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Vol. VIII, December 2002

 

"Give Yahweh His Due, Sons of God." (Ps 29:1)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

In Psalm 17 man is presented as one stretched between the all-present and all-powerful God and the "torrents of iniquity", or "Belial’s torrents". God is manifested to him as his "strength, firmament, refuge, deliverer, helper, trust, protector, salvation, and…support", and the holy angels were found to be with Him. Psalm 29 is another hymn in praise of the glory of God and of gratitude. Here, God manifests His greatness in the power and splendor of the material creation, in its thunders and lightenings, in the countless waters and floods. Before such awesomeness man can give no other response than praise and thanksgiving, glory and honor to God.

1. Whereas Psalm 17 celebrates God’s victory over the enemy, in Psalm 29 the threefold creation joins in the one praise of God. The Catechism teaches:

All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures–their truth, their goodness, their beauty–all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures’ perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator". (Wis 13:5, cited in CCC 41)

In turn, such knowledge of God through His creatures permits "...us to ‘recognize the inner nature, the value, and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God’" (LG 36§2, cited in CCC 337).

a) In this Psalm God is confessed to stand behind all material creation: "Yahweh’s voice over the waters, the God of glory thunders; ...Yahweh’s voice shatters cedars, ...Yahweh’s voice convulses the desert". By their very nature, creatures are like a word; by their innate beauty, they praise and glorify God. Still, this song of praise is only brought to perfection through the priestly mediation of man. As St. Paul proclaims: "The whole creation is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed" (Rom 8:19).

b) Man, too, was made for God as his final goal; therefore, man suffers so long as he does not come to Him. He is dissatisfied in the absence of God. Without God, man misses the meaning of his very existence. His soul misses the true light, so that he walks as though in a fog and cannot find deep peace nor true joy. This is what Jesus explained in the Gospel: "When the bridegroom is taken away from them [or simply not present], then they will fast" (Mt 9:15); then, they need to fast. In the absence of Christ, man has to "fast". He must discipline himself and keep under control all the tendencies and impulses of his body and soul that might alienate him from his true end. In times of consolation, it is easy to focus on the goal; when the light of consolation is lacking, ascetical effort is required to avoid disorder and to orientate all one’s impulses to the final goal. While man is on earth he is marked by this cross, because he sees God as "only reflections in a mirror, in an obscure manner"; that is, only imperfectly (1 Cor 13:12). For "what we shall be in the future has not yet been revealed" (1 Jn 3:2).

c) Both elements together, the silent cry of material creatures to God their maker, and the search of man for God as his goal, might be the reason for the exclamation at the beginning, or better, for the entire Psalm. Overwhelmed by the impression of nature, and full of admiration, the Psalmist starts with the exaltation before the "sons of God":

Give Yahweh His due, sons of God (or: heavenly beings),
give Yahweh His due of glory and strength,
give Yahweh the glory due to His name,
adore Yahweh in the splendor of Holiness. (Ps 29:1-2)

2. The "sons of God" refers to the holy angels here, as it already did in other places (cf. Job 38:7 and see other references in Catechism 332, note 194).

a) In fact, the Revised Standard Version translates the "sons of God" with "heavenly beings". And the Jerusalem Bible comments: "lit. ‘sons of the gods’, cf. 82:1; 89:6; Jb 1:6f, i.e. the angels who constitute the heavenly court," for "heaven refers (also) to the saints and the ‘place’ of the spiritual creatures, the angels, who surround God" (CCC 326). And around God, the angels just give honor and glory to God in the highest! There is not one moment in which they would not express their happiness by the praise of their Lord and God, their Bliss and Joy! This is precisely the constant, the perpetual "respiration" of the angels, so to say. Therefore, the long groaning of nature and the painful striving of man for the fulfillment of his life in the praise of God finds in and through the angels their realization. They lead man and the material creation, as man is called to be the leader of creation.

b) It would be wrong to understand the "Give! " as a petition, exhorting the angels to do something new and unfamiliar. The real motivation is quite different. In daily life, when we take our shoes to the shoemaker, we do so not because he needs shoes, neither because we want him to deal with shoes, but precisely because he does deal with them and always deals with them. We bring them to him because he knows how to deal with them and we want to profit from his experience and ability, which we ourselves totally lack. This is the reason why man cries out to the angels in his desire to praise the Lord and express his joy about God’s goodness: not because they need such an admonition, but rather because they can help man and the rest of creation in their incapacity to praise and laud God worthily. "Give Yahweh His due, sons of God, give Yahweh His due of glory and strength, ...adore Yahweh in the splendor of Holiness" in the best way possible, for I cannot do it as I want and need to do, but you are professionals at this! Do it for me!

3. It is consoling, to know that what we want to do and really should do, is actually being done, and even very well done by another. Nevertheless, we will not be totally pleased with the fact that we have a substitute. Naturally, our longing constrains us to learn to overcome hindrances which impede us from doing what we are supposed to do. Therefore, we should ask further: Why is it so easy for the angels to praise God? How can it become easier for us?

a) That which the Lord already said with regard to his disciples, we can apply with still greater rigor to the holy angels: "The bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is still with them" (Mt 9:15). The holy angels have the grace to live constantly, that is without any interruption, in the immediate presence of GOD; they enjoy the presence of the highest GOOD which exists; they see "BEAUTY in person"! They see God already and constantly "face to face" (1 Cor 13:12); He is their "ALL", their supreme good. How could they not but praise and hail, glorify and exalt, bless and magnify God, sing psalms and laud Him and express their gratitude without end? Therefore, it is easy for the angels to praise God, because they see Him as He is!

b) That leads us to the answer: To praise God becomes easier, as we deepen our knowledge of God and our faith in Him. To achieve this we might observe the following steps: First, like the angels, we need purity of heart. Faith depends much on repentance which cleanses the heart (cf. 2 Pet 1:9), on poverty of spirit and silent peace. Secondly, good will is needed, which is manifested in the readiness to listen and, when perceived, to recognize God as He is. Thirdly, to these dispositions of the soul comes grace, the divine condescension and inclination of God over man. Finally, this helps man to respond sincerely and completely, to bring him to actually offer himself and to live just for the will of God and for His glorification. This, then, is the life man is destined for: to praise and love God with his entire life in obedience to the impulse of grace! "Let thanksgiving be your sacrifice to God...Honor to Me is a sacrifice of thanksgiving! " (Ps 50:14,23).

From then on, life moves, as it were, in a spiral. A clearer knowledge of God stimulates a further surrender, which again allows God to communicate Himself more in a newer and deeper knowledge, etc. We may discern this process in the development of the Psalm. First is described "Yahweh’s voice..." in all creation; then, Yahweh Himself, who "was enthroned", "is enthroned", "will give"; and finally, He who "blesses His people with peace" now.

c) Such is the lesson of this Psalm: Man has to listen to Yahweh’s voice in creation and lift up his heart, with the angels’ help, to God in trustful faith and thanksgiving in order to reach his final goal, the joyful praise of God with the angels. Some come by simple reasoning, others by the supernatural grace of faith and hope, to the conviction that if God is omniscient and omnipotent Love for me, then at every moment I must praise Him, His majesty and greatness, and thank Him for His Love and attention. Even if I have not yet seen His goodness nor palpably shared in His wisdom, still I believe, holding it to be most true. Whoever really believes in God and trusts in His goodness with love and respect, for them it is clear that God never exposes a soul to the arbitrary whim of his enemies! They know, even in critical moments, first by trustful faith, then by confident and grateful love, "that God works with those who love Him, …and turns everything to their good" (Rom 8:28). Then they join the "sons of God" in their unending hymn of praise: "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of Your Glory!"

4. Dear Brothers in the priesthood!

Let us, with the holy angels, take time for meditation. Let us pray and strive for this important knowledge of God (cf. Hos 4:1-6), which helps us to stand above the currents of daily life and remain tranquil in the midst of spiritual tempests. Consider how St. Maximilian Kolbe, and many others before and after him, were able to sing the praises of God in his cell of condemnation by the strength of their faith.

Let us, with the holy angels, give the light of faith to our people in well prepared homilies so as to enkindle anew the confident love for God, our true Father. Let us help them discover again that He is our Good Shepherd and consoling Strength. These dispositions will lead the faithful to union with God, "for faithful love is what pleases Me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings!" (Hos 6:6).

Let us all together, the material creation, men and angels, "give Yahweh His due of glory and strength, give Yahweh the glory due to His name, adore Yahweh in the splendor of Holiness". For we know this is what we live for, and thus, may remain firm with the grace of His overwhelming presence throughout our entire life. God bless you.

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC