Psalm 117 - Evening Prayer of the Ascension

Typically, for solemnities, feasts, and the like, there are special selections of hymns, antiphons, and psalms, for the day (at least morning/evening prayer) as opposed to the typical 4 week cycle of psalms, and more limited selection of hymns.  Thus, tonight I did Evening Prayer I (for the evening before the day) of the Ascension.  One of the psalms for this hour of the divine office was Psalm 117. This also happens to be the shortest psalm in the Bible (only 4 lines), and though I have seen it before, I decided to do a blog post about it because today it just struck me.
Psalm 117 (as found in the divine office):
O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him, all you peoples!
Strong is his love for us;
he is faithful for ever.
The first part that I love about this is the exclamation point (found in the 2nd line).  It's kind of weird, but I really like cool adjectives (like spectacular, fantabulous, highfalutin, and stupendous), and the exclamation point goes right along with this draw to the use of the superlative.  I guess, (if you, the reader, haven't noticed) I also use the comma and the parentheses quite frequently, but the exclamation point is definitely my favorite.  The exclamation point "is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume" [per Wikipedia]  Interestingly, the history of the "!" indicates that it comes from the Latin word/exclamation of joy, io, with the two letters combined at some point into the character we see today.  I guess it makes sense, but I still think it is pretty cool that the mark, originally, meant joy (something to think about).
Ok, moving past that weird digression... Using both the exclamation point, and, in true Semitic style, repetition, the psalm draws our attention to the importance of this command to praise, glorify, and acclaim the Lord.  The exclamation point, in my mind, means we need to do this with some pizazz, some joy, some excitement.  The second half of the psalm, of course, tells us what we are acclaiming.

"Strong is his love for us" - Obviously, you could go just about anywhere with this phrase - God's love is the basis for pretty much the entire world in one way or another...  However, I think it is really interesting how this translation uses the word "strong" to describe God's love for us.  The first words that come to my mind (about God's love) are incredible, awesome, infinite, etc. but this psalm uses "strong".  Again, I'm sure somebody could go on and on about this one word...  However, I just wanted to note that somehow, it's a mystery folks, God is both omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and He is love, all at the same time.  In this world, power typically means a lack of love (power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely).  Jesus Himself, when on the cross, showed us His love by surrendering His power to the authorities of His day.  However, in Heaven, God isn't "limited" by the human world, and thus, His love and His power, His mercy and His justice, His forgiveness and His authority, are all perfectly, completely, and inexplicably (to us) in balance.  It's hard for us to comprehend, but there you have it; strength and love can go together.  Sorry I'm not going into this deeper - it's late at night, and I haven't had enough time to mull it over - either way, I think it is something to think about.

"he is faithful for ever." - I think that this line has particular impact upon celebrating the Ascension.  Jesus is leaving the world (physically), meaning that the Apostles, and, by connection, us, are left to carry His message to the world.  I find it incredibly frustrating to be entrusted with doing something when I don't know exactly how to do it.  Either give me a vague end goal and let me figure out how to do it on my own, or give me exact instructions on how you want me to do it.  Jesus' message isn't precise in this sense.  Of course, the Gospels record the most important, and divinely inspired, parts, but there still is a lot "left out".  How do you go about baptizing, or carrying your cross, or living the life that Christ calls us to?  Thankfully, "he is faithful for ever"; Our Lord has promised to be with us always, even after His Ascension.  Of course, He is present in different ways: the Church, the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit, (one could go on and on but these are the most important ones that immediately came to mind).  Here's the deal: God doesn't leave us hanging, with a message and no way to interpret it, or a mission and no way to sustain ourselves, or a mass of people and not enough faith, or guts, or knowledge to convert them.  Jesus isn't still walking the earth, but that doesn't mean He isn't faithful, He has given us everything we need to complete His mission, to continue His work, to be faithful to Him in return.

Let's pray that we can praise God better throughout our lives, especially in love and fidelity to Him.  That even when we can't see Him anymore - when the clouds of this world's problems obscure Him from our site - we still have unwavering faith, abundant hope, and strong love for Him.  Let us also pray that this work may have an exclamation point at the end, with a spiritual, even supernatural, joy evident in our entire life.