Psalm 45 – A Wedding Hymn for God’s Anointed
Psalm 45 is divided into two sections: vv. 2-10 speak of the king, God’s anointed one, and vv. 11-18 presents directives for the king’s bride and enumerates the duties and privileges that will be hers. In its original biblical context, this hymn would have been associated with the celebration of a royal wedding in Israel. The Christian interpretation of this psalm associates those meanings with the person of Christ, in whom God’s anointed king is perfectly embodied. In the associated image of the bride, Christians see both the Church and Mary. The opening chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews cites Ps 45:7-8 to expound the mystery of Jesus Christ as God’s Anointed One, who is the Son of God: “Of the Son [God] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions’” (Heb 1:8-9). The author of Hebrews is making a point about who Jesus Christ is for the Church: the long awaited Messiah of whom the Scriptures have spoken, and whose kingdom is built on righteous and just deeds. The Letter to the Ephesians suggests another meaning for Christian in Psalm 45 in its function as a marriage hymn: marriage is an image of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church. “Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body (Eph 5:28-30). Finally, liturgy for feasts of Mary make frequent use of Psalm 45: vv. 11-17 make up the Responsorial Psalm for the solemnity of the Assumption. Taken into heaven, Mary now reigns there as the Queen, and the words of Psalm 45 fittingly illustrate her royal stature and sublime beauty. This psalm thus provides three significant images for our reflection in prayer: Christ as God’s Anointed, the Church as the bride of Christ, and the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. Each of these challenges us to live the will of God with openhearted fidelity and joyful surrender.
1 For the Choirmaster. Intoned like “The Lilies.” Of the sons of Korah. A Maskil. A Love Song.
2 My héart overflóws with nóble wórds.
To the kíng I addréss the sóng I have máde,
my tóngue as nímble as the pén of a scríbe.
3 Yóu are the most hándsome of the sóns of mén,
and gráciousness is póured out upón your líps,
for Gód has bléssed you forévermóre.
4 Gírd your swórd upon your thígh, O míghty one,
with your spléndor and your májesty.
5 In your májesty ríde on triúmphant
in the cáuse of trúth, méeknes and jústice.
May your ríght hand shów your wóndrous déeds.
6 Your árrows are sharp – péoples fall benéath you –
in the héart of the fóes of the kíng.
7 Your thróne, O Gód, shall endúre foréver.
A scépter of jústice is the scépter of your kíngdom.
8 Your lóve is for jústice; your hátred for évil.
Thérefore Gód, your Gód, has anóinted you
with the óil of gládness abóve other kíngs:
9 your róbes are frágrant with áloes, myrrh, and cássia.
From the ívory pálace you are gláddened with músic.
10 The dáughters of kíngs are thóse whom you fávor.
On your ríght stands the quéen in góld of Óphir.
11 Lísten, O dáughter; pay héed and give éar:
forgét your own péople and your fáther’s hóuse.
12 Só will the kíng desíre your béauty.
Hé is your lórd, pay hómage to hím.
13 And the dáughter of Týre shall cóme with gífts;
the ríchest of the péople shall séek your fávor.
14 The dáughter of the kíng is clóthed with spléndor;
her róbes are thréaded with góld.
15 In fine clóthing shé is léd to the kíng;
behínd her are her máiden compánions, brought to yóu.
16 Théy are escórted amid gládness and jóy;
they páss withín the pálace of the kíng.
17 Sóns will be yóurs to succéed your fáthers;
you will máke them rúlers over áll the éarth.
18 I will máke your náme foréver remémbered.
Thus the péoples will práise you from áge to áge.
Prayer for Psalm 45
O Christ, bridegroom of the Church, strengthen us who are your Body on earth to do your will as faithful servants. Inspire us to follow you in your love of justice and in your fidelity and meekness. Increase in us the desire to praise your name in all that we say and do. In your holy Name we pray. Amen.