Psalm 80: You Are a Vineyard

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 4, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 80, rather a desperate plea in the midst of devastation.

… the vineyard which  you planted …
Why have you broken down its walls,
so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,
The boar from the forest lays it waste,
and the beasts of the field feed upon it?

Psalm 80: 13-14

Angelus – Jean Francois Millet

Among my readers there are probably not too many farmers, but there may be a few serious gardeners. You would know what it feels like to lose a valued and tendered crop. And all of us have probably seen a movie or two where early settlers lose the crop which sustained their existence, or a news story of the same tragedy in real life. No words.

So Isaiah tells us that Israel, and by extension the People of God, is that precious vineyard, lovingly planted in hope by the Creator. The prophet paints the image of a deeply disappointed God:

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;
he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

Isaiah 5;7

But Psalm 80 calls out to that “disappointed” God and asks for forgiveness and restoration. The psalmist is inspired by the same kind of relentless hope Paul encourages in our second reading:

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Our Gospel demonstrates for us that the cycle continues throughout history: hope – sin – devastation- repentance – forgiveness – renewed hope. It continues in individuals, families, societies, churches.

But that cycle has been forever absorbed into the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ who once and for all redeemed us from its clutches. We can never remain devastated or bereft of life in the grace of Jesus Christ. This is the glory of our Baptism into Christ, if we will but claim it!

Paul guides us, himself like a tender gardener, in this passage that is so worth our quiet reflection. It will be our “poem” for today!

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

Music: Shen Khar Venakhi ( You are a Vineyard )
A hymn of praise to God’s perfect vineyard, the Virgin Mary who brought forth Christ

You are a vineyard newly blossomed.
Young, beautiful, growing in Eden,
A fragrant poplar sapling in Paradise.
May God adorn you.
No one is more worthy of praise.
You yourself are the sun, shining brilliantly.

Thou Art a Vineyard (Georgian: შენ ხარ ვენახი, transliterated: Shen Khar Venakhi) is a medieval Georgian hymn. The text is attributed to King Demetrius I of Georgia(1093–1156). The composer of the music is unknown. Supposedly Demetrius I wrote it during his confinement as a monk in the monastery. The hymn is dedicated to Georgia and the patronage of the Virgin Mary: it is also a prayer of praise to Mary in the Georgian Orthodox Church

As the lyrics did not mention any saints or gods, this was the only church-song that was permitted to be performed in the anti-religiousSoviet Union. There are East Georgian (Kartli-Kakhetian) and West Georgian (Gurian) versions of this chant with very different musical compositions.

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