish then converted to Orthodox Judaism and then to Christianity, builds a bridge of commonality between the two religions that share the same God. She tells of Jewish traditions and understandings that can enrich the Christian's worship and deepen her faith.

One of her chapters deals with the Jewish rites surrounding death, or more accurately, the process of mourning one who has died. The traditions allow for a gradual return to normalcy within the context of community. Part of this process, particularly for those mourning the loss of a parent, is the saying of Kaddish, a prayer that extols God's name, twice a day, in the presence of at least ten others, for a year. Of this practice, this praise in the midst of sorrow, Winner writes, "You do not have to feel praise in the intense moments of mourning, but the praise is still true, and insisting upon it over and over, twice a day every day, ensures that eventually you will come to remember the truth of those praises."

She's right. When I'm feeling particularly blue or down, if I can find some time alone at home or in the car or where no one else can hear me, I like to sing a song of praise, the words of which are taken from Isaiah 61: "Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, lift up your heart to God; praise with the spirit and with understanding, O magnify the Lord; All you who live in Zion, I have authority to appoint unto you in Zion oil of joy that will set you free." Between the words of the song, the imagery of a garment of praise that can be worn over a heavy heart, and the lilting tune, I always feel lighter after one or two or sometimes three times through it.

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