INTROITUS: 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallat tibi: psalmum dicat nomini tuo, Altissime.
“All earth shall worship you, O God, and sing psalms for you, shall sing a psalm to your name, O Most High.” (Ps 65(64):4)

This is a chant in the fourth mode. This tonality often produces endings that do not really sound like endings and leave the listeners in a sort of suspended state.

In this case, it is the word Altissime (“you, the Most High”) that creates such an open ending. Altissime is not part of the Vulgate text of this psalm. Wherever it comes from, the medieval singers might have noticed that difference. Altissimus is often used as a translation of the Hebrew El or Elohim, giving a name to someone who cannot be named (as long as he does not reveal his name – he does so in Exod 3, but that does not make it any easier to understand).

The psalm verse has us “sing a psalm to his name,” and then the antiphon adds a fourth-mode Altissime in place of that name. We feel compelled to say something to describe what cannot be described. For today, let us go with “Most High,” knowing that this raises more questions than it answers.

5 comments

  1. This might be a minor point, but isn’t this from Psalm 66, Jubilate Deo? In your numbering, verse 4 from neither Psalms 64 or 65 is the verse used for this introit. The psalm verse of the introit itself is from Psalm 66:1.

    1. Liborius has clearly typed 65(64) when he meant to type 65(66). It is a minefield!

      Do you put the Vulgate numbering numbering first, or the Hebrew numbering? It depends who you’re dealing with. In the UK, I will type Ps 22(23) because our psalm translation (Grail I) uses the Latin Vulgate (Septuagint) numbering; in the US, I will type Ps 23(22) because the NAB uses the Hebrew numbering. But if I forget which way round it is or add or subtract in the wrong direction then the sort of typo that Liborius did will happen! I’ve noticed that occasionally even the Vatican gets it wrong and types Hebrew numbering when they mean Septuagint.

      If I had one wish for Christian Churches, it would be that everyone would one day agree on the numbering of the psalms! Alas, it won’t happen. I feel it as a kind of constant reminder of original sin!

      1. Paul, I could not agree more. In German usage, it is mostly Ps 100 (99). From a more historical point of view, I would prefer it the other way round, but that would be very confusing here.

  2. However it’s numbered, this psalm is one of the common psalms for the Easter season. If one sees echoes of Christmas in the early Ordinary Sundays–especially the element of Theophany in this weekend’s Gospel reading, this text is fitting. There are certainly enough verses to accompany virtually any procession, with some left over for stationary singing too. The psalm also touches upon God’s great quality of mercy in the final verses–always something of which we are well-reminded.

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