Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 34: A Psalm of Communion, of Christian Heroes, and of the Ages

 

Psalm 34

Lent DevotionalThe 34th Psalm is mentioned by Cyril, A.D. 340, and also by Jerome, as being usually sung by the Church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion.
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It is appropriate throughout for Communion with some of the parts especially so, and it contains the passage which the Evangelist John (19:36) applies to our Lord, ‘He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.’

Error had begun in different ways to creep into the Christian Church, but the memorials of the bread and wine were parted among all, and the thanksgiving of the communion had not passed into the sacrifice of the mass. The efficacy of atonement is ascribed only to the personal work of Christ himself, and such expressions as these occur: ‘It is by Jesus Christ we bring this sacrifice of praise in thy name, and in the name of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. O Lord, we render thanks to thee by thy well -beloved Son Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent in the last times to be our Savior and Redeemer, the Messenger of thy Counsel. It is by him, the Word who comes forth from thee, that thou hast done all.’

It may be seen how well this spirit agrees with the burst of gratitude in the opening of the psalm, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad,’ Sometimes there was added the fervent aspiration of the 42nd Psalm, ‘As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God.’

It was the love of youth burning all the brighter that it was borne heavenwards by winds of persecution.

Verse 10. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:  but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good Thing,’ were the last words written by Columba after he had spent a long life of incessant Christian labor, part of which was given to the transcription of copies of the Psalms and Gospels. Columba’ s figure in the history of the British Church is the most clear and noble from the entrance of Christianity to the Reformation, with the exception of Bede and Wycliffe; and he surpassed both of these in the missionary ardor he felt and infused into his followers. His position in Scotland is a singular one. He stands among the stormy Hebrides, like one of their lonely lighthouses, upheld by a mighty arm of rock, to cast a sudden gleam over the waters, and draw it back again into the night.

But like theirs, too, the light appears, hidden, but not quenched…

…or, still more, it is flashed from point to point as time moves on. Placed as he and his disciples were on the known limits of the western world, their zeal turned eastward, and sought a field among the Celtic and Gothic tribes to the very center of Europe. The endless knot “the peculiar signet mark of Scottish art” is found carved in stone, graven in gold and silver, inscribed on illuminated parchment, and tells at Wurtzburg, at St. Gall, at Eatisbon, that the foot of the Columban missionary has pressed the heathen soil with the message of the faith.

Columba died on the morning of the Lord’s day, June 9, A.D. 597, in his beloved lona.

‘There sleep the saintly dead,
Whom from their island home
The Baptist’s hermit spirit led
O’er moss and moor to roam.
Where, soft as spring-tide dew,
Their gracious speech was heard,
Wild tribes whom Caesar never knew
Bowed captive to the Word.’

The narrative Adamnan gives of his closing hours, of his farewell words with his sorrow-stricken disciples, of his parting with his faithful old horse, which put its head on its master’s breast as if aware of the event, reveals the deep tenderness and humanity of his nature.

When the biographer has lingered lovingly on the little incidents that preceded the death, he continues: ‘After these words he descended the hill, and, having returned to the monastery, sat in his hut transcribing the Psalter; and coming to that verse of the 34th Psalm, where it is written, “They that seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good,” “Here,” said he, “at the end of the page I must stop, and what follows let Baithen write.” The last verse he had written was very applicable to the saint who was about to depart, and to whom eternal good shall never be wanting; while the one that follows is equally applicable to the father who succeeded him, the instructor of his spiritual children, “Come, ye children, and hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” And indeed he succeeded, as recommended by him, both in writing the words, and in teaching his disciples.’

Far away from Columba in time, and yet with the same simple faith, two men sang a part of this psalm at the place of execution in Edinburgh, 1679. They were Andrew Sword and John Clyde, countrymen from Galloway, who were condemned for having been at Bothwell, and in penalty for the death of Arch Bishop Sharp, though neither of them had ever seen him.

“The troubles that afflict the just
In number many be;
But yet at length out of them all
The Lord doth set him free.’  

–Verse 19

‘God hath not promised,’ said one of them, ‘to keep us from trouble, but to be with us in it, and what needs more? ‘I bless the Lord for keeping of me to this very hour; for little would I have thought a twelve month since that the Lord would have taken a poor plowman lad, and have honored me so highly as to have made me first appear for him, and then to keep me straight, and now hath kept me to this very hour to lay down my life for him.

At the ladder foot, he said to his brother, ‘Weep not for me, brother, but weep for yourself and the poor land; and make him sure for yourself, and he shall be better to you than ten brethren.’

It was surely fire from God’s own heaven which breathed this soul into the mold of a Scottish plowman.

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Written by John Ker, D. D.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography”.

Meet Colomba, a very important early Irish Christian Missionary and part of your Christian heritage: Columba (Irish: Colm Cille, ‘church dove’; 7 December 521 – 9 June 597) was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in present-day Scotland. He founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. He is the Patron Saint of Derry. He was highly regarded by both the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Picts, and is remembered today as a Christian saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Columba reportedly studied under some of Ireland’s most prominent church figures and founded several monasteries in the country. Around 563 he and his twelve companions crossed to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll in Kintyre before settling in Iona in Scotland, then part of the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata, where they founded a new abbey as a base for spreading Christianity among the northern Pictish kingdoms who were pagan. He remained active in Irish politics, though he spent most of the remainder of his life in Scotland. Three surviving early medieval Latin hymns may be attributed to him.