Psalm 62: Wait in silence

‘I wait in silence.’ (1, 5)

The repetition of this phrase within the song reminds us of the importance of silence in seeking patience, answers and encouragement. Remember Psalm 13 and other psalms asking ‘How long?’ Then this opening message of the first two verses, repeated in verses 5 to 6, continues: “For you alone are my rock, my salvation, my stronghold.” (2, 6)

David goes on to declare that we have a firm foundation and refuge in God. In verse 10, he takes a heavy swipe at the pursuit of status, wealth and power. I wonder if then as now, 1% of people held 99% of the wealth.

The Wode Psalter

Ps. 62 in the Wode Psalter 1564-1625. British Library MS 33933

The manuscript shown is an excerpt of Psalm 62 from the an early post-Reformation Scottish psalter. The web-site of the Wode Project, a University of Edinburgh activity, tells us:

The Wode [pronounced ‘Wood’] or St Andrews Psalter comprises important manuscript musical settings from the Book of Psalms.

Thomas Wode, who was a monk previous to the Reformation in Scotland, collected harmonisations of the 105 metrical psalms from the 1564 Scottish Psalm Book into these part-books along with other songs, creating the ‘gold standard’ for post-Reformation devotion and worship in Scotland.

The page illustrated has only one line of music as it is from a Partbook.1 The collection, built up by Wode over a considerable period, also included 168 sacred songs, canticles, sonnets and rounds. The psalter is highlighted here not only for its historical interest, particularly to readers with Presbyterian roots, but also since the text is beautiful and easily read. The quality of script and illustrations is probably not regarded by experts as of the highest order, but the sum of the parts is impressive. The translation is worth a closer look. In the Scottish Psalm Book we find a different rendering with a pleasing flow and flavour:

Althought my saule has sharply been assalted, yet towards God with silence have I walked; in whome alone all health and hope I see. He is my health and my salvation sure, my strong defence which shall ever indure.

A call to silence entering the worship space at Taizé, France.

In NRSV, both here and in verse 5, the soul ‘waits’. NKJV says ‘waits silently’, other versions, ‘made subject’ or ‘at rest’. Wode says here it walks. No single word seems adequately to capture the breadth and depth of this blessed state of being. The British Library description of this MS is as follows:

Most of the music was collected and copied by Thomas Wode (or Wood), a former monk who worked at St Andrews after the Reformation in Scotland, eventually becoming vicar there. Over a period of many years Wode added further music, including hymns, canticles and secular works.

Psalm 62 in TiS No. 33 includes verses that coincide with the lectionary reading. Further, they are inclusive. These verses are used by permission from A New Zealand Prayer Book. Composers have taken various approaches to that opening verse, interpreting our accessional state as resting, being still or silent, waiting or walking. The response in TiS 33 says: “Rest in God alone my soul.” Simple and gracious, while the first line of the verses says:

Yet be still my soul, and wait for God.

A local composition refers back to the slightly more active interpretation of the old Scottish version in a modern context. Linking the key words, it is built around the following refrain: “In silence walk with God, our refuge and our hope.” (5, 7)

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