Psalm 92 for the Feast of Christ the King
Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly on Psalm 92
Psalm setting: words (c) The Grail, England. Music setting (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick. Recorded by Grace Buckley
Psalm 92 is shaped like a sandwich. It begins and ends with a a strong undoubted affirmation that God is in charge. At the start in verses one and two the singer proclaims that the Lord is King, majestic, and strong, and eternal “The Lord is King with majesty enrobed; he has girded himself with power”. It’s as if the Lord is dressed for battle against any opposition! And the final verse 5 (it is a short psalm) declares that the Lord is holy and steadfast till the end of time: “Truly, you are Lord till the end of time!” “Eternity” in verse 2 and “the end of time” in verse 5. There’s a broad spectrum here. God is always in charge! An apt psalm for the feast of Christ the King. Psalm 92 was probably a psalm for the coronation of a king, with loud clapping and shouting of the phrase; “The Lord is King! Long live the king!” This was sung again every Sabbath day but now to God as King of creation. It is to be sung with joy!
In the middle of this sandwich, at verse 3, we see the powers of water, often thundering like the surging of overflowing rivers and the tsunami-like waves of the sea. There was no way for humans to to control them; they could bring fertility to the fields at one moment and the next bring drowning or drought and starvation. But in the face of these, verse 4 insists that, “the Lord is glorious on high and this holiness is to be trusted!”
At the end of the sandwich, verse 5 does two things: firstly it serves to remind us that ultimately God is the King whose “decrees are to be trusted”; secondly it says “Holiness is fitting to your house O Lord!”
Surely there is a practical holiness called for by Pope Francis in the Lord’s house or kingdom today.
In Laudato Si he has spoken strongly about this practical holiness. The long letter is far from naive but is full of hope: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (13). “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start!” (205)
In the liturgy for this feast of Christ the King, our psalm leads from the prophet Daniel’s dreamlike vision of the crowning of The victorious Son of Man in heaven, to the witness of the suffering Son of Man before Pontius Pilate, with Jesus’ call for practical earthly witness to the truth, calling us today to be realistic regarding the human, political and ecological situations around everyone today. Surely there’s a truly practical holiness for us that is called for in this psalm and stressed by Pope Francis in his urgent appeal in Laudato Si! When singing this psalm, we are sharing the church’s call for practical holiness all around us, a call to respect and care for God’s kingdom, here in our churches and homes and workplaces and beyond …. Thy Kingdom come! One practical step at a time with Christ our eternal King.