Address Prepared by Pope for General Audience

Meditation on Psalm 64(65)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2002 ( Following is a translation of the address John Paul II prepared for today´s general audience, which he was unable to attend because of an arthritic right knee.

At the end is the Holy Father´s greeting to pilgrims from the window of his study.

* * *

1. Our journey through the Psalms of the Liturgy of the Hours leads us today to a hymn, which captivates us especially by the fascinating spring scene of the last part (see Psalm 64[65]:10-14), a scene full of freshness, ablaze with colors, and replete with joyful voices.

In reality, Psalm 64[65] has a broader structure, the result of the interlacing of two different tones: first of all, the historic subject of the forgiveness of sins and God´s closeness emerges (see verses 2-5); then there is reference to the cosmic subject of God´s action in the confrontation of seas and mountains (see verses 6-9a); and finally the description of spring is developed (see verses 9b-14): In the sunny and arid panorama of the Near East, the fertile rain is the expression of the Lord´s faithfulness toward creation (see Psalm 103[104]:13-16). For the Bible, creation is the venue of humanity and sin is an attempt against the order and perfection of the world. Therefore, conversion and forgiveness restore integrity and harmony to the cosmos.

2. In the first part of the Psalm we are in the interior of the temple of Sion. The people gather there, with the accumulation of their moral miseries, to invoke deliverance from evil (see Psalm 64[65]:2-4a). Once absolution of faults has been obtained, the faithful feel welcomed by God, close to him, ready to be lead to his table and to participate in the celebration of divine intimacy (see verses 4b-5).

The Lord, who rises in the temple, is then represented with a glorious and cosmic profile. In fact, it is said that he is the «hope of all the ends of the earth and of far distant islands. You are robed in power, you set up the mountains by your might. You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of the waves. … Distant peoples stand in awe of your marvels» from the east to the west (verses 6-9).

3. At the heart of this celebration of God the Creator, we find an event that we would like to emphasize: The Lord is also able to dominate and silence the tumult of the waters of the sea, which in the Bible are the symbol of chaos, opposed to the order of creation (see Job 38:8-11). This is a way of exalting the divine victory not only over nothingness, but also over evil: For this reason, to «the roaring of the seas» and to the «roaring of their waves» is also associated «the tumult of the peoples» (see Psalm 64[65]:8), namely, the rebellion of the proud.

St. Augustine comments on this effectively: «The sea is the figure of the present world: bitter with saltiness, disturbed by tempests, where men with their perverse and disordered appetites, become like fish that devour one another at will. Look at this tempestuous sea, this bitter sea, cruel with its waves! Let us not behave like this, brothers, because the Lord is the hope of all the ends of the earth» (Esposizione sui Salmi, Roma, 1990, p. 475).

The conclusion suggested by this Psalm is simple: that God, who puts an end to the chaos and evil of the world and of history, can defeat and forgive the malice and sin that the man of prayer bears within and presents in the temple, with the certainty of divine purification.

4. At this point, other waters enter the scene: those of life and fertility, that in spring irrigate the earth and, ideally, represent the new life of the forgiven faithful. The last verses of the Psalm (see Psalm 64[65]:10-14), as I was saying, are of great beauty and meaning. God quenches the earth cracked by aridity and the winter ice, by giving it rain. The Lord is like a farmer (see John 15:1), who makes the grain grow and the grass sprout with his labor. He prepares the earth, irrigates the furrows, levels the clods, waters every part of his field.

The Psalmist uses 10 verbs to describe this loving action of the Creator on the earth, which is transformed into a sort of living creature. Indeed, «they cheer and sing for joy» (Psalm 64[65]:14). Thought-provoking in this connection are also the three verbs linked to the symbol of clothing: «the hills are robed with joy. The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain» (verses 13-14). The image is that of a grassland dotted with the candor of the sheep; the hills gird themselves perhaps with vines, sign of exultation in their product, wine, «to gladden our hearts» (Psalm 103[104]:15); the valleys put on the golden mantle of the harvest. Verse 12 also evokes the crown, which perhaps makes one think of the wreaths of festive banquets, placed on the heads of the guests (see Isaiah 28:1,5).

5. All the creatures together, almost as in a procession, turn to their Creator and Sovereign, dancing and singing, praising and praying. Once again nature becomes an eloquent sign of the divine action: It is a page that is open to all, ready to manifest the message traced in it be the Creator, because «from the greatness and beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen» (Wisdom 13:5; see Romans 1:20). Theological contemplation and poetic abandon merge in this lyric and become adoration and praise.

However, the most intense meeting to which the Psalmist looks forward with all his song is that which unites creation and redemption. As the earth revives in spring by the action of the Creator, so man rises from his sin by the action of the Redeemer. Creation and history are thus under the provident and salvific gaze of the Lord, who conquers the roaring and destructive waters and gives the water that purifies, fertilizes and quenches. Indeed, the Lord «heals the brokenhearted, binds up their wounds,» but also «covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, makes grass sprout on the mountains» (Psalm 146[147]:3,8).

The Psalm thus becomes a song to divine grace. Commenting on our Psalm, St. Augustine reminds us again of this transcendent and unique gift: «The Lord God says to you in your heart: I am your wealth. Do not go after what the world promises, but after what the Creator of the world promises! Pay attention to that which God promises, if you will observe justice; and disdain what is promised to you by man to remove you from justice. Hence, do not go after what the world promises you. Rather, consider that which the Creator of the world promises» («Esposizione sui Salmi,» Roma 1990, p. 481).

[Translation by ZENIT]

* * *

[Following is a summary of the audience in English distributed by the Vatican Press Office.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Psalm 64 is full of the colors of spring and sounds of joy. The Psalm begins in the Temple of Sion. The people, with all their sins and miseries, beg God´s forgiveness. When they receive that forgiveness they rediscover the happiness of intimacy with him.

But God is also the creator of the universe, the «hope of all the earth.» He is victorious over both the «roaring of the seas» and the «tumult of the peoples.» In other words, he is at the same time the One who triumphs over the original cosmic chaos and the Lord of history who overcomes the moral evil in people´s lives. This divine saving action is compared to the effect on parched earth of the rain which God sends and which clothes the hills, meadows and valleys with abundant life.

Thus the Psalm invites us to rejoice in God´s goodness, to shout for joy and sing his praises for the gift of divine grace.

I extend a special greeting to the many groups of students present at today´s audience, including the seminarians of the Blessed John the XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts. I invite all of you to be open to the grace of Christ, especially as we prepare for Easter, so that you may be filled with true joy and peace. Upon
all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, in particular those from Denmark and the United States, I invoke God´s abundant blessings.

* * *

[Following are the words John Paul II addressed from the window of his study, to the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square.]

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Thank you for your visit and for your prayers for my speedy recovery. We meditated together on the Word of God taken from Psalm 64. It invites us not to go after what the world promises us but, instead, to consider what the Creator of the world promises. With these sentiments, I exhort you to always trust in divine Providence, source of peace and serenity.

We continue on our Lenten journey, with our gaze directed to Christ, whom we can find in the intimacy of prayer. I greet each one of you affectionately, especially youths, the sick and newlyweds.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation