Psalm 22, Good Friday 25 Mar 2016

Holocaust memorial,BerlinA review of the index pages tells me that Psalm 22 (lectionary readings here>) has been sung each year for the last three; but only one of those was for Good Friday. Singing is often very limited or even absent in this observance.

The occurrence of this psalm on Good Friday is of course due to verse 1, which Jesus quoted on the cross:

My God, why have you forsaken me?

Shadow Then  also the predictions:

They pierce my hands and my feet (v.16)

They divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing (v.18)

There’s a lot more to it. Admittedly, it’s a dark day and there is plenty of angst running through the song. However, it only takes two verses before David, to whom the song is attributed, turns to recognise the holiness and greatness of the divine spirit. He flings out declarations of the many ways in which this eternal love has protected the psalmist against all sorts of evils — the sword, wild bulls, lions, even packs of dogs.

Written largely in the first person, Psalm 22 is a personal or individual lament, rather than a community tale as in Ps.44. Quite long, but it’s worth reading through all 31 verses, not only in association with the events of the cross, but as an independent personal experience. There’s light as well as darkness; see this post last year. And the quiet waters and greener pastures of Psalm 23 are not far away.


As we have sometimes done in the past, we turn to the excellent Christopher Willcock setting in Together in Song No 9. Last year we used PFAS 22D alternative response.

I have also sometime in the past sung with admiration a lovely setting of Ps.22:1-3 by John Blow (1649-1708), My God look upon me. This is 60 bars of classic restrained imitation, the basses entering first with the theme tune, followed in turn by T, A then S. (Any starters?)

John 19:30 (Jesus dies) in the oldest intact book in Europe, St Cuthbert's Gospel, 8th Centrury. British Library Add MS 89000
John 19:30 (Jesus dies) in the oldest intact European book, St Cuthbert’s Gospel, 8th C. British Library Add MS 89000.

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