April 3, 2014

Psalm 92: “A Song for the Sabbath”

It is good to give thanks [to confess] to the Lord,
 to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High;
to declare Thy steadfast love in the morning,
 and Thy faithfulness by night…

The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord,
 they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bring forth fruit in old age, they are ever full of sap and green…
(Psalm 92:1-2, 12-14)

Date Palm
Date Palm
Cedar Lebanon
Cedar of Lebanon

Last week, at the funeral for Metropolitan Phillip, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese quoted Psalm 92 in his eulogy, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”  These verses are chanted with the singing of Alleluia on many occasions during the year, including feasts of the martyrs. The first verses too are used often as the antiphons for the Divine Liturgy.

The title of Psalm 92 calls it, “a song for the Sabbath.” Saint Augustine says that this is first of all a sabbath of the heart.

It is in the heart, within us. For many are idle with their limbs, while they are disturbed in conscience…That very joy in the tranquility of our hope is our Sabbath. This is the subject of praise and of song in this psalm, how a Christian is in the Sabbath of his own heart, that is, in the quiet, tranquility and serenity of his conscience, undisturbed…*

Saint Jerome focuses on the Sabbath as well, and notes that withdrawing from worldly pursuits begins with confession and ends in praise (incidentally, both he and St Augustine use the Latin confiteri, confess).

It is good to confess to the Lord,
 to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High.
The psalmist did not say that it is good to sing and after that confess; but note the order; it is good to confess, and it is good to sing. First repent and wash away sin with your tears; then sing to the Lord. ‘It is good to confess to the Lord’: not to men, but to God; confess your sins to Him who is able to heal you.*

In going to confession to a priest, we are confessing to God. Whatever healing occurs through confession is through the grace of God. The priest is simply a witness, as another human being. But we need that human witness because we are so subject to delusion when left on our own.

**In Johanna Manley, Grace for Grace: The Psalter and the Holy Fathers (1992), 345-346.


I made the mistake of going to see Noah last weekend. What a silly film. Even the director says, “It’s the most unbiblical biblical film ever made.” Despite good actors doing their best (I especially liked Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah), the film lost me at the start when rock transformer-like creatures rose up out of the ground to protect Noah and his ark from nasty marauders led by Tubal Cain (???).

If you have to go, then read Genesis 6:5-9:28 first.