“Blessed may you be, O Lord, God of Israel our father” (1 Chronicles 29:10). This powerful canticle of praise, which the first Book of the Chronicles puts on David's lips, enables us to relive the outburst of joy with which the community of the old covenant welcomed the grand preparations for the construction of the Temple. These preparations were the fruit of a common effort of the king and of so many others who were lavish in helping him. They practically competed in generosity, because this was appropriate for a dwelling that “is not intended for man, but for the Lord God” (1 Chronicles 29:1).
Reading that event again after centuries, the chronicler senses David's feelings and those of the whole people — their joy and esteem for all those who had made their contribution: “The people rejoiced over these free-will offerings, which had been contributed to the Lord wholeheartedly. King David also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chronicles 29:9).
These are the circumstances in which the canticle is born. It does not dwell, except briefly, on human happiness, however, but immediately centers attention on the glory of God: “Yours, O Lord, is the grandeur … yours the Kingdom.” What is always hiding in ambush, when works are accomplished for the Lord, is the great temptation to place oneself at the center, as if God were now in our debt. David, instead, attributes everything to the Lord. It is not man, with his intelligence and strength, who is the primary maker of what has been accomplished, but God himself.
Thus David expresses the profound truth that everything is grace. In a certain sense, all that was placed at the disposal of the temple was only a restitution, and extremely meager at that, from all that Israel had received in the immeasurable gift of the covenant that God established with the Patriarchs. Along the same line, David gives credit to the Lord for everything that has gone into his success — in military endeavors and in political and economic affairs. Everything comes from him!
It seems that the author of the canticle does not have enough words to confess the greatness and power of God.
God Our Father
Herein lies the contemplative thrust of these verses. It seems that the author of the canticle does not have enough words to confess the greatness and power of God. He sees him first of all in the special father-hood shown to Israel — “our father.” This is the first motive that elicits praise “now and always.”
In the Christian recital of these words, we cannot forget that this fatherhood was fully revealed in the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is he, and only he, who can address God, in the proper sense and affectionately, as “Abba” (Mark 14:36). At the same time, through the gift of the Spirit we participate in his sonship, which makes us “sons in the Son.” The blessing of ancient Israel by God the Father acquires for us the force Jesus made evident when teaching us to call God “our Father.”
Origin of All Things
The view of the biblical author then widens out from the history of salvation to the entire cosmos, to contemplate the greatness of God the Creator: “For all in heaven and on earth is yours.” And again: “You are exalted as head over all.” As in Psalm 8, the man praying this canticle raises his head toward the endless expanse of the heavens, then looks down in wonder on the immensity of the earth, and sees everything as under the dominion of the Creator.
How can God's glory be expressed? Words pile up, in a kind of mystical outpouring: grandeur, power, glory, majesty, splendor — and then, again, might and power. Everything that man experiences as beautiful and great must be referred to him who is the origin of everything and who governs all. Man knows that everything he possesses is a gift from God, as David underlines as the canticle continues: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should have the means to contribute so freely? For everything is from you, and we only give you what we have received from you” (29:14).
This underlying vision of reality as a gift of God helps us combine the sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of this canticle with the authentic “offertory” spirituality that we live out in Christian liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Eucharistic. This is what emerges from the double prayer with which the priest offers the bread and wine destined to become the body and blood of Christ: “Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” The prayer is repeated for the wine. Similar sentiments are implied in both the Byzantine Divine Liturgy and the old Roman Canon, when the eucharistic anamnesis expresses an awareness of offering as gifts to God the very things received from him.
Pride vs. Poverty
A last application of this vision of God occurs as the canticle looks at the human experience of wealth and power. Both of these elements emerged as David prepared what was necessary to build the Temple. There is a universal temptation that could also have been a temptation for him — to act as if he were the absolute ruler of what he possessed, to make it a source of pride and of abuse of others. The prayer proclaimed in this canticle brings man back to his condition as “one who is poor,” one who receives everything.
The kings of this earth, then, are no more than images of divine king-ship: “Yours, O Lord, is the sovereignty.” The wealthy cannot forget the origin of their possessions: “Riches and honor are from you.” The powerful must know how to recognize God, as the source “of every greatness and power.” A Christian is called to consider these expressions by exultantly contemplating the risen Christ, who is glorified by God, “far above every principality, authority, power and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21). Christ is the true King of the universe.
(Translation by ZENIT and Register)