Psalm for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (C)

Isaiah 12: 2-3, 4, 5-6

Although it is a passage from the prophetic material, our responsorial for this Sunday is really a hymn of thanksgiving that anticipates favors that will be granted and enjoyed in the future. Therefore, one might consider it a hymn of confidence as well.

God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.

God is declared “savior,” and because he is the source of salvation, the author is unafraid and filled with courage.

With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.

The theme of water appears, not as threatening and chaotic as is so often the case, but as transformative. In this passage, it is the water of salvation. Those who draw this water as if from a well will be refreshed by God’s salvific power.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. 

A second theme: universal witness. The writer calls on the community to praise the glorious name of God, the name that represents the very character of God. They are to extol the marvels that God has accomplished and proclaim them to the nations.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.

The most celebrated of these wondrous works is the transformation of the people themselves. Only God could have taken a people in need of salvation and transformed them into witnesses of God’s power. In other words, the transformed lives of God’s people will announce to the nations the marvels God has accomplished.

Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!

The third and final theme found in this response highlights the importance of Jerusalem. This city was both the royal capital of the David dynasty and the site where the temple was built. The latter aspect is the focus here.

The city itself is called upon to rejoice, and the reason for this exaltation is the presence of God in its midst. Although the temple was the concrete representation of God’s own divine presence, it is this presence and not the temple building that is fundamental (see Jeremiah 7:3-4).

The theology of the passage has come full circle: The presence of God in the midst of the people is the source of the writer’s confidence in future deliverance.

The title “Holy One of Israel” has cultic nuances. It comes from the Hebrew that means “set apart” or “consecrate” (qādash) and is opposed to what is secular or profane. God’s holiness usually manifested in some form of glory or majesty, and this frequently, though not always, occurs in the Temple. In the presence of such a God, human beings recognize their own limitation and commit themselves to a way of life that separates them from the profane, consecrates them to God, and gives them access to what is holy.

Chosen by God from among the other nations, Israel was set apart and consecrated to God. In this passage, the author calls the people to rejoice in this: the holy God is in their midst.

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