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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 11

Written by David Knight, posted on Thursday, April 2, 2020

Edmund NeweyIn these extraordinary times, as our nation and our world face the unprecedented challenge of the Coronavirus epidemic, our first task is naturally to support and enable the efforts of frontline staff tackling the disease and supporting those who have fallen ill. As we engage in every way we can with their work, we as Christians turn for guidance to God, in whom we have our origin and our end.

Here at Christ Church the book of Psalms – the prayer book of the Bible, as it is sometimes called – sustains our daily worship, now as always. Public worship is no longer an option, but the cathedral clergy here are maintaining the daily round of prayer and warmly encourage you to share in the spiritual communion that prayer makes possible across all boundaries of time and space.

At the core of this work of prayer the psalms voice the cry of our hearts to God. With this in mind the ministry team here is sharing one psalm each day with an accompanying reflection. Recalling the University of Oxford’s motto, Dominus illuminatio mea – ‘The Lord is my light’ – we pray that, together, we may know God’s strength, encouragement and blessing in this time of need.

‘The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom then shall I fear: the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1)

Edmund Newey, Sub Dean

sunset over seaPsalm 24

THE earth is the Lord's, and all that therein is: the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas: and prepared it upon the floods.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord: or who shall rise up in his holy place?
Even he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart: and that hath not lift up his mind unto vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbour.
He shall receive the blessing from the Lord: and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him: even of them that seek thy face, O Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is the King of glory: it is the Lord strong and mighty, even the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is the King of glory: even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

This psalm is a great liturgical song of praise to God which inspired composers like Bach, Handel and Joseph Barnby.

The singers affirm God the Creator in the first two verses. This is the God who overcame chaos, symbolized by the sea, reflecting the story of creation found in Genesis 1. We then take part in the temple liturgy as, singing antiphonal chants, we go up the hill – a procession of pilgrims to the Temple, perhaps with the Ark or, as in later Judaism, the Torah – the scrolls, seeking to enter the mystery of God to be found in the worship of the Temple beyond the entrance doors.

We acknowledge God, our Creator, as the King of Glory and pray that God will be revealed as the doors open and we come to worship the King of Glory not at a reverent distance, but within the threshold, the gate of heaven itself.

Christians use this psalm particularly when we celebrate Jesus Christ the King ascending into heaven. He is the mighty Lord who has triumphed over death and leads us into the glory and mystery of God. We join in and glimpse the heavenly worship to which we aspire.

David Knight