Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 20

Esp. vv. 3-4: "For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; You set a crown of pure gold upon his head. He asked life from You, and You gave it to him--Length of days forever and ever."

The first thing, of course, that jumped out at this married man was the fact that this is the prokeimenon sung at weddings before the reading of the epistle. It's usually mentioned by the priest in every homily I've ever heard at Orthodox weddings (my own included), and it's interesting to consider what it means to a married couple and to then compare it to what it means when this psalm is taken in a christological sense. Those crowns they put on our heads (see My Big Fat Greek Wedding for an example of the crowns if you've never seen an Orthodox wedding...though that wedding left much to be desired from an Orthodox standpoint, but I digress!) are seen to be crowns of martyrdom, both in submitting to each other and laying down our lives one for another, but also in the sense that we are to assist each other in our salvation, a life of "white martyrdom" that revolves around presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1) together, and urging each other on to further good works.

Taken in the sense that this psalm speaks of Christ, however, this verse refers to His crown, not of thorns, but of "pure gold" (the common translation in our prokeimenon is "of precious stones"), speaking not of His Passion on the Cross, but of His glorious Resurrection and victory over death. "By reason of His Resurrection," says Fr. Patrick, "Jesus reigns as King.... And because He is King, He is crowned." The phrase that follows His coronation, then--"He asked life of You"--what sort of life did Christ ask of the Father while enduring His Passion? "The mere survival of His earthly body?" Fr. Patrick asks. "Hardly. The object of Jesus' prayer was, rather, the total life that stands forever victorious over death, the irruption of the divine life into the world by reason of His own passage through death to glory." How fitting, then, that spouses should look to each other--the ones to whom we have been crowned in anticipation, even before the struggle's end--as the ones with whom we can journey through this life, side by side, enduring together in a passion of our own--one that has little, if anything, to do with what this world defines as "marital passion"--so that they may "finally, by [God's] mercy, [be accounted] worthy of everlasting life"--the life asked for and obtained by Christ on our behalf--and that, through union with Him, we might share in the true reality of the crowns we wore and for which we now strive.

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