Sunday, August 05, 2007

A very present help in trouble

In the wake of the bridge collapse this past week, I found comfort in the words of Psalm 46 from Friday Vespers:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God will help her right early.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
he burns the chariots with fire!
10 "Be still, and know that I am God.
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth!"

11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Pope John Paul II commented on this psalm during his general audience of June 16, 2004:

Psalm 46 is divided into two major parts by a sort of antiphon that rings out in verses [7] and [11]: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge". God's title, "the Lord of hosts," is typical of the Hebraic cult in the Temple of Zion; despite its martial connotations, linked to the Ark of the Covenant, it refers to God's lordship over the whole cosmos and over history.

Hence, this title is a source of confidence, for the whole world and all its vicissitudes are under the supreme governance of the Lord. This Lord is therefore "with us", as the antiphon says once again with an implicit reference to the Emmanuel, the "God-with-us" (cf. Is 7: 14; Mt 1: 23).

The first part of the hymn focuses on the symbol of the waters and presents a twofold, contrasting meaning. Indeed, on the one hand, the foaming waters are unleashed; in biblical language this symbolizes devastation, chaos and evil. They cause the trembling of the structure of the being and of the universe, symbolized by the mountains shaken by the roaring outburst of some sort of destructive floodwaters. On the other hand, however, there are the thirst-quenching waters of Zion, a city set upon arid hills but which is gladdened by "a river and its streams." While he alludes to the streams of Jerusalem such as the Shiloah (cf. Is 8: 6-7), the Psalmist sees in them a sign of flourishing life in the Holy City, of its spiritual fecundity and its regenerative power.

Therefore, despite the upheavals of history that cause people to tremble and kingdoms to shake, the faithful find in Zion the peace and calm that derive from communion with God.

In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum meum.
     -In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum meum.
Redemisti nos Domine, Deus veritatis.
     -Commendo spiritum meum.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
     -In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum meum.


Seminarian Matthew said...

I am a seminarian that starts seminary next week. Your page on Vespers and Lauds is a wonderful, absolutely amazing, resource. Please keep it permanently on the web!

Dan said...

I'm glad you appreciate it! I plan to keep it available indefinitely.

God bless you in your discernment!