In the cosmology of Psalm 8, as in many others, humankind is a jewel of creation, somewhat smaller than the universe — ‘a little lower than the angels’ — yet ‘adorned with glory and honour’ (v.5).
Significantly, the creation is placed under our care (v. 6), a responsibility that is not absolved by the loss of the Garden of Eden, however one interprets that tale. As Prof. Tom Wright says:
The fact that civilisations over the centuries have named natural phenomena from the constellations to the winds, (2) building tales and myths around them, indicates our empathy and sense of symbiosis in a universal search for the Dreamtime.
This is the first psalm in the psalter in which an integral antiphon appears in the text, in the form of an opening and closing doxology that has little to do with the content of the song itself:
O God our sovereign, how great is your Name in all the earth. (verses 1 and 9)
Familiar names including Hassler, Schütz, Gabrielli, Lassus, Purcell and Ravenscroft all line up with classical settings; a popular poem, manageable length, and good content for the composer, or so it seems.
Our choice again (please read the post for Trinity Sunday 2014) is a lovely song by Linnea Good, The Height of Heaven.
Our women will lead this refrain, between bending their pure voices to an antiphonal tone which follows a similar attractive chord pattern.
- N T Wright, Finding God in the Psalms, SPCK London 2014, page 50
- Illustration: La rose des Vents Provençeaux, traditional names of the winds from all points of the compass in Provence; from a plaque in Orange, France.