One of the psalms suggested for prayer at the time of death is the 121st. I find it an underappreciated text. It only appears once in the Lectionary for Sundays and Feasts–the 29th in year C.
I found it interesting as a suggestion for viaticum or prayer at a person’s death, as I think it a worthy selection for a wedding. However, praying for protection is very understandable as life comes to an end. The most unknown, potentially terrifying journey lies ahead. And none but God knows what is in store for us.
The Pastoral Care Rites suggest “short texts” for prayer (Cf. no, 217). If this psalm were read or sung in a responsorial fashion, I might suggest one of them as an antiphon, Romans 8:35:
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.
Behold, the guardian of Israel
never slumbers nor sleeps.
The LORD is your guardian;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
By day the sun will not strike you,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your soul.
The LORD will guard your coming and going
both now and forever.
Some thoughts on this text:
For the ancient Jew on pilgrimage to the Temple, there would be joy viewing the mountain of Zion and having the journey’s destination in sight. Perhaps as the end of life draws near, the believer is aware of the conclusion of a life’s pilgrimage. Paradise beckons. It is nearly in view.
In ancient times, having a bodyguard on a dangerous journey was a wise choice. The Gospel Samaritan helped a traveler who presumably had none (Cf. Luke 10:25-37). Tobit was watchful of his son and hired someone to assist in recovering a family investment from a far-off land. (Cf. Tobit 5:3b-17) God is our night watch, staying awake and aware when trouble is near. (Cf. Psalm 121:4) Most important of all our life’s resources, God protects our souls from danger. A very important thing to remember, for the dying as well as her or his loved ones.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.