Meditation on Psalm 92(93)

John Paul II’s General Audience Address

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2002 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to reflect on Psalm 92(93).

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1. The content of Psalm 92, on which we reflect today, is strikingly expressed by some verses of the hymn that the Liturgy of the Hours proposes for Monday’s vespers: «O immense Creator, who assigned the course and limit to the surging of the waves in the harmony of the cosmos, you gave the refreshment of the torrents and the seas to the harsh solitude of the thirsty earth.»

Before addressing the heart of the Psalm, dominated by images of water, we wish to appreciate its profound tone, the literary genre that governs it. In fact, like the subsequent Psalms 95-98, our Psalm is described by scholars of the Bible as the «canticle of the Lord King.»It exalts that Kingdom of God, source of peace, truth and love that we invoke in the «Our Father» when we implore: «Thy Kingdom come!»

Indeed, Psalm 92[93] opens specifically with an exclamation of joy that reads like this: «The Lord is king» (verse 1). The Psalmist celebrates God’s active royalty, namely, his effective and salvific action, creator of the world and redeemer of man. The Lord is not an indifferent emperor, confined to his distant heaven, but is present in the midst of his people as a Savior who is powerful and great in love.

2. In the first part of the hymn of praise, the Lord king is prominent. As a sovereign, he is seated on a throne of glory, an indestructible and eternal throne (see verse 2). His mantle is the splendor of transcendence; omnipotence is the girdle of his robe (see verse 1). The very omnipotent sovereignty of God is revealed at the heart of the Psalm, characterized by an impressive image, that of the tumultuous waters.

The Psalmist refers more particularly to the «voice» of the rivers, namely, the thunder of their waters. Indeed, the crash of the great cataracts produces, on those who hear its deafening sound and whose whole body is gripped by shivers, a sensation of tremendous force. Psalm 41(42) recalls this sensation when it says: «Here deep calls to deep in the roar of your torrents. All your waves and breakers sweep over me» (verse 8). In face of this force of nature, the human being feels little. However, the Psalmist uses it like a trampoline to exalt the power of the Lord, which is even greater. To the triple repetition of the expression «the flood has raised up» (see Psalm 92[93]:3), their voice responds with the triple affirmation of the superior power of God.

3. The Fathers of the Church love to comment on this Psalm, applying it to Christ «Lord and Savior.» Origen, translated by St. Jerome in Latin,
affirms: «The Lord has reigned, he clothed himself in beauty. That is, he who first trembled in the poverty of the flesh, is now resplendent in the majesty of divinity.» For Origen, the rivers and the waters that raise their voices represent the «authoritative figures of the prophets and the apostles,» who «proclaim the praise and glory of the Lord, announcing his judgments throughout the world» (see 74 «Omelie sul libro dei Salmi,» Milan, 1993, pp. 666,669).

St. Augustine develops even more fully the symbol of the torrents and seas. Like rivers full of flowing waters, full that is of the Holy Spirit and rendered strong, the apostles no longer fear and finally raise their voice. However, «when Christ began to be proclaimed by so many voices, the sea became agitated.» In the confusion of the sea of the world, Augustine notes, the bark of the Church seemed to rock frightfully, constrained by threats and persecutions, but the Lord is admirable: he «has walked on the sea and placated the waves» («Esposizioni sui Salmi,» III, Rome, 1976, p. 231).

4. However, the sovereign God of all, omnipotent and invincible, is always close to his people, to whom he gives his decrees. This is the idea that Psalm 92[93] expresses in its last verse: The most high throne of the heavens is followed by the throne of the ark of the temple of Jerusalem, the power of his cosmic voice is followed by the gentleness of his holy and infallible word: «Your decrees are firmly established; holiness belongs to your house, Lord, for all the length of days» (verse 5).

So ends a hymn that is brief but full of prayerful meaning. It is a prayer that generates trust and hope in the faithful who often feel agitated, fearful of being overwhelmed by the tempests of history and stricken by impending dark forces.

An echo of this Psalm may be recognized in John’s Apocalypse, when the inspired author, describing the great heavenly assembly that celebrates the fall of oppressive Babylon, affirms: «Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: ‘Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign'» (19:6).

5. We conclude our reflection on Psalm 92[93] by giving the word to St. Gregory Nazianzen, the «theologian» par excellence among the Fathers. We do so with his beautiful poem in which the praise of God, sovereign and creator, assumes a Trinitarian aspect: «You, [Father,] have created the universe, giving each thing its corresponding place and maintaining it in virtue of your providence. Your Word is God the Son: He is, in fact, consubstantial with the Father, equal to him in honor. He has reconciled the universe harmoniously, to rule over all. And, in embracing all, the Holy Spirit, God, cares for and protects everything. I will proclaim you, living Trinity, sole and unique Monarch, … force that rules the heavens, with a look that is inaccessible to the eye but which contemplates the whole universe and knows every secret depth of the earth down to the abysses. O Father, be kind to me: may I find mercy and grace, because to you are glory and grace for endless ages» (Carme 3! 1, in: Poesie/1, Rome, 1994, pp. 65-66).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father also gave these words in English at the end]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Psalm 92 acclaims God as King and sings the praises of his Kingdom, the same Kingdom that we invoke in the «Our Father» when we say: «Thy Kingdom come!» The Lord is not some distant Ruler who reigns from afar. He is present in the midst of his people as the One who saves them. Thus, Psalm 92 is also a prayer of faith and hope, especially for those who fear the dark forces at work within human history. Evil and death shall not triumph, but the Lord, the Almighty, will be victorious and will reign for ever in his Kingdom of peace, truth and love.

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, and I offer a special word of thanks to the choirs and to the Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra for their praise of God in music. Upon all of you, particularly the visitors from England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the United States of America, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[text distributed by Vatican Press Office]

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