God's Love Is Tangible Throughout History
Pope Benedict XVI met with 30,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his general audience on Sept. 28. His catechesis focused on the first part of Psalm 135, a liturgical hymn of praise and a profession of faith recalling God's marvelous work throughout history.
“God's omnipotence is constantly manifested throughout the whole world, ‘in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the deeps,’” the Holy Father noted. “He reveals himself as the redeemer of his people and ruler of the world.” Through the psalmist's long list of God's mighty deeds, “God's love becomes concrete and almost tangible throughout history with all its sorrowful and glorious events,” the Pope pointed out. “The liturgy has the task of making God's gifts always present and effective in our lives, especially in that great paschal celebration that is the root of all other solemnities and the ultimate symbol of freedom and salvation.”
Pope Benedict XVI concluded by calling on the faithful to make their own the words that St. Clement of Rome, the first-century Pope, wrote in his Letter to the Corinthians: “O Lord, let your face shine upon us, for the sake of goodness in peace, in order to protect us with your powerful hand, rescue us from all sin with your almighty arm, and save us from those who hate us unjustly. Grant harmony and peace to us and to all the earth's inhabitants …”
We have just heard the first part of Psalm 135, a liturgical hymn in which allusions, reminders and references to other biblical texts are woven together. In fact, the texts of the liturgy are often composed by drawing from the Bible's rich heritage with its extensive repertoire of compositions and prayers that sustain the faithful in their journey.
Let us examine the prayer found in the first section of the psalm (see Psalm 135:1-12), which begins with a long and passionate invitation to praise the Lord (see verses 1-3). This appeal is addressed to the “servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God” (see verses 1-2).
We find ourselves in the lively atmosphere of worship as it takes place in the Temple, the preferred site of prayer for the community. There, the presence of “our God,” a “good” and “gracious” God, the God of the chosen people and of the covenant (see verses 3-4), was experienced in a very effective way.
A Profession of Faith
After the invitation to praise, a lone voice proclaims the profession of faith, which begins with the phrase “I know” (see verse 5). This creed forms the substance of the entire hymn, which turns out to be a proclamation of the greatness of the Lord (see verse 5) as manifested in his wondrous deeds.
God's omnipotence is manifested constantly throughout the whole world, “in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the deeps.” He is the one who makes clouds, lightning, rain and wind, which are portrayed as being kept in a “storehouse” or reservoir (see verses 6-7).
However, this profession of faith especially celebrates another aspect of God's work: the Creator's marvelous intervention in history where he reveals himself as the redeemer of his people and ruler of the world. The great events of the Exodus unfold before Israel gathered in prayer.
First of all, there is a concise and basic commemoration of Egypt's “plagues,” the scourges that the Lord inflicted to subdue the oppressor (see verses 8-9). Afterwards, Israel's victories after its long march through the desert are recalled. They are attributed to God's powerful intervention, as he “struck down many nations and slew mighty kings” (verse 10). Finally, we see the eagerly and long awaited goal — the promised land: “He made their land a heritage, a heritage for Israel his people” (verse 12).
God's Love Is Concrete
God's love becomes concrete and almost tangible throughout history with all its sorrowful and glorious events. The liturgy has the task of making God's gifts always present and effective in our lives, especially in that great paschal celebration that is the root of all other solemnities and the ultimate symbol of freedom and salvation.
Let us respond to the spirit of this psalm and its praise of God, making it our own, in the words of St. Clement of Rome, in the lengthy concluding prayer of his Letter to the Corinthians. He notes that, as in Psalm 135, the face of God the Redeemer, and so his protection, which was already granted to our ancient fathers, now reaches us in Christ: “O Lord, let your face shine upon us, for the sake of goodness in peace, in order to protect us with your powerful hand, rescue us from all sin with your almighty arm, and save us from those who hate us unjustly. Grant harmony and peace to us and to all the earth's inhabitants, as you granted it to our fathers when they called upon you in holiness, faith and truth. …To you, the only one capable of bestowing these and other even greater blessings upon us, we give thanks through the great priest and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ, by whom you are glorified from generation to generation and for ever and ever. Amen” (60, 3-4;61,3: Collana di Testi Patristici, V, Rome, 1984, pp. 90-91).
- October 9-15, 2005