Psalm 103

Ο Προοιμιακός (Introductory Psalm read at Vespers)


The start of the Psalm provides us with a description of God’s Creation, and through it, revealing His might and glory. We read of clouds, winds, waters and mountains, all highlighting God’s glory and contrasting small humanity against His greatness and magnitude. But that is not the only image the Psalm projects. Subsequent verses provide a softer image of the Lord’s greatness through all the beautiful elements of Creation such as grasses, springs and trees. There are birds singing and an “earth that is satisfied with the fruit of your work” (v 13).

There is also the image of God feeding all His creatures (v 27-28), which reminds us of God nourishing the Israelites with manna and quail during the forty years in the desert. However, the Psalm is not just about God’s glory and the greatness of His Creation. The idea of God hiding His face (v 29) is a possible reference to all the times God did not help Israel, such as during their constant struggles against foreign oppressors. The hiding of the Lord’s face is His reaction to the idolatry of the Israelites.

The Psalm then returns again to Creation. The use of the word “breath” (v 29) reminds us of how we were created through the breath of God, and “dust” (v 29) also hearkens back to Genesis and where God said to Adam, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). This Psalm is not without hope, for in verse 30 there is prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: “You shall send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created”. Through the coming down of the Holy Spirit, God has renewed “the face of the earth” (v 30). This is a renewal of Creation which we experience at our Baptism.

Each and every one of us is called to “sing to the Lord all my life” (v 33), hoping that our words be “pleasing to Him” (v 34). If we do these things, we “shall be glad in the Lord” (v 34). After calling for the destruction of sin, the Psalm ends precisely as it began – “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (v 35).


Source: Lychnos December 2017 / January 2018