CHRISTMAS PRAYER: The Nativity Of The Lord by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

The Nativity Of The Lord by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 150

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (v. 6)

The Psalter is actually a collection of five books of psalms, each of which ends with a brief doxology, (see Psalms 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48).  Considering all that has been said about the Lord God in the previous 149 psalms, what else can be said?  Here, at the conclusion of the entire Psalter, what can possibly bear the weight of being the last word?  Psalm 150 – it is as if all of the previous doxologies have multiplied and expanded into one final and glorious eruption of jubilant praise.

The genius of this psalm is how much it says with so very few words.  First, it answers all the basic questions about praising God: where God is to be praised – from this particular temple on Earth to the highest of the heavens; why God is to be praised – for the excellence of his acts and for the excellence of his being; how God is to be praised – with every sound of music at our disposal; who is to praise God – all who breathe the breath of life.

Second, even as the psalmist is giving these succinct instructions, he is directing an ever-growing orchestra and chorus to perform the very things he is describing.  This is a psalm not to be read but to be sung.  This is not praise in theory (there is no such thing anyway); it is praise in practice!  Can you hear the growing volume and the increasing sense of urgency as each new instrument is queued to add its voice to the symphony?  The sound and tempo build with such momentum that, ironically, it feels as if you will be quite breathless by the time all who have breath are invited to join in.

Describing the sounds he heard in the courts of Heaven, the writer of the book of Revelation again and again speaks of voices and calling and singing and crying aloud: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, ‘Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns,’” (v. 19:6).  From time to time in the history of our salvation, Heaven’s doors are opened to Earth, and the sound of angelic choruses slices through to the world’s dull senses.  The psalmists and prophets heard it.  Some shepherds too.  Glory to God in the highest!

If praise is the joyful recognition that we are not the center of the universe, the grateful acknowledgment that someone else is and always will be, then Psalm 150 is praise at its best.  It is the best echo we can make on Earth to the “new song” that is always being sung in Heaven.

From The Fathers

The trumpet is the contemplative mind or the mind by which the teaching of the spirit is embraced.  The harp is the busy mind that is quickened by the commands of Christ.  The timbrel represents the death of fleshly desire because of honesty itself.  Dancing is the agreement of reasonable spirits all saying the same thing and in which there are no divisions.  The melodious cymbal reflects the active mind affixed on its desire for Christ.  The joyous cymbal is the purified mind inspired by the salvation of Christ. (Origen)

O God,
Today I bring again the instruments of my heart and mind and body.
Teach them more of the son of all creation –
The song of angels, archangels, and all the company of Heaven –
Who forever sing in praise to you.
Then, tomorrow, teach them some more.

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