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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Psalm 84

This weekend we celebrate Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation. Set forty days after Christmas, it reflects that actual time period between the birth and redemption of a first born son. The Feast Day is always February 2. The Psalm assigned for today’s worship in the Common Lectionary is Psalm 84.
Psalm 84 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) see Biblegateway
This is probably a psalm of ascent, one of many psalms recited by pilgrims to the temple. This may have been a royal procession. The Bible tells us that God’s Name resided in the Temple—it is His presence among men. The mediated presence is a type of the presence of God in Jesus (incarnation) and the ultimate presence of God at the end of time. The sacramental nature of the Temple is part of the mystery of God (pure spirit) interacting with humans…
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!My soul longs, indeed it faints
    for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.Happy are those who live in your house,
    ever singing your praise.Selah
In his translation with commentary, The Book of Psalms,  Alter points out that the (Hebrew) root of yelidot = lovely is dod = lover and dodim = lovemaking. He says that the energy of the psalmist for God is very passionate longing. [Recall the Song of Songs is another overtly romantic/sensual descriptor of such longing]. The large Temple was apparently inhabited by some birds, which caught his attention and made him envious. One can contemplate the beatitude (Happy=Blessed) about those who live in God’s house. Obviously, our own relationship to our place of worship is worthy of consideration. And the mystical meaning, those who are aware of the God Who is everywhere, can also bring us to profound sense of wonder and joy.
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
A second beatitude, happy/blessed are those whose strength is in God. Too often we prefer to rely on our own strength (an act of unbelief). He psalmist recounts the graces of God, the rains and streams produce abundantly as the pilgrims pass. One wonders how often our world is brightened by our own journeys to our houses of worship? It is almost like the mythical and certainly mystical. Jesus says He will give living water to those who believe. A wonderful image indeed!
Note, too, the reference to the King (anointed) for whom the psalmist prays. We too must pray for our civil and church leaders (prayer is more effective then endless criticism). And we can be sure that the Archetype Anointed (Jesus) is in God’s presence!
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.12 O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
Once more a beatitude, happy/blessed are those who trust the Lord. As a side note, the Eight Beatitudes in Matthew (and 7 in Revelation) are modeled on the Jewish Bible beatitudes. Jesus and the author of Revelation shared that book in common. And the Divine Author had a hand in both collections (Ancient and New Covenant texts of the Bible). Faith/trust in God is not just passive. It has a powerful active element, it produces longing in us and it creates a new evaluation of what matters. The longing to sit in the Temple, present to God, is the call to prayer and communion. In our Catholic faith, the Lord Jesus is actually present sacramentally in our churches (in bread and wine). We bow or genuflect to the presence. It is palpable to us and we find praying in a church to be “more real” or “more intense” then in other places. This psalm feeds that desire in me. The desire to be consciously aware of God’s presence, the God who is both sun and shield. Life source and protector. Creator and Sustainer.
We would do well to create our own songs of longing and prayers of desire. We do well to recite these holy words as we head off to church or arrive there. I hope this reflection improves your Sunday worship!

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