June 10, 2014

Third Day of Pentecost

Psalm 112

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in His commandments!
His descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Glory and wealth are in His house,
and His righteousness endures forever. 
Light rises in the darkness for the upright;
the Lord is merciful, compassionate and righteous.

—Psalm 112 (111):1-4, 2nd Antiphon of Christmas (LXX)

In addition to Christmas, verses from Psalm 112 are used as a communion hymn for services to the saints, especially holy bishops and fools-for-Christ.

The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance;
he shall not fear evil tidings.
His heart is ready to trust in the Lord; His heart is established.
He shall not be afraid, till he shall look down upon his enemies.
He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures for ever;
 his horn is exalted in glory.

Psalm 112 (111): 6-8 (LXX)


The main message of Psalm 112 brings the experience of Christmas and the saints together: Christ enters a world filled with the darkness of “evil tidings” and brings the light of “glad tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Darkness urges fear; Christ says, “Be not afraid.” Darkness can feel overwhelming, but “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).

My mother had a wooden sign in her kitchen, a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, “All the darkness in the universe cannot hide the light of a single candle.”  Pentecost, which we are continuing to celebrate today, sends us out into the world to be even the tiniest candle for Christ.

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The Christmas use of Psalm 112 echoes an Isaiah passage from Handel’s Messiah:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Isaiah 60:1-3

Here is Handel’s version of Isaiah 60:2-3: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQPYTropUwE