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Psalm 64 (65)

A solemn thanksgiving
Sion is to be understood as the heavenly city (Origen)

To you our praise is due
  in Sion, O God.
To you we pay our vows,
  you who hear our prayer.

To you all flesh will come
  with its burden of sin.
Too heavy for us, our offences,
  but you wipe them away.

Blessed is he whom you choose and call
  to dwell in your courts.
We are filled with the blessings of your house,
  of your holy temple.

You keep your pledge with wonders,
  O God our saviour,
the hope of all the earth
  and of far distant isles.

You uphold the mountains with your strength,
  you are girded with power.
You still the roaring of the seas,
  the roaring of their waves
  and the tumult of the peoples.

The ends of the earth stand in awe
  at the sight of your wonders.
The lands of sunrise and sunset
  you fill with your joy.

You care for the earth, give it water,
  you fill it with riches.
Your river in heaven brims over
  to provide its grain.

And thus you provide for the earth;
  you drench its furrows;
you level it, soften it with showers;
  you bless its growth.

You crown the year with your goodness.
  Abundance flows in your steps,
  in the pastures of the wilderness it flows.

The hills are girded with joy,
  the meadows covered with flocks,
the valleys are decked with wheat.
  They shout for joy, yes they sing.

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Psalm 64
General Audience, Wednesday 6 March 2002 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Lauds, Tuesday Week 2 - Joy of God's creatures for his providence

The Holy Father prepared his 32nd catechesis on Psalm 64[65] for the General Audience but was unable to read it himself due to arthritic pain in his right knee. Priests in the language sections of the Secretariate of State read the catechesis, summaries and greetings in French, English, German, Spanish, Czeck, Croatian. After the audience the Holy Father greeted the faithful from the window of his study and thanked them for their prayers for his speedy recovery.

"1. Our journey through the Psalms of the Liturgy of Lauds leads us now to a hymn that captivates us with the fascinating spring scene of the last part (cf. Ps 64[65]10-14), a scene full of freshness, ablaze with colours and pervaded by joyful voices.

In fact Psalm 64[65] has a broader structure, the result of the interlacing of two different tones: first, the historical theme of the forgiveness of sins and God's closeness emerges (cf. vv. 2-5), then the cosmic subject of God's action in the confrontation of seas and mountains (cf. vv. 6-9a); lastly, the description of spring is developed (cf. vv. 9b-14): in the sun-baked, arid panorama of the Middle East, the rain that brings fruitfulness expresses the Lord's fidelity toward creation (cf. Ps 103[104],13-16). For the Bible, creation is the home of humanity and sin an attack on the order and perfection of the world. Thus conversion and forgiveness restore integrity and harmony to the cosmos.

2. In the first part of the Psalm we are inside the temple of Zion. Burdened by the moral miseries they have accumulated, the people flock there to pray for deliverance from evil (cf. Ps 64[65],2-4a). Once they have obtained absolution from their sins, the faithful feel welcomed by God, close to him, ready to be led to his banquet, and to take part in the feast of divine intimacy (cf. vv. 4b-5).

The Lord who rises in the temple is then represented with a glorious, cosmic profile. Indeed, he is called "the hope of all the ends of the earth, and of the farthest seas ... who by [his] strength has established the mountains ... girded with might ... stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves and the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at farthest bounds of the earth are afraid at [his] signs", from east to west (vv. 6-9).

3. At the heart of this celebration of God the Creator, we would like to highlight one event: The Lord is also able to dominate and silence the tumult of the ocean waters, which in the Bible are the symbol of chaos, opposed to the order of creation (cf. Jb 38,8-11). This is a way of exalting the divine victory, not only over nothingness, but also over evil: this is why the "tumult of the peoples" (cf. Ps 64[65],8), that is, the rebellion of the proud is also associated with the motif of the "roaring of the seas" and the "roaring of their waves".

St Augustine comments aptly: "The sea is the figure of this world, bitter with saltiness, troubled by storms, where men and women with their perverse and depraved appetites have become like fish devouring one another at will. Look at this tempestuous sea, the bitter sea with its cruel waves!... Let us not behave like this, brothers, for the Lord is the hope of all the ends of the earth" (Esposizione sui Salmi [Exposition on the Psalms] II, Rome 1990, p. 475).

The conclusion the Psalm suggests is an easy one: God, who imposes order on chaos and puts an end to the evil in the world and in history, can overcome and forgive the malice and sin that the praying person bears within and presents in the temple with the certainty of divine purification.

4. At this point, the other waters enter the scene: the waters of life and fruitfulness that in spring drench the earth and spiritually represent the new life of the faithful who have been pardoned. The last verses of the Psalm (cf. Ps 64[65],10-14), as has been said, are of great beauty and meaning. God quenches the thirst of the earth parched by drought and by the winter ice, by showering it with rain. The Lord is like a farmer (cf. Jn 15,1) who with his labour makes the wheat grow and the grass spring up. He prepares the ground, he irrigates the furrows, he breaks up the clods, and waters every part of his field.

The Psalmist uses 10 verbs to describe the loving action of the Creator for the earth, transformed into a kind of living creature. Indeed, all its parts "shout and sing together for joy" (Ps 64[65],14). The three verbs connected with the symbol of clothing are thought-provoking in this regard: "The hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain" (vv. 13-14).

The image is one of a meadow specked with the white of the sheep; perhaps the hills are girded with vines, a sign of their product, wine, "to gladden the heart of man" (Ps 103[104],15); the valleys put on the golden mantle of the harvests. Verse 12 also recalls the crowns, perhaps reminiscent of the garlands set upon the heads of the guests at festive banquets (cf. Is 28,1.5).

5. As though in a sort of procession all the creatures together turn to their Creator and Sovereign, dancing and singing, praising and praying. Once again nature becomes an eloquent sign of divine action; it is a page, open to all, ready to express the message the Creator has written on it, so that "from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author by analogy is perceived" (Wis 13,5; cf. Rom 1,20). In this lyric, theological contemplation and poetic abandon blend to become adoration and praise.

However, the most intense meeting which the Psalmist looks forward to throughout his song is that which unites creation and redemption. Just as in springtime the earth revives once again through the action of the Creator, so man rises from his sin through the action of the Redeemer. Creation and history thus are under the provident, saving gaze of the Lord, who calms the tumultuous and destructive waters and gives water that purifies, fertilizes, and quenches thirst. The Lord, in fact, "heals the broken hearted and binds uptheir wounds", but also "covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the mountains" (Ps 146[147],3.8).

Thus the Psalm becomes a hymn to divine grace. Once again, St Augustine in commenting on our Psalm recalls this transcendent, unique gift: "The Lord God is telling you in your heart: I am your treasure. Do not go after what the world promises, but after what the Creator of the world promises! Pay attention to what God promises you, if you observe justice; and despise what man promises, to lure you away from righteousness. Do not go after what the world promises you! Rather, consider what the Creator of the world promises" (l.c., p. 481). "


Saluti:

"His Holiness extends a special greeting to the many groups of students present at today’s audience, including the seminarians of the Blessed John the XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts. He invites all of you to be open to the grace of Christ, especially as we prepare for Easter, so that you may be filled with true joy and peace. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, in particular those from Denmark and the United States, he invokes God’s abundant blessings.

Le Saint-Père adresse une cordiale bienvenue aux pèlerins francophones, en particulier aux responsables européens de la Pastorale des Migrants. Que le Christ, vainqueur du mal et du péché, ouvre vos cœurs à la richesse de la miséricorde divine, afin que vos existences portent des fruits abondants de sainteté et de solidarité !

Der Heilige Vater herzlich begrüßt alle Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Besonders willkommen heiβt er die freiwilligen Helfer des Malteserordens aus Österreich und die von ihnen begleiteten Kranken, eine Studiengruppe von Kirchenrechtlern, Soldaten der deutschen Bundeswehr sowie die Teilnehmer am Romseminar des Bistums Hildesheim.

El Santo Padre saluda con afecto a los visitantes de lengua española, en particular a los peregrinos de Madrid y de diversos Países latino-americanos. Que nuestro respeto y amor a la creación se transforme en un canto de agradecimiento y alabanza a Dios. Muchas gracias.

Svatý otec srdečně zdraví poutníky z karmelitánské farnosti v Praze, z farnosti Hluk a skupinu věřících z Prahy! Drazí, využijme plně této postní doby, času modlitby a pokání, která nás přivádí k obrácení a k prohloubení lásky k Bohu i bližnímu. Jeho Svatost všem přítomným rád žehná. Chvála Kristu!

Draga braćo i sestre, sav se život Crkve kreće oko Euharistije. Ona je središte svakodnevnih bogoslužnih čina Crkve i očitovanje novoga života u Kristu, što su ga vjernici primili po krštenju te postali »kraljevsko svećenstvo, sveti puk« (1 Pt 2, 9). Srdačno pozdravljam sve nazočne hrvatske hodočasnike te im udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

[In Polish] Il Salmo 64 (65) è un testo poetico che attraverso una serie di immagini che richiamano i fenomeni che la natura ci fa osservare quando arriva la primavera, mostra la gioia della creatura nella quale Dio è presente in modo attivo. Per primo sperimenta tale gioia l'uomo e quindi il Salmo inizia con il rendimento di grazie per il perdono delle colpe umane e per il fatto che Dio è sempre pronto ad accogliere il peccatore. Dato che nella visione biblica il mondo creato è la dimora dell'uomo, il peccato rappresenta sempre un attentato all'ordine che vi regna e un ostacolo al suo perfezionamento. Per questo la conversione dell'uomo e il perdono di Dio ristabiliscono l'armonia in tutto il cosmo. Il Salmo illustra questo mistero mostrando un Dio che sconfigge il peccato, che ridona all'uomo la pace dello spirito e nello stesso tempo mette l'ordine nel caos che s'insinua nella realtà del mondo e nella sua storia.

Permettetemi di concludere questa meditazione con una citazione tratta dal commento di sant'Agostino, particolarmente eloquente nel periodo della Quaresima: "Il Signore Dio ti dice nel cuore: Io sono la tua ricchezza. Non curarti di ciò che promette il mondo, ma di ciò che promette il Creatore del mondo! Sta' attento a ciò che Dio ti promette, se osserverai la giustizia; e disprezza ció che ti promette l'uomo per allontanarti dalla giustizia. Non curarti, dunque, di ciò che il mondo promette! Considera piuttosto ciò che promette il Creatore del mondo" (Esposizione sui Salmi II, Roma 1990, pag. 481).

Dio vi benedica!

*****

Il Santo Padre rivolge un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Saluta, in particolare, i ragazzi del dopo-Cresima della diocesi di Faenza-Modigliana, accompagnati dal loro Vescovo Monsignor Italo Castellani, e quelli del Decanato di Cantù-Mariano, che rinnovano qui a Roma la loro professione di fede. Egli invita a profittare di questo tempo di Quaresima per crescere nella adesione a Gesù, ed essere suoi apostoli fra i loro coetanei.

Saluta, poi, i partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale di specialisti otorino-laringoiatri e i numerosi fedeli delle parrocchie san Giorgio a Cappelluccia e san Nicola in Pietragalla. Sua Santità, mentre assicura per ciascuno un ricordo nella preghiera, invoco su di loro un’abbondante effusione di favori celesti, perché siano rafforzati nei generosi propositi di fedeltà al Signore."


Following are the words John Paul II addressed, from the window of his study, to the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square.

"Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for your visit and for your prayers for my speedy recovery. We meditated together on the Word of God taken from Psalm 64 [65]. It invites us not to go after what the world promises us, but, instead, to consider what the Creator of the world promises. With these sentiments, I exhort you always to trust in divine Providence, source of peace and serenity.

We continue on our Lenten journey, with our gaze directed toward Christ, whom we can find in the intimacy of prayer. I greet each one warmly, especially young people, the sick and newly-weds."