Psalms of Ascent: The Writing on the Wall

File:Song of Ascents.jpg

Hebrew inscription of Songs of Ascent

To you I lift up my eyes , O you who are enthroned in the heavens!As the eyes of servants look to the hands of their masters.

 As the eyes of a maid to the hands of her mistress,

So are our eyes look to the LORD, our God,until he has mercy on us. 

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease,

of the contempt of the proud.  (Psalm 123; NRSV)

The Southern Steps

The Southern Steps – Jerusalem

This weekend many communities will sing or recite the words of Psalm 123. This Psalm is one of 15 Psalms of Ascent ranging from Psalm 120-134.  The word ascent derives from the  Hebrew “ma’ aloth”,  meaning “to go up”.   These were psalms of pilgrimage associated with the three great feasts named in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut 16.16).It is commonly held that these were sung as pilgrims ascended the 15 steps of the temple in Jerusalem or as families journeyed toward the holy city, or when returning from exile after the Babylonian captivity.  These songs helped to form the community as a people of God, embracing many of the human emotions that have been experienced and named in prayer over the centuries. Psalm 123 is a prayer for help and a show of dependence on God during a times of trial.   These psalms were recorded on the walls of the city in Jerusalem – a way to record their soul’s journey – the journey of body of spirit – during times of distress, joy, thanksgiving, blessing. praise, trust and desire for redemption.  This led me to think about what we inscribe today on walls.  Parents often mark  the walls of their home with markers of their children’s growth. Walls in prehistoric caves told the stories of important events.  archaeologists have uncovered symbols on the Great Wall of China of hope or peace. This week my family and I visited “THE WALL: American Veterans Traveling Tribute” at the Purdue University North Central Campus in Westville, Indiana where it was erected for the week.  A replica of the Vietnam Memorial is the main wall of this exhibit recounting the names and dates soldiers who lost their lives during the War. Also displayed are walls commemorating the events of 9/11, the Korean war, Desert Storm and walls covered with the dog tags of those who’ve died in the current war.  People walking the path of the memorial sometimes paused to leave a picture of the deceased or a flower near the place their name was inscribed.  I invite you to spend some time with the Psalms of Ascent this week – if possible move while you read them – climb a set of stairs or walk on a climbing path.  Pause in your movement occasionally to read the next Psalm. Which Psalm speaks to you where you are today?

About WalkingwithBenedict

I love how scripture comes alive with messages for our lives today. In praying with scripture, we are called into deeper relationship with God and others. We are called to the growth in love, hospitality, peace, humility, stewardship and hope. St Benedict's Rule provides a lens for how scripture can be lived in our lives today whether we live inside or outside a monastery.
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