Friday, December 18, 2009

A cup of tea—with the “Miserere” Psalm

When tea was introduced from Asia into Western Europe in the late Middle Ages, people wondered how to make the leaves into a drink. A writer who was knowledgeable about the mysterious new leaves explained that one should steep them long enough to recite the “Miserere” Psalm (“Have mercy on me”—psalm 51). The “Miserere” made a good timer!

Around the middle of the right-hand page of this beautiful Book of Hours--a medieval prayerbook--you can see the "Miserere" Psalm, copied after the large colorful "M."

If this afternoon you could use a good, hot cup of tea in this, often frantic, season, how about reciting or reading the “Miserere” while you steep your tea, and perhaps meditating on it as well, while you sip the restorative brew?

Miserere Psalm:
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt was I born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purity me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than show.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness,
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite spirit you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

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