Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Psalm 24 — Who is This King of Glory?

As you wonder at the order of creation, the grace of providence and the sacred prescriptions of the Law, sing ... Psalm 24.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms
I have grown to love this psalm as I encounter it in the morning prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours. I especially love "Lift up your heads, O gates! ... Who is this King of glory?" It evokes Palm Sunday with Jesus riding into Jerusalem saying that if the people were quiet then the very stones themselves would shout out. Knowing that the psalms were sung in the Temple, I also like to think of that sequence being sung as a call and response, triumphant as the people welcome their Lord.

Dome of the Rock viewed through the Cotton Merchants' Gate

 Here are a few remarks that John Paul II made when he did a series on the psalms and canticles in the Liturgy of the Hours. Read the whole commentary here.

So we reach the third scene of our triptych which describes indirectly the joyful entry of the faithful into the temple to meet the Lord (vv. 7-10). With a thought-provoking exchange of appeals, questions and answers, God reveals himself progressively with three of his solemn titles: "the King of Glory, the Lord Mighty and Valiant, the Lord of Armies". The gates of the temple of Zion are personified and invited to lift up their lintels to welcome the Lord who takes possession of his home.

The triumphal scene, described by the Psalm in the third poetic picture, has been applied by the Christian liturgy of the East and of the West to the victorious Descent of Christ to the Limbo of the fathers, spoken of in the First Letter of Peter (cf. I Pet 3,19), and to the Risen Lord's Ascension into heaven (cf. Acts 1,9-10). Even today, in the Byzantine Liturgy, the Psalm is sung by alternating choirs on Holy Saturday night at the Easter Vigil, and in the Roman Liturgy it is used on the second Sunday of the Passion at the end of the procession of palms. The Solemn Liturgy of the opening of the Holy Door at the beginning of the Jubilee Year allowed us to relive with great interior emotion the same sentiments the Psalmist felt as he crossed the threshold of the ancient temple of Zion.

6. The last title, "Lord of Armies", is not really a military title as may appear at first sight even if it does not exclude a reference to Israel's ranks. Instead, it has a cosmic value: the Lord, who now comes to meet humanity within the restricted space of the sanctuary of Zion, is the Creator who has all the stars of heaven as his army, that is, the creatures of the universe who obey him. In the book of the prophet Baruch we read: "Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice; when he calls them, they answer, "Here we are!' shining with joy for their Creator" (Bar 3,34-35). The infinite, almighty and eternal God adapts himself to the human creature, draws near to meet, listen and enter into communion with him. The liturgy is the expression of this coming together in faith, dialogue and love.

Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here.

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