Mornings are cooler these days. While I am not sitting out on my lanai at 6:30 AM, I am perched in view of the east-facing windows. This morning the sky at sunrise was painted in the softest shades of pink and blue. Mu initial response was to grab a camera. Unfortunately, my phone camera does not detect these lovely hues. Next, I turned to the Book of Psalms, specifically psalms of praise, to respond to what I was experiencing. I chose Psalm 104. I am preparing to lead a women’s retreat next week, the theme of which is “Experiencing God’s Inward Call through the Psalms.” Today’s post is an excerpt of the first conference of the retreat day. I want to acknowledge the writings of Sr. Irene Nowell, OSB in Pleading, Cursing, Praising: Conversing with God through the Psalms (Liturgical Press, 2013).
Psalm 104 is a hymn praising God who easily and skillfully made flowing waters and lofty mountains into a world vibrant with life. The psalmist describes God’s splendor in the skies (v. 1-4), how the waters were tamed to fertilize and feed the world (v. 5-18), how light was made into a gentle time of refreshment (v. 19-23), and how the beauty of creation fills us with awe (v. 24-34).
Here is Psalm 104: 1, 5-14, 31 in the contemporary language of Eugene H. Petersons’s The Message (Tyndale House, 2013)
O my soul, bless God!
God, my God how great you are!
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed the earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away –
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.
You started the springs and rivers,
sent them flowing among the hills.
All the wild animals now drink their fill,
wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Along the river banks the birds build nests,
ravens make their voices heard.
You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;
earth is supplied with plenty of water.
You make grass grow for the livestock,
hay for the animals that plow the ground.
The glory of God – let it last forever!
Let God enjoy his creation!
Bernadette Farrell has composed a song based on Psalm 104. You can find a performance of this song by googling the title and composer.
“Send Out Your Spirit” by Bernadette Farrell, 2009, based on Psalm 104
- How many are your works, O Lord, in wisdom you have made them all,
the moon to mark the end of day, the sun to rise and light our way.
Send out your Spirit upon the earth and let your Spirit bring us to birth.
Send out your Spirit and make us new till all creation return to you.
- Your majesty and glory tell the wonder of the place you dwell,
The waters and the winds obey like messengers upon their way.
- You set the earth upon its base from age to age in time and space.
The universe your care conveys, the planets echo with your praise.
- You give the cattle grass to feed, you make the plants to serve our need.
We bring forth bread and wine to share. Your signs of love are everywhere.
Psalms of praise, like Psalm 104, can instill in us the dispositions necessary to become responsible stewards of the treasures of creation. If we praise God in this way, we can hardly allow anything – whether wealth, power, or national loyalty to rival the allegiance we have pledged to God. Other psalms of praise that extol creation and God’s wondrous deeds include Psalms 8, 19, 29, 33, 100, 103-104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 145-146, 147, 148, 149, and 150.
Psalms of praise have only two parts: a call to praise and the reasons for praise. Sometimes, a call to praise is repeated at the end. The call to praise is not addressed to God. Instead, we call out to everyone and everything we can think of to help us praise our great and powerful God. The call to praise always implies community. We are in this together. We take up our responsibility for the rest of creation. We take up our responsibility to be the bridge between the rest of creation and God. Part of our responsibility is to bring all creation to praise God with us.
After we call everyone to help us give praise, we begin to tell the reasons for praising our God. Every good thing we experience is a reason to praise God. God’s mighty deeds of creation and redemption are unending – they are going on right now! Every day we gather to sing God’s praise. Today, every day, we will hear God’s voice!
I close with a prayer taken from Judy Cannato’s Field of Compassion: How the New Cosmology Is Transforming Spiritual Life (Sorin Books, 2010).
Holy One, evidence of your self-communication in love is all around, everywhere. In the inner depths of my own heart, in the world, in all creatures around me, you live and move and have your being. I am not separate from you, and because of your wondrous love I am not separate from all creation. Help me to live with eyes wide open to your self-communication. Help me to be open to your lavish grace, to receive it without fear and with the conviction that you want nothing more than for me to receive it. In turn, may I be gracious to others, an instrument of your lavish grace to all I meet. Amen.
Q. How does the beauty of creation lead you to praise the glory of God?
Q. How does art (painting, sculpture, photography, etc.) lead you to praise the glory of God?
Q. How do you compare reading the psalms and singing the psalms as forms of prayer?