A Psalm for today’s feast
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, there’s a quote from the Psalms:
But unto the Son he saith, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
As Christians we recognize this as an Old Testament quote that points to Christ. We read it much more casually than the earliest Christians did.
Today we celebrated the feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple – the day when Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, brought her to be raised as a ward of the Temple. In the hymns last night and this morning were many more quotes and allusions to the same Psalm quoted above. (If you missed these services, be sure to come on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, when some of the festal hymns will be repeated!)
We can’t know how this Psalm was understood by those who first heard it sung. But perhaps we can appreciate the sense of awe and reverent wonder that the first Christians must have felt when they read this Psalm in light of the incarnation of God the Word in the womb of Mary:
Psalm 44 (45)
My heart hath poured forth a good word; I speak of my works to the king; my tongue is the pen of a swiftly writing scribe.
Comely art Thou in beauty more than the sons of men; grace hath been poured forth on Thy lips, wherefore God hath blessed Thee for ever. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy comeliness and Thy beauty. And bend Thy bow, and proceed prosperously, and be king, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously. Thine arrows are sharp, O Mighty One, (under Thee shall peoples fall) sharp in the heart of the enemies of the king.
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy fellows.
Myrrh and stacte and cassia exhale from Thy garments, from the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad, they the daughters of kings in Thine honour.
At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colours. Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; and forget thine own people and thy father’s house. And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty, for He Himself is thy Lord, and thou shalt worship Him. And Him shall the daughters of Tyre worship with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat thy countenance. All the glory of the daughter of the King is within, with gold-fringed garments is she arrayed, adorned in varied colours.
The virgins that follow after her shall be brought unto the King, those near her shall be brought unto Thee. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing, they shall be brought into the temple of the King.
In the stead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shalt make them princes over all the earth. I shall commemorate thy name in every generation and generation. Therefore shall peoples give praise unto thee for ever, and unto the ages of ages.