Cathedral Blog

Search all blog posts

The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 29

Written by John Paton, posted on Thursday, April 30, 2020

In 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

Tree against skyPsalm 112

1 Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he hath great delight in his commandments.

2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the faithful shall be blessed.

3 Riches and plenteousness shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

4 Unto the godly there ariseth up light in the darkness: he is merciful, loving, and righteous.

5 A good man is merciful, and lendeth: and will guide his words with discretion.

6 For he shall never be moved: and the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.

7 He will not be afraid of any evil tidings: for his heart standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord.

8 His heart is established, and will not shrink: until he see his desire upon his enemies.

9 He hath dispersed abroad, and given to the poor: and his righteousness remaineth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

10 The ungodly shall see it, and it shall grieve him: he shall gnash with his teeth, and consume away; the desire of the ungodly shall perish.

Imagine you’re tasked by the Department for Reviving Public Morals to write a poem to be committed to memory and repeated each day by the public as they wash their hands. You decide to create something easy to remember by using the alphabet: begin with avarice, end at zootheism, and your work is done.

Something like that was the origin of Psalm 112. The Jews in their captivity concluded that their exile to Babylon was due to the nation’s wickedness: what was needed was renewal, and it had to start with the individual. Righteous and unrighteous behaviour were easily distinguished - all aspects of behaviour were covered by the Law, in which the God-fearing would take great delight.

And so we have this poem. Each half-verse begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, to assist the memory. Learn it by heart, and you can recite a lesson on public behaviour: piety will lead the righteous to prosperity, while they take comfort from watching the wicked fade away through their disregard of God’s commandments. The promise to the godly that light will arise in the darkness – hope in times of despair – is wisdom worth repeating in any age.

John Paton