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Commentary on Psalm 143 [144]: 9-15

"A 'New' Song Is One Which Speaks of Peace and Prosperity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at the Wednesday general audience, which he dedicated to comment on Psalm 143[144]:9-15.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Today the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes, during which we have reflected on the need to invoke constantly from the Lord the great gift of full unity among Christ's disciples. Prayer, in fact, contributes decisively to make more sincere and fruitful the common ecumenical commitment of the Churches and ecclesial communities.

In this meeting we take up again the meditation of Psalm 143, which the Liturgy of Vespers proposes to us on two different occasions (cf. verses 1-8 and verses 9-15). The tone continues to be that of a song and, in this second movement of the psalm, the figure of the "Anointed" appears, namely, of the "Consecrated" One par excellence, Jesus, who attracts all to himself, so that they will "be one" (cf. John 17:11,21). It is no accident that the scene that dominates in the song is characterized by prosperity and peace, typical symbols of the messianic era.

2. Because of this, the song is described as "new," a term that in biblical language more than making reference to the exterior novelty of the words indicates the ultimate fullness that seals hope (cf. verse 9). A song is raised, therefore, to the goal of history in which the voice of evil will finally be silenced, described by the psalmist as "untruth" and "lie," expressions that indicate idolatry (cf. verse 11).

But this negative aspect is followed, with much greater space, by the positive dimension: that of the new joyful world that is about to affirm itself. This is the true "shalom," that is, messianic "peace," a luminous horizon articulated in a series of images of social life which can also be for us the hope for the birth of a more just society.

3. First of all, the family appears (cf. verse 12), which is based on the vitality of procreation. Sons, hope of the future, are compared to strong saplings; daughters are represented as solid pillars that govern the edifice of the house, as those of the temple. From the family one moves to the economic life, to the land, with its fruits stored in granaries, with pastures of grazing cattle, with draft animals working in fertile fields (cf. verses 13-14a).

The gaze then moves to the city, namely, to the whole civil community which finally enjoys the precious gift of peace and tranquility. In fact, the "breaches" opened by the invaders in the urban walls during the assault are finally finished; the incursions have ended which bring sackings and deportations and, finally, the "outcry" is not heard of the desperate, the wounded, the victims, the orphans, sad legacy of wars (cf. verse 14b).

4. This picture of a different but possible world is entrusted to the work of the Messiah, as well as to that of his people. All of us together, under the guidance of the Messiah, Christ, must work for this project of harmony and peace, preventing the destructive action of hatred, of violence and of war. It is necessary, however, to be on the side of the God of love and justice.

For this reason, the psalm concludes with the words: "Happy the people so blessed; happy the people whose God is the Lord." God is the good of goods, the condition of all other goods. Only a people that acknowledges God and that defends spiritual and moral values can truly go out to find a profound peace and become itself a force of peace for the world, for other peoples, and, therefore, can intone with the psalmist the "new song," full of confidence and hope. It recalls spontaneously the new Covenant, the very novelty that Christ and his Gospel are.

This is what St. Augustine reminds us. On reading the psalm, he also interprets the phrase: "on a ten-stringed lyre I will play for you." For him, the ten-stringed lyre is the law, summarized in the Ten Commandments. But we must find the appropriate key of these ten strings, of these Ten Commandments. Only if these ten strings, these Ten Commandments are made to vibrate -- says St. Augustine -- with the charity of the heart will they sound well. Charity is the fullness of the law. He who lives the Commandments as dimensions of the one charity, truly sings the "new song." The charity that unites us to Christ's sentiments is the true "new song" of the "new man," capable of creating also a "new world." This psalm invites us to sing with "the ten-stringed lyre," with a new heart, to sing with Christ's sentiments, to live the Ten Commandments in the dimension of love, to thus contribute to the peace and harmony of the world (cf. "Esposizioni sui Salmi" [Commentaries on the Psalms], 143,16: Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana," XXVIII, Rome, 1977, pp. 677).

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we conclude today the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we remember that the healing of divisions among Christians is the Lord's work, it is his gift, for which we must pray constantly.

In our psalm today we sing a "new" song to the Lord. In the Bible, a "new" song is one which speaks of peace and prosperity, signs of the Messiah, promising us the fulfillment of all our hopes.

The psalmist describes this gift of peace, this "shalom," with a series of images drawn from daily life. He speaks of the family. Sons, the hope of the future, are like strong saplings; daughters are like graceful columns, supporting the house.

Then we hear of the fruits of man's labor, the crops, the sheep, the cattle, which are all gifts from the Lord. And the city walls are no longer breached by enemy armies. No more do the wounded and the orphans weep in the streets. Such is the peace brought by the Messiah.

We can help to build this peace if we choose to be faithful to God. St. Augustine teaches that the ten-stringed harp means the Ten Commandments. To sing a new song, and to play on the ten-stringed harp, means to follow God's law and to usher in his kingdom of peace and joy.

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here today, especially the students and teachers from Denmark and the ecumenical group from Japan. I greet also those who have come from Ireland, New Zealand and the United States of America. May you experience in your lives the peace and joy of Christ our Lord, and may God bless you all.


The Vatican , VA
Pope Benedict XVI - Bishop of Rome, 661 869-1000



Psalm, Commentary, Peace, Prosperity, Benedict

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