September 26, 2014

Psalm 150

1 Praise the Lord!
  Praise God in His sanctuary;
  praise Him in His mighty firmament!
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
  praise Him according to His exceeding greatness!
3 Praise Him with trumpet sound;
  praise Him with lute and harp!
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dance;
  praise Him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise Him with sounding cymbals;
  praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
  Praise the Lord!

“Let every breath praise the Lord”:  All American Council, Parma, Ohio (2011)

We have come to the end of the Psalms, the hymn-book and prayer-book of the Church. The Psalms end with comprehensive, joyful, cosmic praise, uniting heaven and earth, the angelic worship of the heavenly sanctuary with the musical instruments and voices of earthly sanctuaries everywhere. In the temple or outside, “let everything that breathes praise the Lord” and “let every breath praise the Lord” (LXX). This points us not only toward chanting, singing and liturgy, but toward prayer without ceasing, the Jesus Prayer and joining “to every breath a sober invocation of Jesus’ name” (Evagrius of Pontus).

The ending of the Psalms with praise reflects the first and greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Love of God cannot be contained, but overflows into praise from a full heart. The love of God overflows equally to fulfill the second great Commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40).

As Father Thomas Hopko writes in The Orthodox Faith, “The purpose of prayer is to have communion with God and to be made capable of accomplishing his will.” And so the psalms end with the praise of God who is both the beginning and the end of prayer, who fills us with love from His very being—for God is love—and makes possible both love for Him and for our neighbor.

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Psalm 151 [Greek Septuagint]

King David
King David with Harp (Ethiopia)

The ancient Greek version adds one more psalm, with the inscription, “This additional psalm is said to have been written by David when he fought Goliath in single combat.” Although not read in church with the other psalms, it is included in Orthodox Christian editions of the Bible and is a hymn of humility and God’s guidance, grace and strength coming out of weakness.

1 I was small among my brothers,
  and the youngest of my father’s sons.
  I was shepherd of my father’s sheep.
2 My hands made a musical instrument;
  my fingers strung a lap harp.
3 Who will tell my Lord?
  The Lord himself, the Lord hears me.
4 The Lord himself sent his messenger,
  and took me away
  from my father’s sheep.
  He put special oil on my forehead
  to anoint me.
5 My brothers were good-looking and tall,
  but the Lord didn’t take
  special pleasure in them.
6 I went out to meet the Philistine,
  who cursed me by his idols.
7 But I took his own sword out of its sheath
  and cut off his head.
  So I removed the shame
  from the Israelites.

Metropolitan Council Ends

I am inspired by the variety and gifts that people across the Orthodox Church in America bring to their voluntary and sacrificial service of Christ and the Church. This is especially obvious in meetings of the Metropolitan Council. We cover a lot of ground in these meetings, some of it not especially exciting, and some of it contentious, but we are blessed to have this collaborative body of bishops, clergy and laity from across the continent caring for the welfare of the OCA.

David Drillock
David Drillock at Metropolitan Council meeting

The final presentation of the week was from Prof David Drillock, who gave an overview of the remarkable work being done by the Department of Liturgical Music and Translation.  He will be one of four people honored tomorrow at the Chancery for their lifetime of musical contribution to the Orthodox Church in America and beyond.

The day will open with the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the walled garden at 10:00 a.m.  A combined choir of students from Saint Vladimir’s and Saint Tikhon’s Seminaries will sing the responses.