Lent 2019 - WEEK 4 (March 31)

 

Psalm 34: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Lent 2019 Week 4: Psalm 34 reflection by Adam Bartlett (founder of Illuminare Publications) // The Vigil Project

Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7.

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall be ever in my mouth.

Let my soul glory in the LORD;

the lowly will hear me and be glad.

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Glorify the LORD with me,

let us together extol his name.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,

and your faces may not blush with shame.

When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,

and from all his distress he saved him.

R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.


This week the Church’s liturgy puts the words of Psalm 34 (33) on our lips, as it does so often throughout the year, paired with the iconic antiphon Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. As early as the 4th century A.D., St. John Chrysostom said in one of his homilies that this antiphon and Psalm were chanted by the Church every week during the Communion procession. Our Roman Missal today follows this ancient practice, allowing us to sing this Psalm at will during Communion in Ordinary Time, in place of the proper Communion Psalm given in the liturgical books.

Why is it that the Church continually places these Eucharistic words on our lips, and particularly in a Responsorial Psalm during the Season of Lent? I think that the reason relates to the purpose of Lent itself, which ultimately is the purpose of the Church’s worship and the reason for our very existence: that we might see God.

The goal of every one of our lives is to share in the Beatific Vision—to see God as he is and to participate in his Divine Life and love forever. But this vision of God is veiled for us now. “For now we see as through a glass, dimly” (1 Cor 13: 12). But “when the Lord appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2). This is why the age of the Church (the historical time between Christ’s ascension into heaven and his coming again in glory) is also the age of sacraments, the age of the liturgy. The sacraments and liturgical worship that Christ himself instituted mediates his heavenly reality to us through our senses. He comes to us through what we perceive with our sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. All of the sacramental signs of the liturgy are portals that can lead us, if we are properly disposed to grace, to see God as he is with our spiritual eyes, even now, in this fallen world that Christ is ever redeeming and drawing back to the Father. And this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm points to this reality.

During Lent we fast. We deny ourselves the goodness and delight of earthly food so that we can better attune our spiritual appetite for the heavenly banquet. When we fast and deny our fleshly passions, we are really preparing ourselves to receive the Eucharist—to literally consume Christ himself, the heavenly bread, and to put the very substance of his being into our bodies. When we fast, our inner senses are heightened. And when we come to receive Christ in the Eucharist after a long period of fasting, with our bodies weak but our souls strong and alert, what we taste with our physical sense can lead us to see him with our spiritual eyes, in a mystical union that is a foretaste of the perfect union that we are journeying toward in this life.

The verses of Psalm 34 (33) speak of what a life in such union with Jesus Christ is like. When we are united to him, we bless God at all times with his praise ever in our mouths. Our souls glory in the Lord as we proclaim the glory of God through our lives and words to everyone we meet. We draw everyone around us through our lives of credible witness into the worship and praise of God, urging all those we meet to look toward the Lord with confidence that they might be radiant with joy, toward the one who saves everyone who calls out to him in distress.

We often hear it said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” And this is absolutely true. But there is another half of this maxim from St. Irenaeus that we don’t hear as often—that “the life of man is the vision of God.” Our spiritual life, our holiness, all that radiates the glory of God in us comes first from seeing God. And the primary place that we are able to see God face to face is the sacred liturgy, where we are put into contact with heavenly realities through our physical senses. This happens in the most powerful way in our reception of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. But it also can happen through every other sensible aspect of the liturgy, in varying degrees, through all that we perceive with our senses. Through words, music, gesture, incense, vesture, even sacred art and architecture—all of these are windows opening to the vision of God arrayed in heavenly glory.

This week, try to increase your fasting so that you can build up your spiritual appetite. Every time that you are hungry and choose to pass by food and drink that you would otherwise enjoy, say a quick prayer and ask God to prepare your inner spiritual eyes to see him more vividly the next time you taste his body and blood. The Eucharistic fast, really, is not an imposition and restriction on us, but an invitation to come to the wedding feast of the Lamb with a hunger for heaven. Let’s all prepare ourselves to taste and see our Lord Jesus Christ this Sunday, who will be waiting there to draw us into himself and present us in all of his radiant glory to his Father in heaven.

Written by Adam Bartlett

 

Adam Bartlett is a composer and conductor of Catholic sacred music and serves as President and Editor of Illuminare Publications and the Source and Summit Institute. He is composer and editor of Simple English Propers, and editor of the Lumen Christi Missal, Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, and Lumen Christi Hymnal. Active as a speaker, teacher, writer and clinician, Adam speaks and presents on topics of liturgy, music, and the new evangelization throughout the United States and English-speaking world. He resides in Denver, CO, with his wife and two daughters.

www.illuminarepublications.com


Lent 2019 Week 4: Psalm 34 reflection by Adam Bartlett (founder of Illuminare Publications) // The Vigil Project
 
Shawn Williams