“Who Shall Climb” (a meditation on Psalm 24) asked how a Christian can live in joyful hope, when faced with a standard that is insurmountable: clean hands, a pure heart, and no desire for worthless things. I fail. That’s joyful hope?
The Apostle Paul seems to have experienced the same tension. Read Romans 7:15-25. It’s important we know we aren’t alone. God be thanked for the communion of saints who have gone before us and shared their struggles with us.
At the end of “Who Shall Climb” our reason for joyful hope was identified: Jesus Christ met the insurmountable standard. In love and mercy, he died for our sins as the sacrifice supremely acceptable to God. His cross becomes “the bridge perfectly fitted to that fissure we shall have to cross”¹ — the gap between the holiness of God and the sin of man.
As we look at the altar during the liturgy of the Mass, we do well think of C.S. Lewis’ memorable picture in The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan, the Christ-figure in Lewis’ allegory, allows himself to be put to death on The Stone Table for Edmund’s sin. Susan and Lucy witness the result of Aslan offering himself in Edmund’s place. His majestic mane is shorn, he is tied to the table, and slain. In the sacred liturgy, are we really conscious of our Savior Jesus Christ, “our Aslan,” during this re-presentation of Him offering Himself for us?
Because Christ, the incarnate God, took the penalty for our sin, Psalm 24 reveals the basis for joyful hope! We are told to “let Him enter, the King of Glory,” followed by the obvious question — in effect, “OK then, but who is this King of Glory?” The divinely inspired answer: “The Lord, the mighty, the valiant; the Lord the valiant in war.” If we are fighting spiritual warfare (and we are according to Ephesians 6:12), then Who better could be on our side than the most valiant; the mightiest in spiritual warfare?
In that fight He also engages the communion of saints on our behalf. In verse 10, Psalm 24 asks once again, “Who is this King of Glory?” The psalmist answers, “The Lord of hosts.” The Grail translation of the Psalms says, “The Lord of armies.” Hosts — armies! — of saints through the centuries stand at-ready to assist us; to pray for us; to pray with us.
May we live in gratitude daily for our Aslan’s extraordinary compassion and mercy, the mercy of Jesus Christ. While we may not meet the standard of Psalm 24 perfectly, our Lord did, and offered that perfect righteousness on our behalf. That is truly . . . Christianity Richly!
¹ Paul Claudel, A Poet Before the Cross (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1958), p. 50.