“In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, this marked the beginning of an extraordinary English alignment with the Muslim powers who were fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age…”
It always occurs to me that, as Christians, we are nearest our Jewish roots when we are reciting the Jewish psalter. That link with the pre-Christian Jewish religion is very important to the Church, precious indeed. Now, I thought I would run through this intriguing psalm, since it has always seemed a little random to me. Let’s see what the sense of it is. This is from one of the RSV texts… First, an introduction, to demonstrate the reward of the just and the punishment of the unrighteous, when God finally arises…
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered;
let those who hate him flee before him!
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
as wax melts before fire,
let the wicked perish before God!
But let the righteous be joyful;
let them exult before God;
let them be jubilant with joy!
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds;
his name is the LORD, exult before him!
Then the characteristics of the Father God, who is generous, noble and just. Creation is rocked to its foundations before Him…
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to dwell in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity;
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
O God, when thou didst go forth before thy people,
when thou didst march through the wilderness,
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, at the presence of God;
yon Sinai quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Rain in abundance, O God, thou didst shed abroad;
thou didst restore thy heritage as it languished;
thy flock found a dwelling in it;
in thy goodness, O God, thou didst provide for the needy.
Then the attitude of a warrior God, who receives tribute from those he has beaten in battle…
The Lord gives the command;
great is the host of those who bore the tidings:
“The kings of the armies, they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil,
though they stay among the sheepfolds —
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with green gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings there,
snow fell on Zalmon.
O mighty mountain, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
Why look you with envy, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount which God desired for his abode,
yea, where the LORD will dwell for ever?
With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands,
the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place.
Thou didst ascend the high mount,
leading captives in thy train,
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
Then the image of God the Saviour, upholder and restorer of his pilgrim people…
Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
Our God is a God of salvation;
and to GOD, the Lord, belongs escape from death.
But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
The Lord said,
“I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
that you may bathe your feet in blood,
that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe.”
Then the liturgical processions arrive. You see, this is a hymn at a solemn synagogue-type gathering. Singers and minstrels, a great congregation, the tribes in order. It’s almost like a medieval-era Catholic Mass, with precise hierarchical ordering.
Thy solemn processions are seen, O God,
the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary —
the singers in front, the minstrels last,
between them maidens playing timbrels:
“Bless God in the great congregation,
the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in their throng,
the princes of Zeb’ulun, the princes of Naph’tali.
Deprecatory prayers now follow. The glory of Jerusalem and the Temple are sought and the tribute from various parts of the world, all to the glory of God and the Temple.
Summon thy might, O God;
show thy strength, O God, thou who hast wrought for us.
Because of thy temple at Jerusalem
kings bear gifts to thee.
Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample under foot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
Let bronze be brought from Egypt;
let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;
sing praises to the Lord,
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
lo, he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice.
And last of all, the final blessing.
Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and his power is in the skies.
Terrible is God in his sanctuary,
the God of Israel,
he gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
It’s a long psalm, indeed, and hence feels more random than it really is. The coherence arrives for me when I recognise a liturgical form – it is probably what we would recognise as an entrance hymn, or processional hymn. It is long, because there is a long procession of people entering, described in small part. The theme from the beginning is the traditional Hebrew one of justice and judgement, righteousness before God and the protection for those who call upon God. Here, military protection is included also, God being a saviour and a gatherer of the people. As soon as this last sentiment is expressed, the gathering does occur.
This is my first impression. I plan to update this post when I’ve looked in a book or two.
Today is the anniversary of his passing. Do say a prayer for the repose of his soul. From the diocesan website, this extract:
…Dunn found a rapidly growing diocese and encouraged church building on an unprecedented scale. The work of religious orders was given fresh impetus – the arrival of the Assumptionists to the Becket School was in 1931 – and new parishes were established all over the diocese. Bishop Dunn paid particular attention to his Cathedral, seeking to restore all things in Pugin, and made efforts to restore Gregorian Chant (Plainsong) to the Cathedral’s Sacred Liturgy, after the inspiration of Pope St Pius X (1903-1914). During Bishop Dunn’s time in Nottingham there was a notable increase in vocations and thirty-four priests were ordained for the diocese.
Would that we had new impetus for the work of the Orders, that we could restore all things in Pugin, that we could have many, good and holy priests.
One of the things you get to see as a young priest in a parish is marriages, where two young people set forth to bind themselves to each other for life. No matter what follows in later years, the desire of each spouse for something greater than they had before is good to see. So, I thought I’d share around this picture of an Eastern ceremony, which suitably crowns the newly wedded. Following the picture is a quote from S. John Chrysostom, the great light of the Catholic Church, East and West. This is the point when the spouses emerge, ideally, from the shelter of one strong community (their parents and siblings) and propose to form another similar community (the couple and their children). The great virtue to be prayed for of any such venture is that of perseverence in the promises once made.
A young husband should say to his bride: ‘I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.’ – S. John Chrysostom
…following my new appointment to the cathedral in Nottingham. I plan to add a rather mild Scripture portion to this blog. I promise not to frighten anybody with too much Greek and Latin. I’ll keep the Hebrew at bay for a while.