Funeral Lectionary: Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8

This is one of the three common psalms for Lent. I think this text is quite fitting for a funeral, but in my midwestern Catholic experience, it is rarely requested. It appears in today’s Lectionary in most places, so I thought it a timely topic for a post. We have two choices for a given antiphon:

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD.

or

I hope in the LORD, I trust in his word.

And the text, which isn’t exactly like today’s psalm–just a verse or two are switched around in the last two stanzas:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to my voice of my pleading.

If you, O LORD, mark our guilt,
LORD, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness,
for this we revere you.

My soul is waiting for the LORD
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the LORD
more than the watchman for daybreak.

Because with the LORD there is mercy
and fullness of redemption;
Israel indeed he will redeem
from all its iniquity.

Psalm 130 is the sixth of Saint Augustine’s seven penitential psalms.* It is also the 11th of the Psalter’s fifteen “Songs of Ascents,” shorter musical pieces used by pilgrims on their way to the Temple in Jerusalem.

The first half of the 130th has the tone of a lament. But the character of all the Songs of Ascents (Pss 120-134) is hopefulness. The pilgrims may be aware of their sins and their trials, but ultimately, they hope in God. They hope in a God for whom they long (Ps 130:6, and also 63:2). And even when the difficulties of life and the uncertainties of faith keep one awake in bed (Ps 130:6bc and 63:7) late at night, the dawn still will come. On that latter image, what troubled person has not known the sleepless night. Early morning time seems to run with excruciating slowness. It seems as if the light will never come.

But the person of experience knows that indeed the day will dawn. It is the essence of pilgrimage, that each of us is not a static person. The nature of being mortal is that we change and grow. We also decay and die. The experience in which Christ urges each and all of us is to let go of what is unimportant, and to strive for the eternal.

It might be that in a time of intense grief, our ears are less open to the message of hope. Still, it is good to have the track playing, even if we sit unconvinced. Mourners certainly know the feeling of being buried in the depths, of calling out to God–and does he hear? We are concerned, perhaps, for our own sins and those of the deceased. For our departed loved one, we only have the mercy of God on which to count.

I think this is a great pairing with the Old Testament Scripture from Lamentations. Would you use this psalm, or both Scriptures at a funeral?

* numbers 6, 32, 38, 51, 91, 102, 130, and 143–worth knowing.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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