23 June 2022
Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
23 June 2022 (Psalm 120)
In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time. Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.
In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:
1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;
2, reading the psalm or psalms;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Psalm 120 is the first of a series of 15 short psalms (Psalm 120-134) known as the ‘Songs of Ascents.’ These psalms begin with the Hebrew words שיר המעלות (Shir Hama’a lot). In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is counted as Psalm 119. It is often known by its Latin opening words, Ad dominum.
Many scholars say these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Others say they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the 15 steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Mishnah notes the correspondence between the 15 songs and the 15 steps between the men’s court and the women’s courtyards in the Temple. A Talmudic legend says King David composed or sang the 15 songs to calm the rising waters at the foundation of the Temple.
One view says the Levites first sang the Songs of Ascent at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the night of 15 Tishri 959 BCE. Another study suggests they were composed for a celebration after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BCE. Others suggest they may originally have been songs sung by the exiles returning from Babylon, ascending to Jerusalem, or individual poems later collected together and given the title linking them to pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.
These psalms are cheerful and hopeful, and they place an emphasis on Zion. They were suited for being sung because of their poetic style and the sentiments they express. They are brief, almost like epigrams, and they are marked by the use of a keyword or repeated phrase that serves as a rung on which the poem ascends to its final theme.
Psalm 120 (NRSVA):
A Song of Ascents.
1 In my distress I cry to the Lord,
that he may answer me:
2 ‘Deliver me, O Lord,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.’
3 What shall be given to you?
And what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
4 A warrior’s sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!
5 Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech,
that I must live among the tents of Kedar.
6 Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace;
but when I speak,
they are for war.
The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Swarupantor programme in the Church of Bangladesh. This theme was introduced on Sunday.
Thursday 23 June 2022:
The USPG Prayer invites us to pray today in these words:
We pray for churches and religious organisations who have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. May we offer partnership and support to them wherever possible.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org