Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love endures forever. The opening verse of Psalm 118 has been described as a standard liturgical formula for thanksgiving. But, salvation history shows it to be so much more. David included this call to gratitude in the praises sung when he brought the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. Solomon prayed it at the dedication of the Temple. The children of Israel sang the first verse of Psalm 118 as they went out to confront their enemies.

 

The final psalm in the group known as the "Lesser Hallel," Psalm 118 begins and ends with this stirring invitation: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love endures forever. Psalm 136, called the "Great Hallel," opens with the same invocation. Both were an integral part of the Jewish Feast of Passover and as such, were sung by our Lord Himself on the night of the Last Supper.


Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love endures forever. On the lips of the Word Incarnate, the meaning of the Great Refrain was fully revealed. For the "thanks" the Son offered the Father for His goodness and enduring love was the Sacrament of the new and eternal Covenant, the Eucharist. His Bride, the Church, took up the Great Refrain in her Paschal liturgy, as she celebrated the definitive Exodus which Jesus accomplished through
His Passion, death and Resurrection.


Although St. Francis of Assisi does not directly quote the first section of Psalm 118 in any of his writings, he is, nonetheless, filled with the spirit of the Great Refrain. The Little Poor Man was constantly inviting others to join with him in thanking God for the marvels of His enduring love. You are good, all good, the highest good, the stigmatized Francis would cry out in his Praises of God Most High. As a man marked by the mercy, love and kindness of God, the Seraphic Patriarch bore continual witness to the Love which endures forever.

Can the Great Refrain be part of our life and our prayer? Certainly! Holy Baptism has marked us as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Confirmation has set us in the ranks of His soldiers who can truthfully declare: The Lord is at my side as my helper. Holy Communion enables us to take deep and intimate refuge in the Lord who comes to us in the form of the Eucharistic Bread as Food for our earthly pilgrimage.


Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love endures forever. The all-seasons' song of the saints becomes the Great Refrain of our lives when we count both our blessings and our crosses in the light of faith, when we perceive that the Lord is answering and freeing us whenever we call upon Him. Why? Not because of any merit of our own, but simply, because He is good, and His love endures forever ALLELUIA!


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Psalm 118

 

I

 

Give thanks to the Lord
for He is good,
for His love endures forever.
Let the sons of Israel say:
"His love endures forever."
Let the sons of Aaron say:
"His love endures forever."
Let those who fear the Lord say:
"His love endures forever."
I called to the Lord
in my distress;
He answered and freed me.
The Lord is at my side;
I do not fear.
What can man do against me?
The Lord is at my side
as my helper;
I shall look down on my foes.
It is better to take refuge
in the Lord
than to trust in men:
it is better to take refuge
in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

The Great Refrain
PART 15