Psalm 32, Lent, 9 Mar 14

The psalm.

Beguinale, Brussels

This one could be called a psalm of penitence (this theme taking up the first half of the song), or of refuge (vv. 6 -7). But then it changes direction, breaks into other riffs of guidance or wisdom (8-9) and finally thanksgiving.

And how are they related, pray tell? So many ideas tumbling one after another, so few verses.

I thought a recent tweet by Ben Myers  summarising the psalms captured it cleverly:

Psalm 32: When I finally got the courage to confess my sins, I discovered You weren’t even listening. You were singing to me. #psalmtweets

Good call.

The music

We draw this Sunday on the guidance thread in verse 8 for a very memorable and lilting Isaac Everett antiphon that we have enjoyed before, almost exactly a year ago in fact:

Show me which way to go, counsel me with your eye upon me

Everett has the chords slipping easily from minor to relative major sequences and back again in a short space. As to the verses, there’s a paraphrase of the text on Dropbox to facilitate the singing of the verses to the same tune if desired.

Penitence, refuge for women, and thanksgiving combined at a Beguinale nunnery in Belgium
Penitence, refuge for women, and thanksgiving combined at a Beguinale nunnery in Belgium

Lent and women

We are into Lent this week, so we shall not be dancing down the aisles (‘What aisles?’ I hear you cry); the psalm will be rendered more thoughtfully, as a restrained prayer and without drama – though the content is powerful enough.

There’s no vector in this psalm to point us directly to International Women’s Day which will have just passed (8 March). However, we are reminded that women have often been primary agents for refuge and guidance to penitents and the destitute over the centuries, as in the Beguinale order depicted aloft and a-low.

We shall savour all the more the clear voices of our women singing this lovely refrain as we ponder on what psalm and IWD might mean for 2014.

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