Every single day, seven times a day, we are supposed to pray using the Agpeya, the book of hours. Each hour has different Psalms that are recited, yet every hour starts with the same three prayers, Our Father, The Thanksgiving Prayer, and Psalm 50. Each one of these is significant in their own way but the Psalms are one of the most powerful ways of prayer. They are God’s own words that are given to us to use for petition when we come before him. David the prophet writes in Psalm 50, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 50 helps us sense the deep sorrow and genuine repentance that David the Prophet had over his sins. That is why Psalm 50 is prayed at the beginning as it is used to instigate the process of purification of the soul and heart. That we may be made worthy to stand before God in prayer, in hope of growing in His likeness.
First, we must examine the theme of cleanliness throughout the Bible. In Isaiah 1:16, it is written, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil.” We must be cautious not to portray the picture of cleanliness and deceive ourselves. In Matthew 23:25-26, Our Lord Jesus Christ rebukes the Pharisees saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside of them may be clean also.” Our Lord Jesus Christ emphasizes how purity must begin from within. Don’t fail to realize that our Lord Jesus Christ acknowledges the outside cleanliness, but it was not acceptable because inwardly they were “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).” As a true Father, He explains and offers the solution, that we must begin by purifying our heart, that it may reflect outwardly. Below the surface, all sin and evil originates in the heart of man and that is why deep within, purity of the heart is of the utmost importance. In Matthew 15:18-19, it says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.”
To turn our hearts from thoughts of evil to thoughts of goodness, King David the Prophet uses the word “create”, because we are incapable of this by ourselves, as our Lord is the only Being capable of creation. Thus, this is why we need God to work with us and within us to attain purity of heart. Saint Athanasius sums up and explains Psalm 50 by saying, “You sinned and feeling guilty, you repent and ask to be shown mercy. You have words of confession and conversion in Psalm 50.” David the King and prophet, the one who God called “a man after my own heart” had committed adultery, was rebuked by Nathan, came to the realization of the filth of his sin which then led to his repentance, hence, he wrote Psalm 50. It is then clear that the theme of repentance is heavily intertwined with the cleanliness of a man’s own heart. Pope Shenodua the third, of blessed memory, writes “purity of heart is sign of perfect repentance.” However, he gives the caveat that “Their purity is a result of wrestling and wars out of which they came victorious” signifying that it’s a spiritual warfare and a way of life, in order to attain salvation.
Analyzing the way of life and repentance of a sinner St. John Chrysostom writes, “When someone is truthful about his sinfulness before God and sincerely confesses his depravity to Him, only then is he truly humble, contrite, and acceptable.” We must in our daily lives be able to take some time to self reflect and evaluate where we stand in our relationship with God in hope of his seeing Him in our reflection. This is clear when St. Antony explains “the one who knows himself knows God.” To truly know God, we must empty ourselves of all sin in order to begin the process of purifying the soul. Pope Shenouda the third writes, “True purity starts with complete hatred of sin, by knowledge, true insight, and sound understanding of the Holy Spirit of what is good and what is evil” Only in the moments of self reflection are we able to distinguish between filth and cleanliness that we may be able to progress in our spiritual journey.
In repetition one comes to realize the importance of what is being said and its imprint on the soul. Psalm 50, which is repeated day after day, hour by hour, that in its continued purification, through prayer, we make more room for Christ to dwell in us and for sin to leave us.
We cannot receive Him unless we let go of that which is not of Him and opposes Him. As darkness cannot have communion with light by nature, Our Lord Jesus Christ cannot live in our hearts while sin dwells there.