Reconciliation Lectionary: Psalm 123

mary-the-penitent.jpgThis is one of the shorter pieces in the Psalter, a humble prayer for those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Cf. Psalms 120-134) The entire psalm text is given as an option in the rite at number 144. The antiphon is:

Our eyes are fixed on the Lord.

The four verses of the psalm are aligned into three stanzas:

To you I lift up my eyes,
who are enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.

As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes are on the Lord our God,
till he have pity on us.

Have pity on us, Lord, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
Our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with contempt of the proud.

Sometimes I find it illustrative to compare the original text. The Lectionary editors have made a few interesting decisions, and I’d like to ponder that petition in the third stanza, “Have pity on us.” The NABRE seems a bit more demanding of God: “Show us favor.”

Either way, this psalm is an interesting choice because it doesn’t actually contain a request for pardon of sin, or even a protestation of innocence. Believers place themselves in the position of man- and maidservants. Have pity on us, we ask God, for two reasons: we are poor and we have been falsely accused via this unjust contempt.

This Psalm appears just once in the Sunday Lectionary, in cycle B right around this time of year (14th Sunday). So it’s not likely the setting you do (if you do it) will be well-known. I suspect it gets chosen far less frequently for the Rite of Penance. But maybe it deserves consideration.

A small morsel of humility and acknowledgement of our place in the universe, this Psalm 123. What do you think?

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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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