Psalm 104, 21 Oct ’18

‘You make springs gush forth in valleys, they flow between hills.’ (10)

Image: Libby O’Loghlin

Here we have epic demonstrative poetry, the poet overcome by the glory and power of the creation — and the Creator. The author’s feelings are quite infectious:

You are clothed with honour and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers. (2-4)

The song continues relishing the diversity and complexity of creatures and the environment. As in several other psalms (145 for example) divine love also sustains and provides for this diverse living planet. In these days of global warming, extinction of many species and desertification, such a picture can be lost in the fear. However, the psalms also long for times when divine love working through people can regenerate and fulfil the intention of the blueprint.

The poet is certain that our world is wonderful and enduring: “You have set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never move.” (5) Psalm 102 counters that all things shall pass, however this poor little verse had the dubious honour of being one of those the church cited to condemn evidence of heliocentricity. For more on Copernicus, see Psalm 86; and beware literal doctrines.

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The settings in TEP, PFAS and the NCH are all suitable. No 65 from TiS may also suit but to be correct the verses should be replaced by the lectionary verses, sung to the double tone provided. An alternative, using the TiS refrain, may be downloaded here: Ps104a cantor.

And just for interest, six years ago we sang a Gregorian chant (no 8) for this psalm, again with different verses, to accompany a Hildegard song, complete with that marvellously atmospheric hurdy gurdy.

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