EPIPHANY PRAYER: Epiphany by Martin Shannon

Praying With the Psalms Through Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany

Epiphany by Martin Shannon

From My Soul Waits

Psalm 72

May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! (v. 11)


Psalm 72 is the culmination of Book II in the Psalter, which began with Psalm 42, called the “prayers of David,” (v. 20) – not that David necessarily wrote all these psalms, but they at least represent the spirit of David’s hopes and desires before the Lord.  They are in keeping with a heart that followed after God’s own heart, (see 1 Samuel 13:14, 16:7).  Scholars tell us that Psalm 72 probably was written for the coronation of a king of Judea and Israel, perhaps even by David himself for his son Solomon.  In any case, the prayer came to be used at the coronation ceremonies of subsequent kings, and possibly at the yearly anniversaries as well.

This is a prayer for God’s blessing to rest upon his chosen royal agent.  In the psalmist’s world, the king was considered God’s own appointed representative, bringing Heavenly rule to Earth and making God’s Heavenly purposes come to pass on Earth.  His rule was to bring justice to the people, fruitfulness to the land, and peace to all the nations.  God’s chosen monarch was to vanquish all enemies, raise up all the downtrodden, and free all the oppressed.  All other kings would bring him gifts and bow down before him.

When the archangel Gabriel addressed the Virgin Mary, he announced that the child she would bear was to fulfill all of these prayers.  “He will be great,” the angel declared, “and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end,” (Luke 1:32-33).  There is no question that the kind of reign envisioned by Psalm 72 is far beyond mortal means.  Doesn’t the psalm describe a kingdom that can only be achieved by one who is anointed by God, chosen by God, who in fact is God?  For this reason, Psalm 72 is a regular feature in the liturgies of Christmas and Epiphany (as are Psalms 2 and 110), for it describes poetically the eternal reign of the Messiah over all the nations.  Today, even as we conclude the Advent and Christmas seasons, we remember the bigger picture of God’s saving work.  The shadows of winter can be cast only within the radiance of God’s Epiphany on Earth.  How fitting, then, is the benediction of verses 18 and 19, the concluding lines both of Book II of the psalms, and of these reflections – Blessed be the glorious name of the Lord forever; may his glory fill the whole Earth!  Amen and Amen!


From The Fathers

We are taught, therefore, to be of good cheer when we are afflicted in the world.  We learn that the reason for being of good cheer is this: the world has been conquered and, of course, is subject to him who conquered it.  For this reason, all the nations, set free from those who formerly controlled them, serve him, because “he delivered the poor from the mighty” through his own passion, “and the needy who had not helper.” (Origen)

Today I join the psalmist in blessing your name, O Lord, for your power and for your mercy;
for your justice and for your compassion;
for your rule and for your service.
All I know of prosperity, of peace, and of blessing, is because of you.
Why would I wish or allow any other to reign in my heart?

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