Psalm for Pentecost Vigil (ABC)

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, 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!

Usually psalms call others to praise God; here, the psalmist calls himself.

The Hebrew word that is translated “soul” (nepesh) comes from the word for breath. This term carries a range of meanings, including life-breath (or soul), life itself, and a living individual. In this context, nepesh likely refers to the innermost core of a person, the center of their very being.

In other words, the psalmist is calling upon every facet of their existence to offer 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.

This description of God as being clothed with majesty and robed in light is how gods of the ancient Near East were depicted.

Note how God himself is not visible, but his garments are. The splendor of his garments alone is an indication of God’s presence.

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.

The psalmist is overwhelmed by the marvels of God’s creation, and overcome with a sense of reverence and holy awe. The sheer volume, diversity, and complexity of creation are astounding.

Contrast this with the creative endeavors of humankind. When we undertake something complex, we often neglect certain aspects or the creation falls short of its intended purpose. God’s creations, though vastly larger in number, scale, and complexity, are all made in wisdom and with the greatest exactness; there is not the least flaw or defect in them.

When human creations are closely examined, for example with a microscope, we usually find roughness or imperfections. In contrast, works of nature under the same scrutiny appear more refined and precise, not less.

This all points to the wisdom of God that is inherent in his works. God’s creations are in harmony and serve their intended purpose, for the good of the universe and 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 for his providential care, which is limitless and extends to all living things.

If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust.

God’s spirit is both the breath of life that created them and the force that sustains them. The forces of life in nature operate according to God’s divine will: when the breath of life leaves a creature, it returns to the dust it came from (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 constantly bring forth new life. When creatures die, new generations replace them, ensuring a continuous cycle of creation and renewal.

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 an ongoing event that we are privileged to witness.

God’s works are glorious indeed!

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