Misericordiae Vultus 7: Psalm 136

head of ChristThe Psalter’s grand litany of mercy is one of three common psalms for Easter. It should not surprise us that the Church surfaces an expression of gratitude and mercy as a song of praise in response to the Lord’s triumph over sin and death.

7. “For his mercy endures forever.” This is the refrain repeated after each verse in Psalm 136 as it narrates the history of God’s revelation. By virtue of mercy, all the events of the Old Testament are replete with profound salvific import. Mercy renders God’s history with Israel a history of salvation. To repeat continually “for his mercy endures forever,” as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. It is as if to say that not only in history, but for all eternity (people) will always be under the merciful gaze of the Father. It is no accident that the people of Israel wanted to include this psalm – the “Great Hallel,” as it is called – in its most important liturgical feast days.

Before his Passion, Jesus prayed with this psalm of mercy. Matthew attests to this in his Gospel when he says that, “when they had sung a hymn” (26:30), Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. While he was instituting the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial of himself and his paschal sacrifice, he symbolically placed this supreme act of revelation in the light of his mercy. Within the very same context of mercy, Jesus entered upon his passion and death, conscious of the great mystery of love that he would consummate on the cross. Knowing that Jesus himself prayed this psalm makes it even more important for us as Christians, challenging us to take up the refrain in our daily lives by praying these words of praise: “for his mercy endures forever.”

Perhaps the 136th Psalm is at least as fitting as the go-to Psalm 34 for a Communion song. “Taste and see” for an enduring mercy.

The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.

About catholicsensibility

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