Bookmark and Share

Psalm 149

The song of joy of the saints
"The members of the Church, God's new people, will rejoice in their king, who is Christ" (Hesychius).

Sing a new song to the Lord,
  his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker,
  let Sion's sons exult in their king.
Let them praise his name with dancing
  and make music with timbrel and harp.

For the Lord takes delight in his people.
  He crowns the poor with salvation.
Let the faithful rejoice in their glory,
  shout for joy and take their rest.
Let the praise of God be on their lips
  and a two-edged sword in their hand,

to deal out vengeance to the nations
  and punishment on all the peoples;
to bind their kings in chains
  and their nobles in fetters of iron;
to carry out the sentence pre-ordained:
  this honour is for all his faithful.

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on Psalm 149
General Audience, Wednesday 23 May 2001 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Lauds (Morning Prayer), Sunday Week 1 - The feast of the friends of God

"1. "Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, shout for joy and take their rest." The order which you have just heard in Psalm 149 points to a dawn which is breaking and finds the faithful ready to chant their morning praise. With a suggestive phrase, their song of praise is defined as "a new song" (v 1), a solemn and perfect hymn, perfect for the final days, in which the Lord will gather together the just in a renewed world. A festive atmosphere pervades the entire psalm; it begins with the initial Alleluia and then continues with chant, praise, joy, dance, the sound of drums and of harps. The psalm inspires a prayer of thanksgiving from a heart filled with religious exultation.

2. The protagonists of the psalm in the original Hebrew text are given two terms that are taken from the spirituality of the Old Testament. Three times they are defined as the hasidim (v 1, 5, 9), "the pious, the faithful ones", who respond with fidelity and love (hesed) to the fatherly love of the Lord.

The second part of the psalm provokes surprise because it is full of warlike sentiments. It is strange that in the same verse, the psalm brings together "the praise of God be on their lips" and "a two-edged sword in their hand" (v 6). Upon reflection, we can understand why the psalm was composed for the use of the "faithful" who were involved in a struggle for liberation; they were fighting to free an oppressed people and to give them the possibility of serving God. During the Maccabean era, in the 2nd century BC, those fighting for freedom and faith, who underwent a severe repression from the Hellenistic power, were defined as the hasidim, the ones faithful to the Word of God and the tradition of the fathers.

3. In the present perspective of our prayer, the warlike symbolism becomes an image of the dedication of the believer who sings the praises of God in the morning and then goes into the ways of the world, in the midst of evil and injustice. Unfortunately powerful forces are arrayed against the Kingdom of God: the Psalmist speaks of "peoples, nations, leaders and nobles". Yet he is confident because he knows that he has at his side the Lord, who is the master of history (v 2). His victory over evil is certain and so will be the triumph of love. All the hasidim participate in the battle, they are the faithful and just who with the power of the Spirit bring to fulfilment the wonderful work that is called the Kingdom of God.

4. St Augustine, starting with the reference of the Psalm to the "choir" and to the "drums and harps", commented:  "What does the choir represent?... The choir is a group of singers who sing together. If we sing in a choir, we must sing in harmony. When one sings in a choir, one off-key voice strikes the listener and creates confusion in the choir" (Enarr. in Ps 149; CCL 40, 7, 1-4).

Referring to the instruments mentioned in the psalm he asks: "Why does the Psalmist take in hand the drum and the harp?" He answers, "Because we praise the Lord not just with the voice, but also with our works. When we take up the drum and the harp, the hands have to be in accord with the voice. The same goes for you. When you sing the Alleluia, you must give bread to the poor, give clothes to the naked, give shelter to the traveler. If you do it, not only does your voice sing, but your hands are in accord with your voice because the works agree with the words" (ibid, 8, 1-4).

5. There is a second term which we use to define those who pray in the psalm: they are the anawim, "the poor and lowly ones" (v 4). The expression turns up often in the Psalter. It indicates not just the oppressed, the miserable, the persecuted for justice, but also those who, with fidelity to the moral teaching of the Alliance with God, are marginalized by those who prefer to use violence, riches and power. In this light one understands that the category of the "poor" is not just a social category but a spiritual choice. It is what the famous first Beatitude means: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5, 3). The prophet Zephaniah spoke to the anawim as special persons: "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of wrath of the Lord" (Zep 2, 3).

6. The "day of the Lord's wrath" is really the day described in the second part of the Psalm when the "poor" are lined up on the side of God to fight against evil. By themselves they do not have sufficient strength or the arms or the necessary strategies to oppose the onslaught of evil. Yet the Psalmist does not admit hesitation: "The Lord loves his people, he adorns the lowly (anawim) with victory" (v 4). What St Paul says to the Corinthians completes the picture: "God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are" (1 Cor 1, 28).

With such confidence the "sons of Zion" (v 2), the hasidim and anawim, the faithful and the poor, go on to live their witness in the world and in history. Mary's canticle in the Gospel of Luke, the Magnificat, is the echo of the best sentiments of the "sons of Zion": glorious praise of God her Saviour, thanksgiving for the great things done by the Mighty One, the battle against the forces of evil, solidarity with the poor and fidelity to the God of the Covenant (cf Lk 1, 46-55)."


"I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, and offer a special word of encouragement to the various student groups. I greet the delegation from Macedonia, present in Rome for the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Upon all of you, particularly the visitors from Sweden, Japan and the United States, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones présents à cette audience, en particulier les jeunes des collèges de Cours-la-Ville, Bitche et Monaco, ainsi que les fidèles des paroisses de Thonon-les-Bains et de Colombier-Bôle-Auvernier, en Suisse. Puisse votre séjour affermir votre foi et faire de vous des témoins du Christ Ressuscité! Avec la Bénédiction apostolique.

Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Ich grüße besonders herzlich die Teilnehmer an der Diözesanwallfahrt des Bistums Mainz in Begleitung des Hochwürdigsten Herrn Diözesanbischofs Karl Kardinal Lehmann. Weiterhin heiße ich die Pilgergruppe aus Metten und die Blechbläsergruppe der Evangelischen Landeskirche von Baden willkommen. Euch, Euren Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich gern den Apostolischen Segen.

A minha saudação afectuosa aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, desejando a todos que possam saborear quão grande é «a misericórdia do nosso Deus, que se estende de geração em geração sobre aqueles que O temem». Que ela desça abundante sobre a vida e a família de cada um, ao conceder-lhes a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos venidos de España, de México y de Colombia y a todos los provenientes de países de lengua española. Que el rezo de los Salmos sea para vosotros una experiencia de profunda oración que os impulse a ser testigos vivos y creíbles del amor de Dios en el mundo.

Srdačnim riječima dobrodošlice pozdravljam vjernike Zupe Uznesenja Marijina iz Remeta. Predragi, kršćanska nada treba prozimati sav zivot Kristovih učenika i njihovo zalaganje u Crkvi, u obitelji i u građanskome društvu. Kršćani su naime pozvani biti ljudi zive i izgrađujuće nade hranjene vjerom. Pratio vas uvijek Bozji blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Vítám poutníky z Prahy, z farnosti Šumperk, a věrící z Píšti, kterí prišli nechat posvětit mariánské korunky. Pripravujeme se na svátek Nanebevstoupení Páně, v němz se Kristus vrací do slávy, která mu neodlučně patrí, ale nese si s sebou i naši lidskou prirozenost, kterou prijal od Panny Marie. V tomto smyslu je nám Nanebevstoupení poselstvím naděje. Ze srdce vám zehnám. Chvála Kristu!

Ik begroet nu alle Nederlandse en Belgische pelgrims. Moge uw bezoek aan de graven van de Apostelen u sterken in uw christelijke roeping en u helpen meer te beantwoorden aan dit geschenk van de Goddelijke genade. Van harte verleen ik daartoe de Apostolische Zegen. Geloofd zij Jezus Christus!

Szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar híveket, különösen azokat, akik Szombathelyrôl érkeztek. Isten hozott Benneteket! Az istenhívôké és a kicsinyeké Isten Országa. Errôl elmélkedtünk a mai napon. Szívbôl adom apostoli áldásomat Mindannyiotokra. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Iš širdies sveikinu piligrimus lietuvius! Kaip Kristaus mokiniai gyvenkite tiesoje, kad pasaulis jumyse pazintu Amzinąji Tėvą, o Šventoji Dvasia jus teveda i meilės pilnatvę, kurioje Dievas yra neblėstanti šviesa. Visus jus laiminu. Garbė Jėzui Kristui!

Zo srdca vítam skupinu slovenských pútnikov z Michaloviec a okolia. Drahí bratia a sestry, zajtra Cirkev na Slovensku slávi sviatok Nanebovstúpenia Pána. Jeziš má pripravené miesto pre všetkých a očakáva nás. Tam - na nebeskú vlast’ - nech sú nasmerované naše myšlienky i skutky. Na ceste k tomuto ciel’u nech vás sprevádza i moje Apoštolské pozehnanie, ktoré rád udel’ujem vám i vašim rodinám. Pochválený bud’ Jeziš Kristus!

* * * * *

Addressing the Italian pilgrims, I greet first of all a special group of participants in the audience: the Salesian Archbishops and Bishops, gathered for the first time to reflect on what Don Bosco's charism means for episcopal service.

The perennial force of the educational apostolate of Don Bosco, father and teacher of young people, has inspired the pastoral charity of many Salesian bishops who, beginning with the great missionary, Cardinal Giovanni Cagliero, are committed to evangelization, frequently in places that are on the frontiers of civilization. Even the dimension of martyrdom has characterized the missionary activity of the sons of Don Bosco, from Bishop Luigi Versiglia, whom I had the joy of canonizing on 1 October of the Jubilee Year, to the three Indian confrères killed recently in Imphal, in Northeast India. Once again I express my sincere participation in the Congregation's grief for its sons who were barbarically killed. I exhort all Salesians to persevere courageously in bearing witness to Christ and to the Gospel. Brothers in the Episcopate, I entrust you and the faithful who belong to your Diocesan communities to the maternal protection of Mary, Helper of Christians and Star of Evangelization. Guided by her, take to every human being the Gospel of her Son, the only Redeemer of humanity. I accompany you with my prayer and sincerely bless you and those who in many parts of the world help you in your ministry.

Un particolare saluto rivolgo, poi, ai sacerdoti e ai seminaristi che, provenendo da diverse nazioni del mondo, durante quest'anno hanno frequentato la scuola sacerdotale nella cittadella di Loppiano, espressione del Movimento dei Focolari. Carissimi, tornando nelle rispettive diocesi, sappiate mettere a frutto l'interessante esperienza di comunione sacerdotale che avete vissuto insieme in terra italiana.

Saluto i responsabili e il personale dell'associazione culturale Shakespeare and Company 2, insieme con gli studiosi che hanno preso parte, nell'ottobre del 1977, al convegno sulla figura del Papa Sisto IV della Rovere. Grazie, carissimi, per la vostra presenza e per il gradito dono del volume contenente gli Atti dell'importante simposio culturale.

Il mio pensiero va anche ai promotori del premio "San Donnino d'oro", venuti con i tre premiati di quest'anno e un folto gruppo di familiari e amici.

Desidero, infine, salutare i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Celebreremo domani la festa dell'Ascensione del Signore. Invito voi, cari giovani, ad apprendere da questa solenne Festa a vivere protesi verso il Cielo, ponendo sempre al primo posto "le cose di lassù". Esorto voi, cari malati, a seguire con fiducia Gesù crocifisso, certi che, se gli siamo fedeli sulla terra, parteciperemo alla sua gloria nel Cielo. Infine, auguro a voi, cari sposi novelli, di crescere sempre più nella conoscenza di Cristo e nell'ascolto della sua parola, perché il vostro amore rimanga fedele e aperto alla vita."