Over a decade ago, we blogged on section 347 of the Order of Christian Funerals (OCF) where a number of texts listed are not offered as Lectionary choices. According to the Church, these psalms may be “chosen for use in various places within the rites.” I suppose that might include the funeral Mass. It might also be the Liturgy of the Hours, prayer with the family, the Vigil, or the liturgy at the graveside.
Psalm 119 is a massive meditation on the Torah. One might ask if the time of death and mourning is optimal for a look at the Law. Also, int he verses below, the plea for life. Perhaps that cry has been uttered and if the person has died, it might seem to have gone unanswered. Only sound pastoral judgment can discern well.
The given antiphon anchors the fourteenth section of Psalm 119 with a Christian perspective, echoing the words of the Lord:
Whoever follows me will not walk in the dark,
but will have the light of life.
You Bible hounds will recognize John 8:12 in that affirmation. Here are the four stanzas as given in the rite’s citation of the 1963 Grail Psalter:
Your word is a lamp for my steps,
and a light for my path.
I have sworn and have made up my mind,
to obey your decrees.
Lord, I am deeply afflicted:
by your word give me life.
Accept, Lord, the homage of my lips
and teach me your decrees.
Though I carry my life in my hands,
I remember your law.
Though the wicked try to ensnare me,
I do not stray from your precepts.
Your will is my heritage for ever,
the joy of my heart.
I set myself to carry out your statutes
in fullness, for ever.
If you prefer, you can check–the new Grail here.
Fans of contemporary Christian music … from four decades ago … will recognize the inspiration for Amy Grant’s “Thy Word,” a setting which saw some liturgical use, especially in P&W or charismatic worship.
Even though 119:105 is a moderately familiar Bible passage, I’m not aware of many settings of this. It is definitely a lament embedded in a larger appreciation for Mosaic Law. The psalmist acknowledges deep trouble, even to the point of her or his life hanging in the balance. Like many laments, enemies are blamed for some trials. This section concludes on an optimistic note. Loyalty and obedience win the way.
Maybe that’s why this Psalm was so appealing to my traditional-leaning friend those years ago. Sometimes the discipline of faithfulness brings a relief from too many choices–go with what you know. Verse 112’s reference to “carry out the Lord’s statutes” also implies the tradition of Judaism of being a faith of action (Cf. Psalm 15:2-5, Psalm 146:8c). Hopefully that fits the deceased. More hopefully, it might be an inspiration for the mourners and community left behind.