Psalm 66: sung on New Year’s Day, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God










Psalm 66 Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly

Ps 66(b) : words (c) The Grail, England. Music (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick. Recorded by Catriona Glen with the St Mungo Singers.

Ps 66 (a) : words (c) The Grail, England. Music (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick. Recorded by Catriona Glen with the St Mungo Singers.

Psalm 66 is short, cheery and profound.

It starts with a prayer for God’s continuing blessing. Firstly the singer asks this blessing for the people making the plea, but then the prayer extends to one that recognises God’s face shining on “all the earth”. This is a psalm that reaches out beyond Israel’s boundaries, especially beyond any narrow mindset that has an exclusive understanding of God’s favour, seeing this love as narrowly focussed on Israel. We might call Psalm 66 an ecumenical psalm. It calls for a joining together of “all nations” in prayer to God who has provided a good harvest.

But verse 3 tells us that God’s rule is one that seeks fairness, and so this is a guide for our fair approach to food for all the earth.

In this psalm we are constantly reminded … at least twelve times … that God’s face shines beyond my particular religious group or denomination.

There’s also an interesting structure to this psalm for those of us who are accustomed  to antiphonal singing. The psalm has a sung response or chorus after verses 3 and 5: “Let ALL the nations praise you, O Lord; let ALL the peoples praise you!” In this case the praise is for a good harvest. It makes me think: is this praise something I might easily forget in my trips to the busy supermarkets? I could do well to remember there’s more to the food harvesting than science and economics behind everything here. Behind everything there’s the face of the Lord calling for a fair and just sharing.

On the solemn feast of Mary, Mother of God, our psalm which asks for a blessing, follows the beautiful blessing in the first reading and prepares us for the Gospel scene of the Shepherds glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

If John Lennon had written his song “Imagine” today, I guess he may have had a line “Imagine there’s no foodbanks! I hope some day you’ll join us.” After singing psalm 66 in this Christmas season, we can do more than just imagine.