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Enthroned on the Praises of Israel

Friday, August 15, 2003

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr Timothy Calvert preaches that in this feast we rejoice that a perfect song of praise has not been lost in the corruption of death, but is sung before the presence of God through all eternity.

The God of our Salvation comes to be enthroned among human beings through their praise. Yet you O God are Holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. (Ps 21:4) The Book of Psalms is the living heart of the Old Testament, as it is a temple of the praises of Israel. One encounters there every human emotion and experience: desolation, fear, anger with God, jubilation and success, a sense of God's gentle presence. All these are gathered into the praise of God. As the Church prays the psalms each day, she enters again and again into this temple of praise, which is the throne of the Divine Majesty. Praying the psalms, the human heart is formed into a posture of praise. They have no satisfying answer to the problems and sufferings of the world, except the reassurance that from every place and condition, human beings can offer a song of joy and thanksgiving. Why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God, I will praise him still, my saviour and my God. (Ps 42) As Mary is at the heart of the Church, she is at the heart of the Temple of Praise that the Church is called to be. Mary embodies praise. Her joyful song reaches so profoundly into her being that death cannot silence her! First of all those redeemed by Christ, and fully open to his grace throughout her life, every dimension of her experience becomes a hymn, fulfils Israel's praises. As Mother of Jesus, wife of Joseph and daughter of Israel, as a woman of sorrow and grief, as the still centre of the Church on its first day of Pentecostal fire -- no moment of her life is lost in the dead end of despair or doubt, but bursts into praise. To praise, we must start to let go of ourselves, renounce our desire to be at the centre of the world. O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize! (Ps 15) The experience of praise is the deepest experience of human poverty before God. We are truly empty handed before the fullness of God. But if in worship we discover the true poverty of our humanity before him, we also discover how much he wants to give us! If we would only let go of ourselves, we could discover our true home in the Temple of the Living God, making of our lives an act of praise and thanksgiving to the giver of all good gifts. Mary was always free. For her the journey of letting go before the presence of God was unhindered by the obstacles in our way. Free from sin from her conception, she was not tied and restricted by the old life of sin. In her the prayer of the psalmist is fulfilled: A pure heart create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps 50) As her praise was not dimmed by the selfishness of sin, so too her praise was not silenced by the darkness of death. I will thank you for evermore: for this is your doing. (Ps 51) The Virgin holding the infant Christ - the perfect Glory of the Father - is the true and perfect throne for God's presence, a throne of praise. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. Mary's Magnificat gathers all the joy of the psalms into a perfect hymn. In her, humanity has found a new song to sing before God. God wants no song of human joy before him to be lost -- Mary embodies praise by sharing in the Resurrection of her Son before the end of time. As we seek to embody God's praise God in our lives, we too come to dwell in that Temple of the Living God, and begin to anticipate the joy of the Kingdom. There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the House of Lord, all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple. And now my head shall be raised above my foes who surround me, and I shall offer within his tent, a sacrifice of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord! (Ps 26)

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