Psalm 48: The Temple

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which has been called “a celebration of the security of Zion”.

Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
    in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
    is the joy of all the earth.

Indeed, the Temple is a symbol of God’s favor and protection for Israel. Some scholars believe that the outburst of praise in Psalm 48 comes after the Jewish victory over the Assyrians. This victory is interpreted as a sign of God’s special favor symbolized in the power and permanence of the Temple.

As we had heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the LORD of hosts,
In the city of our God;
    God makes it firm forever.

Psalm 48:9

In our own lives, that kind of interpretation can be a slippery slope. Does God love and protect us only in our victories? What about when we fail, suffer, or collapse? Does God still favor us then?

The psalmist invites to look deeper than the visible signs of triumph. God’s mercy is expressed in the glorious “temples”, but it also reaches to “the ends of the earth” – to all our experiences.

O God, we ponder your mercy
    within your temple.
As your name, O God, so also your praise
    reaches to the ends of the earth.
Of justice your right hand is full.

Psalm 48: 10-11

But we must ponder God’s mercy to fully recognize and appreciate it.
We must pray God’s mercy into full expression in our lives
by our trusting and grateful awareness.

Poetry: Washed Up – Laurie Klein

Some tunes move the foot, inside a shoe, 
some elevate the soul, while others,
numinous as the song of Zion, play on
without us.
Remember winging it?
Fingers and toes and spirits
surrendered to more than the moment,
hearts drafting off each other,
as swifts, weaving aerial fractals, our voices
ascending a groove, a line of thought,
into the upper reaches, then coasting
into rarified silence—the Mystery
humming within and
beyond all things.
No one leads the singing as you did, love.
No one else intuits my pulse
and impulse, improvising
new settings befitting
the inner lark.
Old friends ask about you, tender
their prayers. I am counting on this:
how greatly you’re loved,
and the kingdom emerging
in guises we never knew.

Music: Beautiful Zion Built Above – George Gill

Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple—God its light;
He who was slain on Calvary
Opens those pearly gates for me.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

Beautiful heav’n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior’s feet.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

Beautiful crowns on ev’ry brow;
Beautiful palms the conq’rors show;
Beautiful robes the ransomed wear;
Beautiful all who enter there;
Thither I press with eager feet;
There shall my rest be long and sweet.
Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

Psalm 48: You’re Upheld

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

July 14, 2020

From 2016 

Today in Mercy, on this feast of St. Kateri, we pray for the grace to love others while still wisely discerning their words. May we listen, and allow our spirits to be formed, only by those words that reflect the love of God, respect for all God’s creation, and compassion toward all people. May we consistently eliminate from our life all words of hate, prejudice, indifference, and disrespect for ourselves and others.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which describes God’s greatness, especially as enshrined in the magnificent Holy City. Even enemy kings were so stunned by the city’s splendor that they fled before attacking, trembling in their stirrups.

I like to think about that trembling. When we were the youngest of nuns, about three months out of high school, we learned to say the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. This psalm was part of the Office and contained my favorite line:

Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.

Go ahead. You try saying it! It struck a few of us funny and gave us “church giggles”. Ever had them?

We were young. Everything was so new, and a little funny to us. It would take years of praying before God’s awesome magnificence – revealed in the long unfolding of life – to understand that “Tarshish” kind of soul-shaking.

But those years also have proven true the exultant refrain of today’s Responsorial:

God upholds his city for ever.

My dears, we are God’s beloved City. Let’s look back today at God’s merciful upholding of our lives through our many “Tarshishes” (dare you to say that one 😂)

We praise and thank you, Awesome Mercy!

Poem: Tyre – by Bayard Taylor who was an American poet, literary critic, translator, travel author, and diplomat. Taylor was born on January 11, 1825, in Kenneth Square in Chester County, PA. For my readers from other parts of the world, that’s about 30 minutes from where I live.❤️

A wonderful poem, not necessarily religious. But it is so beautifully crafted and will certainly help you imagine those “ships of Tarshish”.

THE wild and windy morning is lit with lurid fire;
The thundering surf of ocean beats on the rocks of Tyre, -- 
Beats on the fallen columns and round the headland roars, 
And hurls its foamy volume along the hollow shores,
And calls with hungry clamor, that speaks its long desire: 
‘Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?'

Within her cunning harbor, choked with invading sand,
No galleys bring their freightage, the spoils of every land, 
And like a prostrate forest, when autumn gales have blown, 
Her colonnades of granite lie shattered and o'erthrown; 
And from the reef the pharos no longer flings its fire,
To beacon home from Tarshish the lordly ships of Tyre.

Where is thy rod of empire, once mighty on the waves, --
Thou that thyself exalted, till Kings became thy slaves?
Thou that didst speak to nations, and saw thy will obeyed, --
Whose favor made them joyful, whose anger sore afraid, --
Who laid'st thy deep foundations, and thought them strong and sure, 
And boasted midst the waters, Shall I not aye endure?

Where is the wealth of ages that heaped thy princely mart? 
The pomp of purple trappings; the gems of Syrian art;
The silken goats of Kedar; Sabæa's spicy store;
The tributes of the islands thy squadrons homeward bore, 
When in thy gates triumphant they entered from the sea 
With sound of horn and sackbut, of harp and psaltery?

Howl, howl, ye ships of Tarshish! the glory is laid waste: 
There is no habitation; the mansions are defaced.
No mariners of Sidon unfurl your mighty sails;
No workmen fell the fir-trees that grow in Shenir's vales 
And Bashan's oaks that boasted a thousand years of sun, 
Or hew the masts of cedar on frosty Lebanon.

Rise, thou forgotten harlot! take up thy harp and sing: 
Call the rebellious islands to own their ancient king:
Bare to the spray thy bosom, and with thy hair unbound, 
Sit on the piles of ruins, thou throneless and discrowned!

There mix thy voice of wailing with the thunders of the sea, 
And sing thy songs of sorrow, that thou remembered be!
Though silent and forgotten, yet Nature still laments
The pomp and power departed, the lost magnificence:
The hills were proud to see thee, and they are sadder now; 
The sea was proud to bear thee, and wears a troubled brow, 
And evermore the surges chant forth their vain desire: 
‘Where are the ships of Tarshish, the mighty ships of Tyre?'

Music: I Will Carry You – Sean Clive