Church bells and firecrackers, banging kettles and blaring horns these are just a few ways of ringing in the New Year. These practices witness to the human need to celebrate, to give tangible expression to the joy and hope which fill one's heart.

 

 

The psalmist long ago acknowledged this need and even placed it in a liturgical context. The opening verse of Psalm 81, Ring out your joy to God our strength, proclaims the need and then proceeds to enumerate how to express it — with shouts and songs, harps and lutes, timbrels and trumpets. There is a time to do this: when the moon is full, on our feast, which indicates that Psalm 81 may have been recited for the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles.

 

 

After the assembly's joy has been expressed, an oracle is announced. The choir master, speaking in God's name, recounts what the Lord has done and what He would like to do for His people.people. But the omnipotent God leaves human person free. In the midsection of Psalm of Psalm 81's oracle, O that my people would heed me, that Israel would walk in my ways, we hear a presage of the God-Man weeping over Jerusalem: Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! Luke 19:42

 

 

St. Francis of Assisi entered full-heartedly into the spirit of Psalm 81.  He was always ringing out his joy to God our strength and inviting others to join him.  He used the psalm's opening verse as the opening verse of the devotional psalm he composed for the Christmas season: Ring out your joy to God our help!  Shout to the Lord God, living and true, with cries of gladness!  Francis' joy in the great things God had done and was doing was tempered by his awareness that human freedom could (and often did) try to thwart the Almighty's plan.  Yet, like the Lord who declared with such ardor, O that my people would heed me that Israel would walk in my ways,  St. Francis never lost hope that everyone would one day heed the Lord and walk in His ways.

 

 

 

In ancient Hebrew usage, Psalm 81 was to be said on Thursdays. The Church honors this designation by assigning Psalm 81 at their feet and their subjection 81 to Morning Prayer of Thursday of the second week in the four week Psalter, just as she has made Psalm 110 a "Sunday psalm" and Psalm 51 a "Friday psalm." Designating a particular psalm for a  particular day of the week and allowing that psalm to accompany us for the next 52 weeks would be a fruitful practice for the New Year.  Besides enriching our personal prayer, it would give us ever more reason to ring out our joy to God our strength.





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Psalm 81

 

 Ring out your joy
to God our strength,
shout in triumph
to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song
and sound the timbrels,
the a sweet-sounding harp
and the lute
blow the trumpet at the new moon,
when the moon is full, on our feast.
For this is Israel's law,
a command of the God of Jacob.
He imposed it as a rule on Joseph,
when he went out
against the land of Egypt.
A voice I did not know said to me:
"I freed your shoulder
from the burden;
your hands were freed from the load.
You called in distress
and I saved you.
I answered
concealed in the storm cloud,
at the waters of Meribah
I tested you.
Listen, my people, to my warning,
O Israel, if only you would heed!
Let there be
no foreign god among you
no worship of an alien god.
I am the Lord your God
who brought you
from the land of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth
and I will fill it.
But my people did not heed my voice
and Israel would not obey,
so I left them
in their stubbornness of heart
to follow their own designs.
O that my people would heed me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
At once I would subdue their foes,
turn my hand against their enemies.
The Lord's enemies would cringe
at their feet and their subjection
would last forever.
But Israel I would feed
with the finest wheat
and fill them
with honey from the rock."

 

Ring Out Your Joy!
PART 24