Psalm 97

Often lost in the psalmody of the season is the 97th psalm, assigned for the Mass at Dawn. I can attest that dawn in most Christian families is devoted to the ritual of jumping up and down on the parents’ bed and tearing wrapping paper off gifts with great glee.

Similar glee, perhaps, was celebrated in Psalms 93 and 95-100 in which the Israelites noted the superiority of their God over all the other gods of the neighbors. For Christians, we attest God is not only different from other gods, but God also defies our own expectations. The Savior comes as a child, humble and human-born, found in the most poverty-stricken of situations: homeless among animals and their caretakers, and very soon, on the run as a political refugee far from his culture.

As for these seven hymns of praise, three or four are Lectionary favorites: 95 and 100 are not only ordinary time common psalms, but two options for the Liturgy of the Hours invitatory. Psalm 98 is not only the psalm for Christmas Day, but also a common psalm of the season. Psalm 97 is easily overlooked.

Of the full psalm, we only get a portion on Christmas morning: verses 1, 6, and 11-12. They are bolded in the NAB text below. You can see the gaps filled in:

The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad.

Cloud and darkness surround the Lord;

justice and right are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him; everywhere it consumes the foes.

Lightning illumines the world; the earth sees and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim God’s justice; all peoples see his glory.

All who serve idols are put to shame, who glory in worthless things;

all gods bow down before you.

Zion hears and is glad,

and the cities of Judah rejoice because of your judgments, O Lord.

You, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods.

The Lord loves those who hate evil,

protects the lives of the faithful,

rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

Light dawns for the just; gladness, for the honest of heart.

Rejoice in the Lord, you just, and praise his holy name.

Appropriate for a Christian Nativity feast: the sentiment of universal salvation leaks through. At the very least, everybody will recognize the glory of God.

We can note that orthodoxy (right-praise) alone is insufficient for the believer. Tradition mandates orthopraxis (right-action) as well. Justice, honesty, resisting evil, faithfulness: good Christmas qualities enshrined in many of our Christian songs and traditions.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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