Psalm 30 may have originally been a song of thanks for recovery from a serious illness. Evidently this was somewhat worse that just flat batteries; brought up from death and ‘the Pit’ (verse 3).
Whatever the origin, the psalmist — it’s again attributed to David — gives thanks for finding restoration and divine mercy after striking tough times, a very low ebb.
The song contains some lovely phrases, including the famous verse 5:
God’s wrath endures but a moment: God’s favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night: but joy comes in the morning.
There’s also a rather lovely image of responding through dance, something that we do not much favour in laced-up Western traditions:
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. (v. 11)
In Aboriginal cultures, the dances of men and women were quite different, telling life from different angles and roles. I can imagine women of any culture gathering for this song, telling the tale from a carer’s or a mother’s viewpoint, gracefully and quietly expressing thanks and hope.
As it happens, Gregor spoke warmly on Easter Sunday of the important role of women in the Easter story, especially when the big-name male disciples were conspicuous by their absence. Coincidentally I noted a post from the mediaeval manuscripts section of the British Library the other day that resonated with my interest in both early manuscripts and music from Orthodox and other traditions. The BL, marking women’s history month and the recently celebrated IWD, informs us:
Of the hundreds of hymn composers from the Eastern Church, only four women can be positively identified and only one of these – Kassia — had her works incorporated into official service books for use in church worship. She also wrote secular works. The British Library holds a collection of her epigrams.
– See illustration and more here>.
Sunday. Returning to the plan for the day, women will sing a simple home-grown arrangement of our South Woden Communion Chant, last sung with Psalm 30 in July 2013, but still hidden away on our Dropbox. The refrain is:
You turned my lament into dancing, and girded me with joy.
This psalm and the accompanying readings all tell tales of a complete change of direction — sorrow to dancing, Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus, fishermen reluctantly casting their nets on the other side — a wide variety of situations all telling of the transforming power of divine love and grace.