.- Pope Benedict XVI spoke today about Psalm 119 as a wonderful discourse on the breadth and depth of manâs relationship with God.
The psalmistâs song âvoices the range of sentiments which fill the hearts of those who pray: praise, thanksgiving, trust, supplication and lament, all within the context of a heartfelt openness to the Lordâs word,â the Pope said.
He explained to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peterâs Square for the Nov. 9 general audience that the psalm is âan acrosticâ â an ancient poetic structure in which each stanza contains eight verses and begins with a different letter from the 22-word Hebrew alphabet. These 22 stanzas also make the psalm the longest in the Bible.
âThis is a very challenging and original literary construction, in which the author of
Psalm had to deploy all his skills,â said the Pope, âbut what is more important for us is the central theme of this Psalm.â
This theme was the Psalmistâs proclamation of âhis love for Godâs Law, which brings light, life and salvation,â recounted in his âsolemn celebration of the Torah, the Law of the Lord.â
It is a psalm, âpervaded by the certainty of divine grace and the power of the Word of God,â such that even the verses most marked by suffering and darkness remain âopen to hope and are permeated with faith.â
âThe Psalmistâs faithfulness arises from listening to the Word, from keeping it in his heart, meditating upon it,â the Pope taught, drawing a parallel with the Virign Mary, who ââtreasured in her heartâ the words addressed to her, the marvellous events in which God revealed Himself and asked for her response of faith.â
When Christians pray this psalm, they see Mary as the model of the same âloving docility to Godâs will, and in Jesus the fulfilment of the Law,â said the Pope.
This is a dynamic relationship, he explained, where the Word of God is âlistened to with obedience but not servility, with filial trust and awareness,â which brings about a âpersonal encounter with the Lord of life.â
As an example of such an encounter, the Pope focused in on the psalmâs verse 57, which proclaims, âThe Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.â
He explained how the term âportionâ refers to âthe partition of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, when the Levites were given no part of the territory because their âportionâ was the Lord Himself.â Among the 12 tribes of Israel, only the tribe of Levi, could not own land because it was tasked with specific religious duties.
These verses, said the Pope, have particular resonance today for Catholic priests âwho are called to live from the Lord and from His Word alone, with no other guarantees, no other wealth, and having Him as their one source of true life.â
âIt is in this light,â he said, âthat we can understand the free choice of celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven, which must be rediscovered in all its beauty and power.â
At the same time, the psalm speaks to all the Christian faithful, who are âcalled to experience the radical nature of the Gospel, to be witnesses of the life brought by Christ, the new and definitive âHigh Priest,ââ Pope Benedict said.
This morningâs ceremonies concluded with Pope Benedict being given honorary citizenship in the village of Naz-Siaves, the birthplace of his great-grandmother, Elisabeth Maria Tauber, and his grandmother, Maria Tauber-Peintner. The small, German-speaking village is situated in the northern Italian province of Bolzana, near to the Austrian and Swiss borders.