April 6: Psalm 22

April 6: Psalm 22

A psalm of the Passion

Good Friday

Common Meter 86.86             Morning Song, p. 30
Langloffan, p. 69
Kingsfold, p. 59
St. Anne (O God our Help), p. 39

My God, my God, O why have You forsaken me? O why

Are You so far from giving help and from my groaning cry?

By day and night, my God, I call; your answer still delays.

And yet You are the Holy One who dwells in Isr’el’s praise.

Our fathers put their trust in You; from You their rescue came.

They begged You and You set them free; they were not put to shame.

But as for me, I am a worm and not a man at all.

To men I am despised and base; their scornings on me fall.

All those who look at me will laugh and cast reproach at me.

Their mouths they open wide: they wag their heads in mockery.

“The Lord was his reliance once; now see what God will send.

Yes, let God rise and set him free, this man that was his friend.”

You took me from my mother’s womb to safety at the breast.

Since birth when I was cast on You in You, my God, I rest.

Be not far off, for grief is near, and none to help is found;

For bulls of Bashan in their strength now circle me around.

Their lion jaws they open wide, and roar to tear their prey,

My heart is wax, my bones unknit, my life is poured away.

My strength is only broken clay; my mouth and tongue are dry,

For in the very dust of death you there make me to lie.

For see how dogs encircle me! On every side there stands

A brotherhood of cruelty; they pierce my feet and hands,

My bones are plain for me to count; men see me and they stare.

My clothes among them they divide, and gamble for their share.

Now hurry, O my Strength, to help! Do not be far, O Lord!

But snatch my soul from raging dogs, and spare me from the sword.

From lion’s mouth and oxen’s horns O save me; hear my prayer!

And to my brethren in the church Your name I will declare.

Let those that fear the Lord sing praise! Give glory to Him now,

All Jacob’s seed, all Isr’el’s seed, in awe before Him bow.

For He did not despise nor spurn the grief of one oppressed,

Nor did He shun his cry for help, but heard and gave him rest.

When I proclaim my praise of You, then all the church will hear,

And I will pay my vows in full where men hold Him in fear.

The wretched poor will eat their fill and will be made secure.

And those who seek will praise the Lord. So let your hearts endure.

Then will all men remember God to earth’s remotest shore,

And all the Gentile nations turn to worship and adore.

For all dominion in the earth is only of the Lord.

Among the nations He controls the power of the sword.

To him will all the rich bow down who feast and live in ease.

And all whose souls descend to dust will fall upon their knees.

There shall forever be a seed to serve Him faithfully;

A generation of the Lord it shall accounted be.

And they will come and will make known to people yet to be

The righteousness that is His own, for none did this but He.

(Repeat the last part of the tune for these lines.)

Of all the psalms, Psalm 22 is par excellence the canticle of the Lord’s suffering and death. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is described as praying the opening line of this psalm as He hangs on the Cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). In Luke, on the other hand, the last recorded words of Jesus on the Cross are a line from Psalm 31: “Into Your hands I commit My spirit”(Luke 23:46). From a juxtaposition of these two texts, there arose in Christian sentiment the popular story that Jesus, while he hung on the Cross, silently recited all the lines of the Psalter that lie between these two verses. Whatever is to be said of that story, there is no doubt about the importance of Psalm 22 in reference to the Lord’s suffering and death. Not only did Jesus pray this psalm’s opening line on His gibbet of pain; other lines of it are also interpreted by the Church, even by the Evangelists themselves, as prophetic references to details in the drama of Holy Friday (verses 1-18). Finally, just as each of the Lord’s three predictions of the Passion ends with a prediction of the Resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34), this psalm of the Passion appropriately finishes with the voice of victory and the growth of the Church: “My spirit lives for Him; my seed will serve Him. The coming generation shall be herald for the Lord, declaring His righteousness to a people yet unborn, whom the Lord created.” (Reardon, p. 41-42) 

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