Psalm 104: 1-2, 24, 35b, 27-30
The responsorial psalm for our vigil is from Psalm 104, a nature hymn that celebrates God’s greatness, and majesty, and sovereign dominion. Filled with lofty poeticism, it is one of the most beautiful psalms in the entire Psalter.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
The passage begins with a self-summons to sing the praises of God.
The Hebrew word that is translated “soul” (nepesh) comes from the word for breath. It yields over twenty meanings, chief among which are life-breath (or soul), life, and living person. The reference here is probably to that center within the person from which all one’s life forces flow. This is not merely a spiritual or immaterial reality; it encompasses every aspect of the person. Every part of the psalmist’s being is called upon to give praise to God.
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed! You are clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light as with a cloak.
God is described as robed in majesty and glory, wrapped with radiant light. This is the way the commanding gods of the ancient Near East were depicted. The psalmist does not claim that God is visible, but that God’s garments are discernible. In other words, the splendor the psalmist beholds is an indication of God’s presence.
God is perceived through the glories of creation; the psalmist is overwhelmed with a sense of reverence and holy awe.
How manifold are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you have wrought them all — the earth is full of your creatures. Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
Nature is marvelous in appearance and diverse in its manifestations. The variety and complexity of its forms are astounding. This splendor is attributed to the wisdom of the Creator.
When humans undertake many works, often some of them are neglected or fall short of their intended purpose; God’s works, though many and extremely varied, are all made in wisdom and with the greatest exactness; there is not the least flaw nor defect in them.
The more closely human creations are examined, as with the help of a microscope, the more rough they appear; works of nature through the same examination appear more fine and exact. All God’s works are made in wisdom, for they are all made to answer the end they were designed to serve, the good of the universe, in order to the glory of God himself.
Creatures all look to you to give them food in due time. When you give it to them, they gather it; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
God is extolled as a bountiful benefactor for all living things. Even the lowliest creatures are not below his cognizance. He is open-handed and generous in his providential care.
If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust.
God’s spirit is not only the breath of life by which they were created, but it is also the spirit that sustains them. The life forces of the natural world do not operate independently from the divine will. When the breath of life leaves a creature, it returns to the dust from which it was originally taken (Genesis 2:7, Job 12:10).
When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
God not only creates but re-creates. The ongoing forces of nature are re-creative. When creatures die, new generations take their place — a continual process of creation and renewal. Life is sustained and perpetuated.
The face of the earth is renewed each day by the light of the sun, and from year to year by the fertility of the soil and the turning of the seasons. Creation is experienced as an ongoing event.
God’s works are glorious indeed!