23 July 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
23 July 2022 (Psalm 150)

‘Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament’ (Psalm 150: 1) … angels depicted in the Scrovengi Chapel in Padua (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

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, since 2 March, I have been 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.

This series comes to an end this morning with Psalm 150, the last Psalm in the Bible.

Psalm 150:

Psalm 150 is last psalm in the Bible and the fifth of the five final concluding praise Psalms in the Book of Psalms (Psalm 146 to Psalm 150). In Latin, Psalm 150 is known as ‘Laudate Dominum in sanctis eius.’

Psalms 146 to 150 form the culmination or crescendo of the Book of Psalms as a whole. These six psalms correspond to the six days of creation.

Psalm 150 is the crescendo of the whole collection of the psalms. In ancient times, it was recited by the pilgrims bringing the first fruits to Jerusalem when they reached the Temple Mount.

With this psalm, the psalter ends with a doxology, praise to God. Not only the priests and Levites but all Israel, not only Israel but all humanity, not all humanity but every living thing is called to join in the chorus of praise.

In Hebrew, verse 1 begins with Hallelujah! (הַלְלוּ-יָהּ).

Verse 1b calls on all the people to praise God in his earthly ‘sanctuary,’ the Temple. Hebrew poetry uses the poetic device of parallelism: here verse 1c parallels verse 1b: it calls on the heavenly council to praise God in his heavenly temple.

God is to be praised for his supreme power in the actions of creation and of restoring people from waywardness (verse 2).

Verses 3-5 tell us how psalms were accompanied: with various traditional instruments, with modern music (‘clashing cymbals’), and with liturgical dance (verse 4). In all, nine types of musical instruments are named. Although the exact translation of some of these instruments is unknown, the Jewish commentators have identified the shofar, lyre, harp, drum, organ, flute, cymbal and trumpet.

Saint Augustine says all human faculties are used in producing music from these instruments: breath blows the trumpet, fingers strike the strings of the lute and the harp, the whole hand beats the timbrel, and the feet move in dance.

Verse 6 returns to the theme of verse 1: may all living creatures praise the Lord!.

According to the Kabbalah, the 10 expressions of praise in this psalm correspond to the 10 sefirot or divine emanations. Additionally, the word hallel (הלל) can be found 13 times in the psalm, correlating to the 13 attributes of mercy. The directive hallelu (הללו, ‘you praise’) is seen 12 times, corresponding to the 12 new moons in a Hebrew calendar year. When this psalm is recited during the Jewish prayer service, verse 6 is repeated, adding a thirteenth expression of hallelu that alludes to the thirteenth new moon in a leap year.

‘Let everything that breathes praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150: 6) … an image in the Scrovengi Chapel in Padua (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Psalm 150 (NRSVA):

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 surpassing greatness!

3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week has been ‘Turning Point,’ looking at the work of the Diocese of Kurunegala in the Church of Ceylon in Sri Lanka. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

Saturday 23 July 2022:

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for those who lack confidence and those who struggle to motivate themselves for the day ahead. May we be encouraging in our words and supportive in our actions.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

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