Commentary on Ps 95 for Midnight Mass of Christmas
Commentary on Ps 95 by Dr Noel Donnelly
Ps 95: words and music Noel Donnelly (c) Kevin Mayhew. Recorded by Grace Buckley.
Ps 95: words (c) The Grail, England. Music Gerry Fitzpatrick (c) Kevin Mayhew. Recorded by Grace Buckley.
Psalm 95 Commentary: Midnight Mass.
It’s a good thing that copyright laws were not around when Psalm 95 was composed! Every line of it can be found in the other psalms! In a way it is like the Magnificat. If you look that one up in the Jerusalem Bible you will see all the cross-references in the margins, showing how Mary’s song has been presented as a chain of appropriate texts from the Old Testament. It’s like a bouquet of flowers gathered from the biblical garden to praise God. In any case, Psalm 95, like the Magnificat, is one continuous call to praise. It’s a great one for our Christmas Midnight Mass.
The psalm has three sections. It calls the congregation three times to sing out in praise. That’s just the first 2 verses. Then in verses 7 – 10 it invites all the peoples of the world to join in the singing. It ends by calling all of creation to join in the song: even the trees are invited to “clap their hands” and the oceans are to “thunder their praise”. That makes a link with the Isaiah reading that has just been read when Isaiah tells us: “Sing to the Lord ALL THE EARTH!” And our Gospel has the Angels singing GLORIA to acclaim the birth of Jesus, as Luke’s drama is presented to us.
Why? Because the Lord is coming! There is a deliberate repetition in the psalm’s verse 13: “The Lord is coming indeed!”
This will be a saving judgment and so a cause for celebration! The arrival in Bethlehem is of course what we celebrate this night… and hopefully coming today in our homes and streets too!
Verse 13 has an interesting pun in the Hebrew. Since that language has no written vowels, you can translate this judgement extending either as “from sea to sea”, or “from day to day” by the insertion of a different vowel. Both meanings are implied.
That double meaning leads us to see God’s saving eye extending geographically, from sea to sea, or as day-to-day presence. And of course to praise God for his amazing goodness in the birth of Jesus then 2000 years ago, and now among us today.