Psalm for the Ascension of the Lord (ABC)

Psalm 47: 2-3, 6-9

This week’s responsorial psalm comes from Psalm 47, a hymn that describes an enthronement ceremony and stirs the people to praise God.

All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness,

The psalm opens with a call to all nations and peoples to clap their hands and shout with joy to God. The cries of gladness (rinnâ) are shouts of jubilation connected with a divinely appointed sacrifice. Clapping hands (tāqa‘) is also a common ritual action.

These are clear indications that this psalm is set within a liturgical context.

for the LORD, the Most High, the awesome, 

The psalmist uses three titles to refer to God:

  • “LORD” refers to YHWH, the personal name of the God of Israel. This title emphasizes God’s covenant relationship with Israel and his faithfulness to his promises.
  • “Most High” (‘elyôn) is a more ancient title that emphasizes God’s sovereignty and supremacy over all other beings and powers. In the Bible, ‘elyôn is first mentioned in the story of Abraham and Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-22), where it signifies that the God of Israel is superior to any other deities conceived by the ancient Semitic peoples of that time.
  • “The awesome” (also translated as “the great”) emphasizes the reverence God commands because of his power and majesty.

is the great king over all the earth.

At the time this psalm was written, it was commonly believed that each nation had its own divine patron. Therefore, affirming that YHWH is the king over the entire world was, at the very least, a statement of the superiority of YHWH over all other gods and might even have been a declaration of monotheism.

Either way, all are called to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy; the LORD, amid trumpet blasts. Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise. For king of all the earth is God; sing hymns of praise. God reigns over the nations, God sits upon his holy throne.

The occasion for this liturgical celebration is the enthronement of God, which is marked with great joy and celebration. The repetitive command to “sing praises” emphasizes the call to all people to join in the celebration and worship of God as King.

In the apostolic age, the Church saw the words of this verse as being fulfilled in the Ascension of Christ into heaven, which is why we use it in the liturgy for today’s feast, professing our faith in Christ as king of all the universe.

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