O come, let us get a grip

A piece appeared on the Covenant blog yesterday bemoaning the fact that we don’t have all of Psalm 95 printed in the Morning Prayer service. Personally, while I do have some sympathy for the position,  I don’t find this nearly the issue the author does. Here’s the thing…

  • Psalm 95 can always be used in place of the shortened version
  • We have the full version in Rite I language on pg. 146 for those of us who prefer that idiom
  • The Daily Office Lectionary mandates the use of the entire Psalm 95 on Fridays in Lent

To those points, let me add the following…

  • the shortened version acheives liturgically what the church intends with the Venite
  • the author offends against the American mashup currently found in Rite I by proclaiming it to have been accomplished with “two less offensive verses,” expanded with the comment, “There was no textual reason for this change, except perhaps to remove verses that might make one uncomfortable.”

First, the job of the Venite is to call us to prayer. This is what I’ve written previously on the Venite -as-invitatory:

At the heart of the concept of the invitatory is an invitation. The appointed texts urge those praying them to worship. Psalm 95 holds such a privileged place because it does it three times in rapid succession. It opens with a repeated call to worship in verses 1 and 2: “Come let us sing…let us shout for joy…Let us come…and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.” The call repeats in verse 6:  “Come, let us bow down.” The other element of Psalm 95 that made is so attractive is found at the end of verse 7: “Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!” Although this passage logically goes with the next section of the psalm which gives the rebellion of the people under Moses as an example of what not to do, the Rite II Venite ends here. In addition to the call to come and worship, we are reminded to also listen and take heed of what God is telling us. The Rite I Venite preferred not to include any of the condemnatory section, but swaps in additional encouragement to praise from Psalm 96 and retains the notion that God is also coming to meet us in our worship.

Thus, when you’re looking at intention, the Venite does what it’s supposed to do. I do agree that it is stronger with the rest of the Psalm, but it still gets the job done.

What touched a sore spot for me in the article is the notion that the verses introduced from Ps 96 are mild and inoffensive. The irony of this is that the day before this article came out, I found myself pausing and appreciating just those words in the Venite because they helped reinforce the Advent concept and because starting each day with a remembrance of the Last Judgement is a fine thing to do.

Because—let’s recall—that is what those verses from Psalm 96 are fundamentally about.

Yes, they depict creation joining us in our morning praise, but the reason that the whole creation rejoices is because God is coming to set all things right and to enforce justice, righteousness, and equity upon the earth. That’s Last Judgement material, and we (yes, we) who consume and hoard such a disproportionate percentage of the goods of creation, ought to remember and feel a certain amount of trepidation about the choices we make on a daily basis that reinforce inequity on a global scale that Christ will come to correct…

So, yes, I too, would prefer the full Psalm 95 (and actually have it programmed that way in the breviary throughout Lent). However, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the shorter version; it does what it’s supposed to do. But—and this is probably my main point—if you believe that the verses from Psalm 96 are “less offensive,” you’re not reading them carefully enough.

 

4 Replies to “O come, let us get a grip”

  1. Derek, you might have added that the Rite 1 version of the Venite does not represent some “softening”courtesy of the 1979 revisers. It comes straight from the 1928 BCP and is what old parties like me grew up on.

  2. Very true… Actually, it has been with us since 1789. According to Hatchett, there were folks who hadn’t liked the other verses in the decades before the American Revolution, and formal proposals to change it even before 1789..

  3. The Venite was one of the first songs I came to love when I started attending Divine Service – Rite I Morning Prayer in this case – and especially those last two lines:

    “For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, *
    and with righteousness to judge the world
    and the peoples with his truth.”

    I have to say I much prefer these verses; this stuff is cosmic and gigantic in a way the other just isn’t. It tells much more of the story, too.

    Love the post title, BTW!

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