August 26, 2016

The Song of Ascent

My Joy
by Depeche Mode

My joy, the air that I breathe
My joy, in God I believe
You move me

My joy, the blood in my veins
My joy, flows in your name
You move me

I'm not a mountain, no
You move me

My joy, heavenly bliss
My joy, the pleasure I miss
You move me

I'm not a mountain, no
You move me

To your Joy (Depeche Mode), I am Rapture (Anita Baker); to your queen (Alicia Keys), you, love, are King (Sade). Together these few modern song examples form a coherent theme. Song for many is prayer; it's magic. It raises us up, outward, beyond our everyday selves. It inspires and lends insight. In the biblical Songs of Ascent there are the Psalms 120-125 of the Tanakh informing and encouraging: to be faithful, patient and true to our Lord, the one who makes, who creates with us, protects his creation, gives sight to the wise and sound to the prayerful. He is merciful and forgiving. Peace and justice are his ways; this is the way of the faithful Christian as much as the faithful Jew.

Thus the Psalm was born. Out of a deep desire for wisdom and prayer, psalms are to be chanted or sung, The following Songs of Ascent can be summarized by two great sixth century mystics, saying:

"My beloved children, I embrace you in the Lord, imploring him to keep you from all evil and to give you endurance like Job, grace like Joseph, meekness like Moses and courage in combats like Joshua, the son of Nun, mastery of your thoughts like the Judges, the subjection of enemies as to kings David and Solomon, fruitfulness of the earth as to the Israelites. May he grant you the remission of your sins with healing of the body like the paralytic. May he rescue you from the waves like Peter, and snatch you from tribulation like Paul and the other apostles. May he keep you from all evil, as his true children and grant you, in his name, what your heart requests, for the benefit of the soul and body. Amen"
--Barsanuphius and John of Gaza, Epistles

A part of the Song of Ascents follows here. For the complete Songs of Ascent, see the Psalms 120-134.

Prayer of a Returned Exile Psalm 120
A song of ascents

The LORD answered me
when I called in my distress:
LORD, deliver me from lying lips,
from treacherous tongues.

What will the Lord inflict on you,
O treacherous tongue,
and what more besides?
A warrior's sharpened arrows
and fiery coals of brush wood!

Alas, I was an alien in Meshech,
I lived near the tents of Kedar!
Too long did I live
among those who hated peace.
When I spoke of peace,
they were for war.

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