Psalm for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome (ABC)

Psalm 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

Today’s responsorial comes from Psalm 46, a song of confidence in God’s protection of Zion. In it, the psalmist employs various metaphors to encourage the people to trust in God.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

The people speak, expressing total confidence in God.

Mountains are symbols of strength and stability. However, if they are subject to an earthquake, they can break into pieces and tumble into the sea. In contrast, God is a different kind of refuge and strength, one that will never fail, one that is not subject to stronger forces.

Behind this metaphor is the mythological story of primordial creation. There we see that the victorious God has conquered the sea and firmly established the mountains (see Psalm 65:6-7).

With God as our help in distress, we have nothing to fear.

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God, 

At this point, a priest or Levite seems to speak, proclaiming the fertility and freshness of Jerusalem, which comes from the fact that God dwells in the midst of the city, in his temple (see also Ezekiel 47:1-12; Joel 4:18).

Note the contrast: the “depths of the sea,” those chaotic and primordial waters, vs. a channeled stream, the symbol of fruitfulness (Genesis 2:4-10).

the holy dwelling of the Most High.

The title Most High (‘elyôn) originated in the time of King David. Before David captured the Jebusite city Jerusalem, the god that was worshiped there was named Most High (see Genesis 14:18-19). After the Israelites conquered the city, they appropriated much of the religious culture found there and incorporated it into their own tradition. They insisted that their God, the God of Israel, was the Most High.

God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed; God will help it at the break of dawn.

The Israelites believed that Zion was not only sacred but also secure, because God dwelt on it in a very special way. Dawn, the time when darkness was finally conquered, would reveal that it was this God who had been their protector.

The LORD of Hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

“LORD of Hosts” is a military title. It is found in the accounts of Israel’s military conflicts (1 Samuel 1:3, 15:2; Psalm 24:10). It is also a reference to the primordial conflict between the mighty warrior God and the evil waters of chaos.

Whether we see the title as referring to ancient Israel’s military encounters with its enemies or to the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, it is still the God of Israel/Jacob who is victorious. The astonishing feats this God has accomplished can be either the victories that God has won or the works of creation that God has wrought.

Come! Behold the deeds of the LORD, the astounding things he has wrought on earth. 

The psalmist calls all those who can hear to behold the marvels of God. Their magnificence should instill both gratitude and confidence in the hearts of all.

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