“When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.“
–Psalm 114: 1-2

In his Divine Comedy, Dante placed Psalm 114 in the mouth of the souls entering Purgatory: saved through their faith yet still undergoing purification, they journeyed upwards towards the beatific vision. Just as the Israelites came out of Egypt through unknown lands with the promise of life in Canaan, the souls in Purgatory felt themselves occupying a “strange land,” yet awaiting the promise of heavenly fulfillment. This psalm bears within it that fundamental tension: the despair of homelessness balanced with the expectant hope of redemption.

Like the Israelites and the souls in Dante, we too are pilgrims in this life, journeying towards our heavenly homeland. Lent brings this fundamental dynamic into stark relief. It is all too easy to attach ourselves to the world, to grow fond of our existence in our own “Egypt” — or conversely, to despair when our modern world casts us out for our faith. But for all its beauty and graces, this world is not our ultimate destination; as the psalm reflects, even now the Church awaits the fulfillment of heaven and the redemption of all creation.

How often do we feel the temptation to fall into our worldly desires, or frustration when our hope for complete union with God is not yet fulfilled? When we struggle in prayer or with discipline, feeling ourselves lost in a spiritual desert, we might take heart in this salvific hope of the Israelites— a hope which, when grounded in Christ, cannot fail.

Lord, strengthen us to walk more closely with You, and fill our hearts with desire to be with You in heaven. Not to us, O Lord, but to Your name give glory. Amen.

Passage for Further Reading:

Psalm 114

About the Author:

Aidan Stenson is a senior at the University of Chicago. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of Cana.


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