Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tenebrae psalms/31 - Psalm 23: The gates of heaven reopen


The second Nocturn for Holy Saturday focuses on the announcement of the reopening of heaven to the dead in Hades, conveyed most powerfully by Handel's setting of the key verse of this psalm:

"Lift up your gates, O princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in."

Lift up ye gates

Since Adam's sin, heaven has been closed to mankind.  Yet Christ the all-powerful now descends into hell (Hades) to preach the good news to the just dead: the way is reopened.

The original historical context for this psalm was probably the conquest of Jerusalem by King David, which allowed him to bring the Arc of the Covenant into the city in solemn procession.

Now we too are invited to join this holy procession, and move towards the gates of heaven, waiting to come in.

Yet we must first examine our conscience, the psalm informs us, for only "The guiltless in act, the pure in heart; one who never set his heart on lying tales, or swore treacherously to his neighbour' will receive the mercy and blessing of the Lord.



Psalm 23

Dómini est terra, et plenitúdo ejus: * orbis terrárum, et univérsi qui hábitant in eo.
2  Quia ipse super mária fundávit eum: * et super flúmina præparávit eum.
3  Quis ascéndet in montem Dómini? * aut quis stabit in loco sancto ejus?
4  Innocens mánibus et mundo corde, * qui non accépit in vano ánimam suam, nec jurávit in dolo próximo suo.
5  Hic accípiet benedictiónem a Dómino: * et misericórdiam a Deo, salutári suo.
6  Hæc est generátio quæréntium eum, * quæréntium fáciem Dei Jacob.
7  Attóllite portas príncipes vestras, et elevámini portæ æternáles: * et introíbit Rex glóriæ.
8  Quis est iste Rex glóriæ? * Dóminus fortis et potens : Dóminus potens in prælio.
9  Attóllite portas príncipes vestras,  et elevámini portæ æternáles: * et introíbit Rex glóriæ.
10  Quis est iste Rex glóriæ? * Dóminus virtútum ipse est Rex glóriæ.

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein.
2 For he has founded it upon the seas; and has prepared it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who has not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.
5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Saviour.
6 This is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your gates, O princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in.
8 Who is this King of Glory? The Lord who is strong and mighty: the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your gates, O princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in.
10 Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.


Tenebrae of Holy Saturday

Nocturn I: Psalms 4, 14, 15
Nocturn II: Psalms 23, 26, 29
Nocturn III: Psalms 53*, 75*, 87*
Lauds: 50*, 91, 63, [Is 38], 150

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