INTROITUS: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Venite, adoremus Deum, et procidamus ante Dominum: ploremus ante eum, qui fecit nos: quia ipse est Dominus Deus noster.

“Come, let us worship God, and let us come in before the Lord: Let us wail before him who created us, for he himself is the Lord, our God.” (Ps 95(94):6–7)

It is interesting how the Greek προσπέσωμεν (“let us bow down/prostrate”) became ploremus (“let us wail”) in the Latin Vulgate. The 20th century New Vulgate changed that to genua flectamus (“let us bend our knees”).

But does that really make a crucial difference? I do not think so. The sentence describes the relation of the creation to its creator (“before him, who created us”). In any translation it is an expression of our own powerlessness in the relation to a gigantic universe, the billions of years of time, and our own coming into existence without our personal influence.

Any human being has to find her or his way to deal with that. Christianity offers a positive approach to being a human, it gives us humans dignity by relating us to a trustworthy Creator who is a friend of life. As well as Ps 95(94) lets us “wail” or “bow down” or “bend our knees,” it also lets us “jubilate” (as you can see in the verse in the last two lines).

Since the middle of the 1st millenium, the Latin tradition has used Ps 95(94) as the first psalm of the day (“invitatory”) in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is sung in the morning, when the forthcoming light of the Sun reminds us of the power of life over death. Humans are little more than nothing in this universe, but they can have hope that life is stronger than death.

All this can be experienced in the first words of this introit: Venite, adoremus Deum offers the entire span from top to bottom and back to the top: Humility because of our own tininess, and the grandness of life, belong together.

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